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Banks of the Clyde

[ Roud 1784 ; Ballad Index LLab133 ; Bodleian Roud 1784 ; Mudcat 83006 ; trad.]

Vaughan Williams in Norfolk Volume 2

Billy Rash of West Wratting, Cambridgeshire, sang Banks of the Clyde to Sam Steele in ca. 1959. This recording was included in 2005 on the Veteran CD of traditional folk songs, music hall songs and tunes collected by Sam Steele in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex 1959-1962, Heel & Toe.

Alf Wildman from Bedfordshire sang Banks of the Clyde to Fred Hamer on 22 September 1965. It was printed in Hamer’s 1971 EFDS book Garner’s Gay and was included in 1971 on the accompanying EFDSS album Garner’s Gay. Alf Widman also sang this song at the Kings Head Folk Club on 25 Feburary 1970. Rod Stradling noted in the booklet of this Musical Traditions antholgy:

It seems odd that this song, which is simply A Young Sailor Cut Down (Roud 2), with a localising first verse, should have a separate Roud Number. And it’s surprisingly well-known, with 32 Index entries, mainly from England and Canada. There are even two other CD versions available: Billy Rash (VT150CD); and Viv Legg (VT153CD).

Geoff Ling from Blaxhall, Suffolk, sang On the Banks of the Clyde to Keith Summers on 16 November 1970 and in 1974-75. The latter recording was included in 1977 on the Ling Family’s Topic album Singing Traditions of a Suffolk Family.

Viv Legg sang Banks of the Clyde on the 2006 Veteran CD Romany Roots. Mike Yates noted:

The Banks of the Clyde, with its mention of “the burning plains of Egypt”, probably dates to the period 1879-82, when a revolt against the ruling Khedive was put down by British intervention. At least one English broadside printer, Forth of Hull, printed the song and it also appeared in Delaney’s Song Book #1, which was printed in New York in 1892. Only a handful of English collectors have noted the song. Cambridgeshire singer Billy Rash can heard singing it on VT150CD Heel & Toe. There are also solitary sets from Illinois, Ontario, Labrador and Nova Scotia.

Niamh Boadle sang The Banks of the Clyde on her 2010 CD Wild Rose.


Alf Wildman sings Banks of the Clyde

On the banks of the Clyde stood a lad and lassie,
The lad’s name was Georgie, the lass’s was Belle.
She flung her arms round him and cried “Do not leave me,”
For Georgie was going to fight for his queen.

Chorus (after each verse):
So we’ll beat the big drum and we’ll play the pipe merrily.
We’ll play the dead march as we carry him along.
We’ll take him to the churchyard and fire three volleys o’er him,
He’s a bonny young soldier cut down in his prime.

But some years later, when I met young Georgie,
Dark was the night and cold was the day.
He asked for a flannel to bind his poor head with,
He was wropped in a blanket and colder than clay.

His aged mother his grey-haired old father
Oft times had told him about his past life;
Never go courting the flash girls of the city,
In the flash girls of the city he took his delight.

Now on his tombstone you will find it was written:
“All your jolly fellows take warning from me,
And never go courting the flash girls of the city,
For the flash girls of the city were the ruin of me.”

Viv Legg sings The Banks of the Clyde

On the banks of the Clyde stood a lad and a lassie -
The lad’s name was Georgie, the lassie’s was Jean.
She threw her arms round him and cried, “Dear don’t leave me!”
For Georgie was going to fight for his Queen.

She gave him a lock of her bright golden tresses,
And he kissed her and pressed her once more to his heart.
Their eyes spoke of love their lips would not utter.
The last words were spoken, they’d kiss and they’d part.

Chorus (after each verse):
Over the burning plains of Eygpt,
Under the scorching sun,
He thought of the stories he’d have to tell,
His love when the fight was won.
He cherished with care that dear lock of hair,
And his own darling Jeannie she prayed.
But the prayers were in vain,
She’d never see again,
Her lad from the Scots brigade.

The ocean divided the lad from the lassie,
As Georgie was forced over the foam.
His roof was the sky, his bed was the desert,
But his heart with his Jeannie was always at home.

That morning at dawn on that famed day of battle,
Found Georgie partaking a true hero’s part—
When an enemy bullet flew straight to its billet,
And buried the dear lock of hair in his heart.

On the banks of the Clyde stands a heartbroken mother,
When they told her how brave that great victory was won.
That victory to her brings her no comfort,
That victory to her means the loss of her son.