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The Barley Raking

[ Roud 1024 ; Master title: The Barley Raking ; G/D 6:1154 ; Ballad Index Ord218 ; VWML GG/1/3/80 , GG/1/16/989 , SBG/3/1/418 ; Bodleian Roud 1024 ; DT BARLRAKE ; trad.]

Sabine Baring-Gould, Henry Fleetwood Sheppard, Songs of the West John Ord: Bothy Songs and Ballads Roy Palmer: Everyman’s Book of English Country Songs Frank Purslow: The Wanton Seed James Reeves: The Everlasting Circle

May Bradley of Ludlow, Shropshire, sang The Barley Raking to Fred Hamer on 28 July 1965. This recording was included in 2010 on her Musical Tradition anthology Sweet Swansea. Rod Stradling noted:

There are only 38 Roud entries for this song and most refer to broadside printings. Baring-Gould had a version from Roger Hannaford of Lower Widdecombe, Devon in 1890 [VWML SBG/3/1/418] , and George Gardiner heard it from both Henry Godwin (1907) [VWML GG/1/3/80] , and Mrs Randall (1905) [VWML GG/1/16/989] , in Hampshire. Beyond that there are 9 versions in the Greig-Duncan Collection. It would appear that this is the only time it has ever been recorded.

Johnny Collins and Friends sang Barley Rakings in 1973 on their Traditional Sound album The Traveller’s Rest. He noted:

A boy-meets-girl theme with a nice touch of male generosity in the last verse. Learnt from Scottish singer Andrew Lees, from whom I also got Mars for Evermore—a song inspired by the battle of Trafalgar, adapted and arranged from a traditional broadside by A.L. Lloyd.

Cyril Tawney sang The Barley Rakings in 1976 on his Trailer album of seduction songs from the Baring-Gould manuscripts, Down Among the Barley Straw. He noted:

“The melody to which Barley Rakings is sung in other parts of England is wholly different,” writes Baring-Gould, “ours is probably an early dance tune”. The song was obtained from Roger Hannaford of Lower Widdicombe [VWML SBG/3/1/418] .

Andy Turner sang The Barley Raking on his and Mat Green’s 2024 WildGoose album Time for a Stottycake. He also sang it as the 4 March 2024 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week. They noted on their album:

Collected in Hampshire by George Gardiner, and included in Frank Purslow’s book The Wanton Seed. Andy learned the song in the late 1970s from John Jones and Cathy Lesurf, who often sang it in the interval at Oyster Ceilidh Band dances. We combine the song with Maid of the Mill, a morris tune from Kirtlington in Oxfordshire.


May Bradley sings The Barley Raking

It was in the summer an’ season time
When barley wanted raking
I put my beaver up in front
And I’ll face the stormy weather.

Now I’ll have as good a pair of shoes
That can be made with leather.
I’ll say, “My love, my turtle dove,
Can you remember the barley raking?”

Andy Turner sings The Barley Raking

It was in the season of the year when hay it was a-making
And the harvest time was coming on, the barley needed raking.
And this young couple did agree,
All for to have a jovial spree,
All for to have a jovial spree amongst the barley raking.

Chorus (after each verse, repeating its last line):
All for to have a jovial spree
Amongst the barley raking.

Noe when eight long months was gone and past this poor girl fell a-sighing
And when nine long months has come at last she fell a heavy sighing,
She wrote a letter to her love,
Saying, “Oh my dear and turtle dove,
Will you return to your true-love to ease her from her aching?”

Well, he took the letter in his hand and on it stood a-gazing,
He took the letter in his hand and on it stood amazing,
He took the pen and he wrote again,
“To think of me it’s all in vain,
For a married life I do disdain so well do I love my freedom.

“Well, I have the finest pair of shoes as made of Spanish leather,
And I cock my beaver up in the front and face both wind and weather.
And when that I have run my race
And cannot find a better place,
I will return to your sweet face, we’ll live and love together.”

It was down in handy Liverpool if I am not mistaken,
It was down in Liverpool where this young man was taken,
He told the magistrate so free,
“The child did not belong to me.”
“You rogue, you rascal,” then said she, “remember the barley raking.”