> June Tabor > Songs > The Fair Maid of Wallington

Fair Mary of Wallington / The Fair Maid of Wallington / Bonny Earl of Livingston

[ Roud 59 ; Child 91 ; Ballad Index C091 ; DT MARYWALL ; Mudcat 84063 ; trad.]

The Oxford Book of Ballads

June Tabor sang the Child Ballad The Fair Maid of Wallington unaccompanied in 1974 on the fundraiser album The First Folk Review Record. The album’s sleeve notes commented:

The tune was learned from Maddy Prior, and the words collated by June Tabor from various versions in Child.

This track was also included in 2005 on her 4 CD anthology Always. The album’s booklet notes that this song gave the name to June and Maddy’s duo album Silly Sisters, even though June couldn’t remember if they ever sang it together.

Graham and Eileen Pratt sang Bonny Earl of Livingston on their 1980 album To Friend and Foe. They noted:

This searing ballad, to Graham’s tune, describes the bane of seven sisters, destined to die in childbirth while their mother relentlessly arranges their marriages.

James Findlay sang Fair Maid of Wallington in 2011 on his Fellside CD Sport and Play. He noted:

This is the most miserable song about death during childbirth on the album, telling the story of seven sisters and a gynaecological nightmare! This localised Northumberland ballad appears in text from 1775.

Corinne Male sang Maisrie of Livingstone on her 2015 CD To Tell the Story Truly. She noted:

This is a variant of Fair Mary of Wellington which Child’s source manuscript called The Bonny Earl of Livingstone. It isn’t about him, it’s about his wife, her mother, her six sisters and especially the youngest of them. It’s probably a very female thing but I find the ending of this the most chilling in any ballad I’ve ever heard.

Cath and Phil Tyler sang Wallington in 2018 on their CD The Ox ad the Ax. They also play this song with the group Dark Northumbrian.


June Tabor sings The Fair Maid of Wallington

When we were silly sisters, seven sisters were so mild,
Five went to bride bed and five are dead with child.

Then it’s up spoke young Mary and it’s single she would bide,
For if ever she was in man’s bed, the same death she would die.

“Oh it’s take no vows, Mary, for fear they broken be,
For there is a knight in Wallington asking good will of thee.”

“Oh if there is a knight, mother, asking good will of me,
Then it’s in three quarters of a year you may bury me.”

Well, she had not been in Wallington three quarters and a day
Till she was as big with baby as any lady.

“Oh is there not a boy in this town that would win up hosen and shoen?”
Then it’s up spoke a page-boy, “Your errand I will run!”

“Give respects to my mother as she sits in her chair of stone;
Ask her how she likes the news of seven to have but one.”

When her mother she heard the news in anger cried she
And she’s kicked the table with her foot and kicked it with her knee.

Then she’s called for her waiting-maid and also her stable-groom:
“Come fetch me my cloak and go saddle up the brown.”

But when they came to Wallington and into Wallington Hall
There was four and twenty ladies that let the tears down fall.

And her daughter, she had a scope into her cheek and into her chin,
All for to keep her sweet life till her mother she come in.

Now she’s taken a razor that was both sharp and fine
And from out of her left side she’s took the heir to Wallington.

“Oh, there is a race in Wallington, and that I rue full sore
Though the cradle it be well spread up, the bride-bed is left bare.”

And when we were silly sisters, seven sisters were so mild,
Five went to bride bed and five are dead with child.

Then it’s up spoke young Mary and it’s single she would bide,
For if ever she was in man’s bed, the same death she would die.

Graham and Eileen Pratt sing Bonny Earl of Livonston

Oh, we were sisters seven; now five are dead with child;
There are none but you and I, love—and we’ll stay maidens mild.

But scarcely had she spoken, and turned her round about,
Than the Bonny Earl of Livingston was calling Maisry out.

There was a milk-white stallion, that drank from out the Tay,
They sent for Lady Maisry to carry her away.

Well, she had not been at Livingston but twelve-month and a day,
When she’s as big with baby as any girl can be.

And she’s called upon her foot-page, saying: “Run you now with speed,
And bid my mother come here, for of her I’ll soon have need.”

But before she got to Livingston as fast as she could ride,
They’d put the gags on Maisry and the sharp shears in her side.

Her good Lord stood a-weeping: the tears came flowing down.
“Let halls and bowers tumble, now my bonny love is gone.”

And out and spake her only sister, never hear to speak so free:
“I pray there’s no man living, such a death will force on me.”

“Well, hold your tongue my only daughter, and let your folly be:
Your wedding is tomorrow, though the same death you may see.”