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Sweet Swansea

[ Roud 1612 ; trad.]

May Bradley sang Sweet Swansea on the 1971 EFDSS album Garners Gay: English Folk Songs recorded by Fred Hamer, and it was included in Hamer's book of the same name. It was also included in 2010 as the title track of May Bradley's Musical Tradition anthology Sweet Swansea. According to May Bradley the song was based on an actual incident, and had been written by her ‘double great grandfather’; and it’s certainly the case that only one other version is known to have been collected, by Cecil Sharp in 1907, from Caroline Passmore, Pitminster, Somerset.

John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris sang Sweet Swansea in 1974 on their Topic LP The Rose of Britain's Isle and John Kirkpatrick returned to it on 2012 on his CD Every Mortal Place. The first album's liner notes commented:

Collected by Fred Hamer from the excellent Shropshire singer, May Bradley. Two of the gypsy families who travelled the Welsh borders were the Smiths and Bradleys; they were always fighting and still have occasional scraps in Ludlow where both families have settled and, strangely enough, constantly intermarry. May Bradley says the song was written by her ‘double great grandfather’, a Smith, whilst in gaol for trespassing with his caravan.

Andy Turner sang Sweet Swansea as the March 12, 2012 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

May Bradley sings Sweet Swansea

The first time I entered Sweet Swansea,
For the truth unto you I will tell
I were handcuffed and put into prison
And locked up in a dark dismal cell.

My cell being so dark which(?) and dismal
No light I could see there at all
For the neat little door it were bolted
And a plank for my pillow that night.

Bad luck to the judges and juries
What won't leave a poor prisoner go free.
Every man to the friend and relations
But it's me for my sweet liberty.

Next morning my turnkey came to me
And he told me to fold up my bed.
He did handle me a tin of cold water
And a small little loaf of brown bread.

Bad luck to the judges and juries
What won't leave a poor prisoner go free
Every man for their friend and relations
But it's me for my sweet liberty.

If I could only find a sweet eagle
I would borrow her wings for to fly,
I would fly to the arms of my true love
And it's on her sweet bosom I'd lay.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: The Nobleman's Wedding.