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> Shirley Collins > Songs > The Little Gypsy Girl
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> Eliza Carthy > Songs > Little Gypsy Girl

The Gipsy's Wedding Day / The Little Gypsy Girl

[ Roud 229 ; Laws O4 ; Ballad Index LO04 ; trad.]

Joseph Taylor sang The Gipsy's Wedding Day in 1908, which was recorded on wax cylinders for Percy Grainger and published in 1972 on the Leader LP Unto Brigg Fair and in 1998 on the Topic anthology of songs of courtship and marriage Come Let Us Buy the Licence. (The Voice of the People Volume 1). The original album's sleeve notes say:

This song was in the repertoires of many of the Lincolnshire singers that Grainger obtained songs from. Despite the strictures and suspicions of many of the early collectors connected with the Folk Song Society, the tune (or versions of it) has done great service with many associated texts; among them might be mentioned The Banks of Sweet Dundee, On Board the “Kangaroo” and The Handsome Cabin Boy. Mr O'Shaughnessy notes its resemblance to The Bluebell's of Scotland. See also FSJ No. 5. Sound recordings: BBC 18691, Col 15519, FA 2362.

Shirley Collins sang this song with somewhat different verses as The Little Gypsy Girl. She recorded this in 1971 for her album with the Albion Country Band, No Roses and it was reissued on her anthology A Favourite Garland. Her album's sleeve notes cite Louise Holmes of Hereford as source and comment:

Recorded in the field in the 1950's by Peter Kennedy for the BBC Archives. Peter, along with Alan Lomax, Bob Copper, Hamish Henderson and Sean O'Boyle, was responsible for collecting traditional music from all over the British Isles. All the recordings are lodged in the archives at the BBC. I've done a few radio programmes from them, and a lot of the discs are warped. I hope someone's taking care of them—it's a unique collection and deserves to be treated with a lot more care and respect.

She also sang it live with the Etchingham Steam Band in June 1975 at the 4. Folk-Festival auf der Lenzburg, reissued on Within Sound, and in July 1975 at Lewes Folk Day; the latter recording is available on the CD The Etchingham Steam Band.

Bob Davenport and the Marsden Rattlers sang Gipsy Girl in 1971 on their eponymous album on the Trailer label, Bob Davenport and the Marsden Rattlers.

George Dunn sang The Squire's Bride on July 14, 1971 to Roy Palmer. This recording was included in 2002 on his Musical Traditions anthology Chainmaker. Rod Stradling commented in the booklet notes:

A version of the song more often called My Father's the King of the Gypsies—from its first verse, which George omits here—or The Gypsy Girl / The Gypsy's Wedding Day. It was widely printed on broadsides, but has only been found in the oral tradition in central England and the USA.

Jasper Smith sang The Squire and the Gypsy to Mike Yates in Biggin Hill, Kent in October 1973. This recording was included in 1975 on the Topic album of gypsies, travellers and country singers, Songs of the Open Road, and in 1998 on the Topic anthology My Father's the King of the Gypsies (The Voice of the People Volume 11).

Jake Walton sang The Gypsy's Wedding in 1976 on his, Roger Nicholson's and Andrew Cronshaw's Trailer album Times and Traditions for Dulcimer.

The Old Swan Band sang My Father's the King of the Gypsies on their 1979 Free Reed album Old Swan Brand. Their liner notes commented:

This version comes to us from Lynn Sheridan who learnt it many years ago from a record in Cecil Sharp House of Mrs. Louisa Holmes.

John Roberts & Tony Barrand recorded The Gipsy's Wedding Day in 1998 on their CD Heartoutbursts: English Folksongs collected by Percy Grainger. They commented in their album notes:

I first heard this years ago in an American version, with refrain, sung by Dallas Cline. I was surprised to find later that her song was so closely related to this set from Joseph Taylor. The song was in the repertoire of several of Grainger's source singers, and was known as a broadside. When Grainger published it in the Journal, Lucy Broadwood commented: “I doubt it's being ‘country-made’, or of any great age.” Anne Gilchrist added, comparing it to The Nutting Girl, “Neither of them have the appearance of genuine folk-airs.” What is a folksong? The debate still continues.

Eliza Carthy sang and played on fiddle Little Gypsy Girl in 2002 on her Topic CD Anglicana. She was accompanied by Norma Waterson and Maria Gilhooley, vocals, Will Duke, concertina, and Dan Quinn, melodeon. This track was reissued on the anthology Evolving Tradition 4. Eliza Carthy commented in her album's sleeve notes:

Joseph Taylor again. This sounds to me a bit like little orphan Annie singing about how swell her life is going to be. I imagine her and all her mates sitting around the fire having a good laugh at the end of it.

Robin and Bina Williamson sang The Little Gypsy Girl in 2007 on Old Wine New Skins, a CD of modern recordings of traditional English songs to accompany The Folk Handbook.

The Dollymops from the Isle of Wight sang The Gypsy Girl in 2013 on their WildGoose CD Wight Cockade. They noted:

Collected by George Gardiner from Jacob ‘John’ Brading in 1909. Brading was an Islander who grew up in the village of Arreton and ended his days in Alverstoke Workhouse (Gosport) where Gardiner discovered him. He also had The Spotted Cow and Seventeen Come Sunday in his repertoire. His versions closely mirror those published by W.H. Long in his 1886 Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect. Could Brading perhaps have been one of Long’s anonymous singing sources?

Lyrics

Joseph Taylor: The Gipsy's Wedding Day

My father is the king of the gypsies that is true
My mother she learn-ed me some camping for to do
They put the pack upon me back they all did wish me well,
So I set out for London town, some fortunes for to tell.

Now as I was a-walking up fair London street,
A handsome young squi-re I chanc-ed for to meet;
He view-ed my brown cheeks and lik-ed them so well,
He said, “Me little gypsy girl, can you me fortune tell?”

“Why yes, kind sir, give me hold of your hand,
Why you have got houses, you've riches and you've land,
But all those pretty ladies, you mun put them to one side.
For I'm the little gypsy girl that is to be your bride.”

Now once I was a gypsy girl but now a squi-re's bride.
I've got servants for to wait on me and in me carriage ride,
The bells they rung so merrily and the sweet music did play,
And a jolly time we had upon the gypsy's wedding day.

Eliza Carthy: Little Gypsy Girl

My father is the king of the gypsies, it is true,
My mother, she learned me some camping for to do.
They put the pack all on my back, they all did wish me well,
So I set off to London town, some fortunes for to tell.

Now one night I came to some fair London street,
A handsome young squire I chanced for to meet,
He viewed my brown cheeks and he liked them so well,
He says, “My little gypsy girl, can you my fortune tell?”

“Why yes, kind sir, give me hold of your hand.
Why, you have got houses, you've riches and you've land.
Now all those pretty ladies, you must put them to one side,
For I'm the little gypsy girl that is to be your bride.”

Now once I was a gypsy girl but now a squire's bride,
I've servants for to wait on me and in the carriage ride.
The bells they rang so merrily, the sweet music did play,
And a jolly time we had upon the gypsy's wedding day.

Shirley Collins: The Little Gypsy Girl

My father's the king of the gypsies, it is true,
Me mother, she learned me some camping for to do.
They put the pack all on my back, and they did wish me well,
Then I went up to London, some fortunes for to tell.
Some fortunes for to tell, some fortunes for to tell,
And I went up to London, some fortunes for to tell.

As I was a-walking down a fair London street,
A handsome young squire I chanced for to meet,
He viewed my brown cheeks and he liked them so well,
Says he, “My little gypsy girl, can you me fortune tell?
Can you me fortune tell, can you me fortune tell,”
Says he, “My little gypsy girl, can you me fortune tell?”

“Oh sir,“ I replied, “Give me fast hold of your hand.
I see you have riches, and houses, and land,
And all your lovely ladies, you must lay them all aside,
I am the little gypsy girl that is to be your bride,
That is to be your bride, that is to be your bride,
I am the little gypsy girl that is to be your bride.”

He led me through woods and through valleys green, I'm sure,
Where he had got servants to open up the door
On the softest bed of down then served me so well
That in nine months after his fortune I did tell.
His fortune I did tell, his fortune I did tell,
That in nine months after his fortune I did tell.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of Eliza Carthy by Reinhard Zierke based on Joseph Taylor's version as transcribed by Garry Gillard.