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Creeping Jane

[ Roud 1012 ; Laws Q23 ; Ballad Index LQ23 ; VWML PG/19/3/1 , CJS2/9/299 , HAM/4/21/17 ; Bodleian Roud 1012 ; Wiltshire 762 , 774 ; Mudcat 81580 ; trad.]

Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams The Wanton Seed The Everlasting Circle The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs Travellers' Songs from England and Scotland Vaughan Williams in Norfolk

The story and song of the racehorse Yorkshire Jenny was printed in The Sporting Magazine, Vol. IV, Second Series, No. 19 (November 1831), p. 107-8. Twenty years later, Edward Fitzgerald printed The Ballad of Jenny the Mare with slightly different words in his 1851 book Euphranor.

Percy Grainger collected Creeping Jane from Joseph Taylor of Saxby, Lincolnshire, twice on 11 April 1905 [VWML PG/19/3/1] and on 28 July 1906, and also from Joseph Leaning of Brigg, Lincolnshire on 4 August 1906. He noted that Taylor learnt it “when a boy of eleven from an old woman in Binbrook, Linc.” Grainger's 1906 cylinder recording of Joseph Taylor was included in 1972 on the Leader album Unto Brigg Fair, in 1998 on the Topic anthology A Story I'm Just About to Tell (The Voice of the People Series Volume 8), and in 2009 on Topic's 70th anniversary anthology Three Score and Ten. The first album's sleeve notes commented:

It is fitting that this fine song (sung here with a superb sense of pace that modern imitators have sought unsuccessfully to capture) should have been collected in Lincolnshire for the county has some right to be regarded the birthplace (or at the very least one of the birthplaces) of modern horse racing.

Many versions of Creeping Jane have been collected though comparatively few of them have yet been printed. Cecil Sharp for example collected no less than ten sets. Amongst the printed versions are the following; REC, BSS, SFS, KG, GCSM (a solitary Anglo-American version), FSJ No. 5 and broadsides by the following: H, Fo, SM, HP and S.

A.L. Lloyd sang Creeping Jane in 1958 on his and Ewan MacColl's Topic album Bold Sportsmen All and on their Riverside album Champions and Sporting Blades. He commented in the liner notes:

One of the most famous of English racing stables was that owned by the I'Anson family of Malton, Yorkshire. More than a century ago, Charles I'Anson started a little dun mare in an important race at Newmarket. She looked like a rat, but she left the champion horses standing. Ballad makers were quick to sing her praises, and the broadside of The Little Dun Mare found a steady sale at horse-fairs and in the back streets of sporting towns, and she has been remembered with affection by country singers from Yorkshire to Somerset.

Martin Carthy sang Creeping Jane on his 1968 album with Dave Swarbrick, But Two Came By, and it was reissued in 1971 on their compilation album Selections. A previously unreleased live recording from 1973 at the Memphis Folk Club, Leeds, was included in the 4 CD anthology The Carthy Chronicles. Martin Carthy commented in his original album's sleeve notes:

The White Hare was collected by the composer Percy Grainger during his trip to Lincolnshire armed with phonograph recording equipment, from his finest singer/informant, Joseph Taylor: likewise Creeping Jane. The former is the story of the hunting and killing of an elusive hare and the latter is about a horse race where Jane, given no chance whatsoever of winning by the pundits, thrashes her luckless rival.

Dave and Toni Arthur sang Creeping Jane in 1969 on their Topic album The Lark in the Morning. They and A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

How old is this song? Possibly it originated late in the eighteenth century. English racing really began with the formation of the Jockey Club in 1750. There had of course, been racing of sorts before this: Charles the Second raced on Epsom Downs, for instance. The race mentioned in Creeping Jane is unknown, what matter? The appeal of the song is in the surprise victory of the underdog (underhorse?), who had been laughed to scorn by the fancy.

It seems to have been a widespread song. Percy Grainger recorded this version from Mr G. Leaning at Brigg, Lincolnshire, in 1906. Lt is almost identical to Joseph Taylor’s well known version. which Grainger also collected, and which appeared on an HMV record some sixty years ago. Frank Kidson, H.E.D. Hammond, Cecil Sharp and Alfred Williams, all collected versions from districts as far apart as Yorkshire and Somerset. Henry Such, of London, produced a broadside of it. Although also known in U.S.A. (Michigan), Creeping Jane never achieved the fame of the other racehorse, Skewball, a Yorkshire beast that became a figure of U.S. Negro mythology.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang Creeping Jane on their 1971 album Spencer the Rover Is Alive and Well and on their 1998 CD of English folksongs collected by Percy Grainger, Heartoutbursts. They noted on both albums,

The song is of the Stewball variety, but lacks the moral so prevalent in American folk songs.

and

This song won Joseph Taylor first prize at the Brigg competition in 1905. Grainger noted it there, and phonographed it the following year. Mr Taylor, well into his seventies, had learned it as a boy, “from an old woman in Binbrook”.

The Broadside from Grimsby sang Creeping Jane in 1972 on their Topic album of songs and ballads collected in Lincolnshire, The Moon Shone Bright.

Bill Smith learned Creeping Jane from his father, who in turn, learned it from his father. He sang it on 27 May 1979 to his son Andrew Smith. This recording was included in 2011 on his Musical Traditions anthology of songs and stories of a Shropshire man, Country Life.

Martin Simpson sang Creeping Jane in 2005 on his CD Kind Letters, and in 2013 on the Full English's eponymous CD, The Full English, both on the Topic label.

Steeleye Span sang Creeping Jane in 2009 on their CD Cogs, Wheels and Lovers and in 2011 on their live album Now We Are Six Again.

Andy Turner learned Creeping Jane from Martin Carthy's album and sang it as the 28 October 2012 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Gavin Davinport sang Creeping Jane in 2013 on his CD The Bone Orchard. He commented in his liner notes:

Famously collected from Joseph Taylor by Percy Grainger, this is one of a body of Horse Race songs. In the great tradition of English Folk animal songs, it takes us through to the inevitable demise of its protagonist. The tune here has taken a short transatlantic diversion.

Danny Spooner sang Creeping Jane on his 2013 CD Gorgeous, Game Girls. He noted:

Our heroine here is a gallant little mare. Given no chance by the gentlemen spectators she nonetheless wins her race in great style, showing the strength and courage so admired by the racing fraternity. However, that her jockey has to plead with the owner, ‘To keep her little body from the hounds’, reminds us of an awful truth about racing which is that once the horse stops making money she's bound for the knacker's yard.

Rosie Upton sang Creeping Jane in 2014 on her CD Basket of Oysters. She noted:

Collected by Cecil Sharp from Farmer King at The Castle of Comfort Inn, Mendip, Somerset [VWML CJS2/9/299] . I never liked this song until I heard Harry Langston sing this version in Bristol. It's really quirky and the chorus is wonderful, even though for brevity I've left some of the choruses out! A great victory when the underdog, or in this case ‘poor little Jane’, with the demeaning name unexpectedly wins the race.

Nick Dow sang Creeping Jane in 2016 on his CD The Devil in the Chest. He noted:

From Sam Dawe 1907 collected by Hammond [VWML HAM/4/21/17] in my old stomping ground of Beaminster in Dorset. Creeping Jane was not an unsual name for a racehorse in Victorian times. The tune of this version is a joy.

Kate Rusby sang Jenny on her 2019 CD Philosophers, Poems & Kings. Her source may have been The Ballad of Jenny the Mare in Edward Fitzgerald's book Euphranor. She tersely noted:

Because everyone loves an under-horse!

Lyrics

The Ballad of Jenny the Mare in Euphranor Kate Rusby sings Jenny

I'll sing you a song and a merry, merry song
Concerning our Yorkshire Jen,
Who never yet ran with horse or mare
That ever she cared for a pin.

I'll sing you a song, and a merry song,
Concerning poor Yorkshire Jen,
Who never yet ran with horse or mare
But ran just now and then.

When first she came to Newmarket town
The sportsmen all viewed her around;
All the cry was, “Alas, poor wench,
Thou never can run this ground.”

When she came to Newmarket town
The sportsmen viewed her round;
All the cries were, “Alas! poor wench,
She'll never run this ground.”

Chorus (after every other verse):
'Course she was ordinary, hasn't got any,
Hasn't got anyone

When they came to the starting post
The mare looked very smart;
And let them say what they will,
She never lost her start.

When came came to the starting post,
The mare looked very smart;
And let them all say what they will,
She never lost her start.

When they got to the second mile post
Poor Jenny was cast behind;
She was cast behind, she was cast behind,
All for to take her wind.

When they came to the two-mile post,
Poor Jen was cast behind,
How they laughed and how they jeered,
But Jen she did not mind.

When they got to the three-mile post
The mare looked very pale;
She laid down her ears on her bonny neck
And by them all did she sail.

When they came to the three-mile post,
The mare looked very pale;
She laid her ears on her bonnie neck
And past all of them did sail.

“Come follow me, come follow me,
All you that run so neat;
And 'ere that you catch me again,
I'll make you all to sweat.”

“Come follow me, come follow me,
You all will not forget;
None of you will catch me again,
And I'll make you all to sweat.”

When she got to the winning post
The people all gave a shout;
And Jenny clicked up her lily-white foot
And jumped like any buck

When she came to the winning post
The whole crowd gave a cheer;
Showered with love from the jockey lad
She jumped like any deer.

The jockey said to her, “This race you have won,
This race for me you have got;
You can gallop it all over again
When the rest could hardly trot.”

The jockey said, “This race you've run,
This race for me you've got;
You could gallop it all again
When the rest could hardly trot.”

Percy Grainger's transcription of the first verse
(written above his musical notation)

I will sing you a song and a very pretty one,
Concerning Creeping Jane o!
She never saw a mare nor a gelding in her life
That she valid [sic] to the worth of half a pin,
Lol di day de ay the didle lol the di-do,
For she never saw a mare nor a gelding in her life
That she valid to the worth of half a pin, lol the day.

Joseph Taylor sings Creeping Jane Martin Carthy sings Creeping Jane

I will sing you a song and a very pretty one,
Concerning Creeping Jane o;
Why she never saw a mare or a gelding in her life
That she valued to the worth of half a pin,
Lol the day, dee-ay, the diddle ol the die doh,
Why she never saw a mare or a gelding in her life
That she valued to the worth of half a pin, lol the day.

I'll sing you a song and a very pretty one
Concerning Creeping Jane o
Why she never saw a mare nor a gelding in her life
That she valued at the worth of half a pin
Lal dee day dee o the diddle lol de day o
She never saw a mare or a gelding in her life
That she valued at the worth of half a pin, lal the day

When Creeping Jane on the racecourse came
The gentlemen view-ed Jane all around o;
And all they had to say concerning little Jane,
"She's not able for to gallop o'er the ground",
Lol the day etc.

When Creeping Jane to the racecourse came
The gentlemen giggled all around o
And all they had to say concerning little Jane
She's not able for to gallop o'er the ground
Lal dee day dee o the diddle lol de day o
And all they had to say concerning little Jane
She's not able for to gallop o'er the ground, lal the day

Now when that they came to the second milepost
Creeping Janie was far behind o;
Then the rider flung his whip around her bonny little neck,
And he said, "Me little lassie, never mind",
Lol the day etc.

Now when they came to the first milepost
Creeping Jane he was far behind o
But the lad flung his whip into the bonny little maid
And he says, My little lassie never mind
Lal dee day dee o the diddle lol the day o
Then the rider flung his whip into the bonny little maid
And he says, My little lassie never mind, lal the day

Now when that they came to the third milepost,
Creeping Janie looked blithe and smart o;
And then she lifted up her little lily-white foot
And she flew past them all like a dart,
Lol the day etc.

Now when that they came to the third milepost
Creeping Jane he looked blithe and smart o
And then she lifted up her little lily-white hoof
And she fleered past them all like a dart
Lal dee day dee o the diddle lie de day o
And then she lifted up her little lily-white hoof
And she fleered past them all like a dart, lal the day

Now Creeping Janie this race has won,
And scarcely sweats one drop o;
Why, she's able for to gallop the ground o'er again,
While the others is not able for to trot,
Lol the day.

Now Creeping Jane the race has won
And scarcely sweat one drop o
She's able for to gallop the ground all again
While the others is not able for to trot
Lal dee day dee o the diddle lie de day o
She's able for to gallop the ground all again
While the others is not able for to trot, lal the day

Now Creeping Janie she's dead and gone,
And her body lies on the cold ground o;
I'll go down to her master one favour for to beg,
That's to keep her little body from the hounds
Lol the day, dee-ay, the diddle ol the die doh,
I'll go down to her master one favour for to beg,
That's to keep her little body from the hounds, lol the day.

Now Creeping Jane is dead and gone
And her body lies on the cold ground o
I'll go down to my master and tell the boy today
To keep her little body from the ground
Lal dee day dee o the diddle lie de day o
I'll go down to her master and tell the boy today
Just to keep her little body from the ground

Yorkshire Jenny in The Sporting Magazine Kate Rusby sings Jenny

I'll sing you a song, and a merry, merry song,
Concerning pour Yorkshire Jen,
Who never ran with horse or mare
That ever she valued one pin.

I'll sing you a song, and a merry song,
Concerning pour Yorkshire Jen,
Who never yet ran with horse or mare
But ran just now and then.

When Jenny came to Newmarket town
The sportsmen all viewed her around;
All their cry was, “Alas! poor Jen,
Thou are not able to run this ground.”

When she came to Newmarket town
The sportsmen viewed her round;
All the cries were, “Alas! poor wench,
She'll never run this ground.”

Chorus (after every other verse):
'Course she was ordinary, hasn't got any,
Hasn't got anyone

But when Jenny came to the starting post,
Poor Jen she look'd very smart;
And let them all say what they will,
Poor Jenny thou lost no start.

When came came to the starting post,
The mare looked very smart;
And let them all say what they will,
She never lost her start.

But when Jenny came by the two-mile post,
Poor Jen was cast behind—
She was cast behind—she was cast behind—
All for to take her wind.

When they came to the two-mile post,
Poor Jen was cast behind,
How they laughed and how they jeered,
But Jen she did not mind.

But when Jenny came by the three-mile post,
Poor Jen she looked very pale;
She laid her ears on her bonny, bonny neck
And so by them all she did sail.

When they came to the three-mile post,
The mare looked very pale;
She laid her ears on her bonnie neck
And past all of them did sail.

“Come follow me, come follow me,
All you that run so neat;
And 'fore that you catch me again,
I'll cause you all to sweat.”

“Come follow me, come follow me,
You all will not forget;
None of you will catch me again,
And I'll make you all to sweat.”

When Jenny came by the distance post,
The sportsmen all gave a shout;
And Jenny click'd up her lily-white foot,
And she jump'd like any buck.

When she came to the winning post,
The whole crowd gave a cheer;
Showered with love from the jockey lad,
She jumped like any deer.

The jockey said to Jen, “This race you have won,
And this race you've fairly got;
You can gallop it over again
While the rest can scarcely trot.”

The jockey said, “This race you've run,
This race for me you've got;
You could gallop it all again
When the rest could hardly trot.”

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Garry Gillard; Martin Carthy's version is from But Two Came By.