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The Barton Broad Ballad

[ Roud 1781 ; trad.]

Harry Cox from Catfield, Notfolk, sang The Barton Broad Ballad to E.J. Moeran on 27 October 1947 at the Windmill in Sutton. This BBC recording 16417 was included in 2002 on his Topic anthology The Bonny Labouring Boy, and in 2012 on the Snatch'd from Oblivion anthology East Anglia Sings?. Another recording, made by Peter Kennedy in 1953, was released in 1965 on his eponymous EFDSS album, Harry Cox and in 2000 on his Rounder anthology What Will Become of England?. The EFDSS album's booklet noted:

‘Babbing’ for eels on the Broads is done by means of a pole without any hooks; worms are strung on a wire curled round your fingers into a bunch; they drop off as soon as you lift them off; quick work when they bite; you lift 'em up quick and they drop off onto the boat.

The Shackleton Trion sang the Ballad of Barton Broad in 2022 on their album Mousehold.


Harry Cox sings The Barton Broad Ballad

It's of an old man in Barton did dwell,
His nickname is Snuffers, he's known very well.
He hired a broad, till he's fit to go mad,
Don't like the poor fellows to to on the bab.

Chorus (after each verse):
Right-fal-the-ral-loo, fal-the-ral-lal-lay,
Fal-the-ral-loo, right-looral-all-lay

About eight o'clock on the Broad we did go,
Our babs and our bouts, you very well know.
Old Snuffers came on and he looked rather white,
Said he, “My young fellows, I know you tonight.”

He came with his music, began for to play,
He thought about frightening those eels all away.
So he stamped all his eels, his pike and his breams,
So he might know his owners as they swam in the streams

Old Snuffers came on to the Broad on night,
We heard him long before he was in sight.
He swore we had damaged his boats and his nets
And he never stood gaol and he ran into debt.

He had two men locked up for the night,
He thought he would put all the others to fright.
The trial came on, he lost the day,
And all the expenses he had for to pay.

Then off to Norwich Old Snuffers did go
To sell his old cow, you very well know.
To sell his old cow, his duck and his hen,
And pawn all his capon, he will if he can.