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The Light Horse / You Lads of Learning

[ Roud 3027 ; Henry H586 ; Ballad Index HHH586 ; Bodleian Roud 3027 ; trad.]

Kevin Mitchell sang The Light Horse at Castlesound Studios, Edinburgh, in September 1976. This recording was released a year later on his Topic album of Irish traditional songs and ballads, Free and Easy. John Moulden commented in the sleeve notes:

Known better as The Airy Bachelor or The Black Horse (Ó Lochlainn, lrish Street Ballads, no. 17) this has been widely distributed on ballad sheets and is common, especially in Donegal, whence this version obtained from John McCracken of Innishowen. The Songs of the People contains a song called The Hungry Army. The title is, intended or not, a pun; the army composed of underpaid, badly treated, hungry men, or the army hungry for recruits to replace those who fell in battle, deserted, died under the lash or from disease. Sergeant Acheson is just such a recruiting officer as contrived by dint of cajolery, chicanery or sometimes criminality to feed it. “The Black Horse” is, according to Sam Henry (Songs of the People, no. 586), a by-name for the 7th Dragoon Guards—The Princess Royals.

May Bradley sang a rather confused fragment of this song as You Lads of Leaning to Fred Hamer in Ludlow, Shropshire. He recorded it from her three times in between 1959 and 1966. These recordings were included in 2010 on her Musical Traditions anthology Sweet Swansea. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

On the face of it, this looks like a jumble of lines that May put together after a pint or two—but in fact she recorded it three times, identically! It appears to be a very corrupted and truncated version of The Black Horse (Roud 3027), which has seven entries in the [Roud] Index, all from Ireland. Two are old BBC recordings, and neither are available on CD.

Andy Turner learned The Light Horse from Kevin Mitchell’s recording and sang it as the 8 March 2014 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.


Kevin Mitchell sings The Light Horse

Come all you airy bachelors and be advised by me:
I’d have you shun night-rambling likewise bad company.
I lived as happy as a prince while I lived in the North
And the first of my misfortunes was to list in the Light Horse.

It being on a certain Tuesday, to Galway I did go.
I met with a light officer which proved my overthrow:
I met with Sergeant Acheson in the market as I went down
Says he, “Young man, would you enlist and be a light dragoon?”

“Oh no, kind sir, a soldier’s coat with me would not agree,
And neither would I bind myself out from my liberty.
I lived as happy as a prince, my mind does tell me so,
I’m straight away bound to Armagh town, my shuttle for to throw.”

“Oh, are you in a hurry? And are you going away?
Oh, won’t you stop and listen to these words I’m going to say?
Do you live far off this place? The same I’d like to know
Your name, kind sir, if you’d be pleased, tell me before you go.”

“Oh, I am in a hurry, my dwelling is far off,
My house and habitation six miles below Armagh.
Charles Higgins is my name, and from Armagh town I came.
I ne’er intend to do a deed or yet deny my name.”

Says he, “Now, my friend Charley, perhaps you could do worse
Than to come away along with me and join in the Light Horse.”
Well, with all his kind persuasion with him I did agree
And I bid farewell to Armagh, boys, likewise to liberty.

So it’s farewell, honoured father, and likewise mother too,
Farewell, loving sisters, sure I have no-one but you.
As I’m going down through Carlow town you all run in my mind,
And it is farewell to Armagh and the girl I left behind.

May Bradley sings You Lads of Learning

Then come all you lads of learning,
Just a learning take by me
And won’t you take the shilling
And to list on the Light Horse
With his kind persuadance with him I did regree
And I’ve left behind old comrade lads,
And I’ve fought for liberty.

It’s God help my poor old father,
He’s repented for what I’ve done.
And God help my dear old mother,
She that loves her of his son
Now as I crossed over Tallithmoor
These thoughts came in my mind
Now it’s fare you well sweet Callen town
And the girls I’ve a-left behind.

Now as I crossed over Tallithmoor
These thoughts came in my mind
Now it’s fare you well I’m bound for home
No shuttles for to throw.