> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Farewell Nancy / Nancy of Yarmouth
> Martin Carthy > Songs > Farewell (Lovely) Nancy
> Tim Hart & Maddy Prior > Songs > Farewell Nancy

Farewell (Lovely) Nancy / Nancy of Yarmouth

[ Roud 527 ; Laws K14 ; Henry H755 ; Ballad Index LK14 ; Bodleian Roud 527 ; trad.]

There are several quite different songs that all share the generic title Nancy of Yarmouth; besides this version e.g. Pretty Nancy of Yarmouth (Roud 407) as sung by the Young Tradition.

A.L. Lloyd sang this parting song as Nancy of Yarmouth in 1962 on his and Ewan MacColl's Transatlantic LP A Sailor's Garland. He commented in the sleeve notes:

To dress in sailor's clothes and smuggle oneself aboard ship was a pretty notion that often occurred to young girls a century or two ago, if the folk songs are to be believed. This song has been widely found in the south of England, also in Ireland. It seems to belong to an age when seamen had more delicate minds than they were later to display.

Four years later he recorded this song again, but with the more usual title Farewell Nancy, on his album First Person. He was accompanied by Dave Swarbrick on fiddle. This track was also included on the compilations Round Cape Horn and Classic A.L. Lloyd. He said in the original album's sleeve notes:

Treading on the heels of the class of ballads in which girls dress as sailors and brave the hazards of deck and fo'c'sle are the numerous songs in which the girls wistfully volunteer to accompany their sweethearts on long voyages incognito, only to be told that the life and work is too rough for delicate creatures. Many of these ballads, like Farewell Nancy, are as pretty and as formalised as the popular engravings of the early nineteenth century, showing jolly tars with curls and dancing pumps innocently sporting with long-lashed maidens, porcelain-pure. The song has generally been reported from the southern counties, but in must have been well known in the North too, for Bebbington of Manchester published a successful broadside of it in the 1850s. In Ireland it's known as Adieu, Lovely Mary, and in North Carolina they have a version in which Nancy sees her young man swept overboard, and she dies of regret. Our version here is substantially the one that Sharp noted rather tentatively from a 74-year old Somerset woman with lovely tunes but an uncertain voice.

Ian Campbell sang Lovely Nancy in 1964 as the title track of the Topic anthology of sea songs and shanties, Farewell Nancy.

Martin Carthy recorded Farewell Nancy in 1966 too for his Second Album, and live in studio in July 2006 for the DVD Guitar Maestros. He commented in the original recording's sleeve notes:

An uncomplicated song of farewell in which the fairly standard offer by the maiden to dress up as “some little sea-boy” and go along with her lover is refused gently but firmly. I suspect that she is more relieved than sorry, as her pleas do not seem to carry the ring of conviction. Printed several times in the Journal of the Folk Song Society.

He recorded it again with his Waterson:Carthy family and Ben Ivitsky guesting on cello in 2004 as Farewell Lovely Nancy for the album Fishes & Fine Yellow Sand. The album notes say:

Several years ago Vic Gammon handed me a cassette of dubbings of cylinder recordings made by Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Through all the static could be heard some occasionally very odd but always beautiful performances of some songs from the original singers which, for the most part, had subsequently been published in the Journal of the Folk Song Society. Among them was this version of Farewell Lovely Nancy sung to the latter early in 1909 by a very old man called George Lovett in Winchester. Lovely Stuff.

This video shows Martin Carthy singing Farewell Lovely Nancy at the East Dulwich folk club on October 24, 2008. I'm sorry that this audience recording is quite dark.

And Tim Hart sang Farewell Nancy in 1968 on his and Maddy Prior's first duo album, Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 1.

John Lyons sang Farewell, Lovely Mary in 1974 on his Topic album The May Morning Dew.

Siney Crotty sang Lovely Mary to the Sea Do Not Go on a recording made by Roly Brown in Clare or Cabra, Dublin, in 1976/77. This was published in 1978 on the Topic LP The Lambs on the Green Hills: Songs from County Clare. Nora Cleary, who also appeared on this records, sang Farewell, Lovely Mary in a recording made by Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie in the singer's home at The Hand, Milton Malbay, Co. Clare, in July 1976. This was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology We've Received Orders to Sail (The Voice of the People Series, Volume 12).

The Old Swan Band sang Fare The Well Dearest Nancy on their 1979 Free Reed album Old Swan Brand. Their liner notes commented:

Fi [Fraser] & Jo [Freya] got the words of this Irish version of Nancy of Yarmouth from Colm O'Lochlainn['s book Irish Street Ballads] and the tune, heard on an Irish record [Mick Hanly's A Kiss in the Morning Early] first and then from the singing of Kevin Mitchell, who uses it for another set of words. Jo plays piano.

Steve Turner sang Farewell Dearest Nancy in 1979 on his Fellside album Out Stack.

Joe Holmes and Len Graham sang a version called Johnnie and Molly in 1979 on their Topic album of traditional songs, ballads and lilts from the North of Ireland, After Dawning. Len Graham commented in the album's sleeve notes:

There are several versions of this song to be found throughout these islands. This Co. Antrim one is another Joe learned from his mother.

The theme of the young girl dressed up in male attire to follow her lover into the navy or army is common in broadside balladry. In this version however, the young man dissuades the girl from going to sea:

Your delicate fingers our ropes could not handle,
Your lily-white feet, love, our decks could not stand,
Nor the cold nights of winter, you ne'er could endure them,
So stay at home, darling, to the seas do not go.

Tom Gilfellon sang Farewell Lovely Nancy in 1981 on The Champion String Band's eponymous album The Champion String Band.

Danny Spooner sang Farewell Nancy on his 1987 album When a Man's in Love. He noted:

Life aboard the old sailing ships was harsh, yet we know that quite a few women dressed themselves as sailors and went to sea. This little gem tells of one who, for love, was prepared to join her man in the trials of the seafaring life, but he wants her safe ashore and waiting for his return. There are longer versions of this song but it is the brevity of this version that makes it so charming.

Whippersnapper sang Farewell My Lovely Nancy in 1987 on their album Tsubo. A live recording from the Cropredy Festival in 1985 was included in 2003 on Dave Swarbrick's Free Reed anthology Swarb!. Dave Swarbrick also sang Lovely Nancy live at Jacksons Lane Community Centre, London, on December 16, 1991. A recording of this concert was published in 1998 on his Musicfolk CD Live at Jacksons Lane.

Jolly Jack sang Farewell Nancy on their 1988 Fellside album A Long Time Travelling.

The John Kirkpatrick Band recorded Lovely Nancy in 1996 for their Fledg'ling CD Welcome to Hell. The liner notes commented:

There are loads of versions and variations on this traditional song—some with cheerful tunes like this one, which imply a happy ending, and others to a melody so slow and sad that there is no doubt that the lovers will never be reunited. The tune pops up here and there in the old books and was a favourite waltz of mine for a while, and it was Roy Palmer who had the bright idea of wedding it to these words in his 1974 collection Love Is Pleasing.

Kathryn Roberts sang Lovely Nancy in 2001 on Equation's EP The Dark Ages.This track was also included in the following year on her and Sean Lakeman's CD 1..

Nancy Kerr and James Fagan sang Lovely Nancy in 2006 on their Fellside CD Strands of Gold.

John Roberts sang Farewell Nancy in 2007 on his CD Sea Fever.

Cecil Sharp collected Farewell Nancy in Somerset in 1905; again, A. L. Lloyd, one of several singers who recorded versions of it, seems to have had a hand in ‘folk-processing’ the lyrics.

Jon Boden sang Farewell Sweet Lovely Nancy as the March 12, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Chris Sarjeant sang Farewell Dearest Nancy in 2012 on his WildGoose CD Heirlooms.

Lyrically, this is the version as recorded by Martin Carthy (without the final repetition of the first verse). The piano arrangement was inspired to a degree by Sharp's own settings.

Paul Downes sang Farewell Nancy in 2013 on his WildGoose CD The Boatman's Cure. He commented:

Though there are probably hundreds of variants of this song, inexplicably I have only heard this beautiful tune sung by the inspirational Mick Hanly in the mid 70s and the equally wonderful John Molyneux in the early 80s. Thanks to Graham Moore for spotting it.

Andy Turner learned Fare Thee Well Dearest Nancy from the singing of Fi Fraser and Jo Freya on the Old Swan Band's album. H sang it as the April 24, 2016 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings Nancy of Yarmouth on A Sailor's Garland.

“Fare you well my lovely Nancy since now I must leave you;
Bound for the West Indies our course we must steer
Don't let my long voyage to trouble and grieve you
For I will be back in the spring as you know.”

She said, “Like a little sea boy I'll dress and go with you;
In the midst of all danger your help I'll remain.
In the cold stormy weather when the winds are a-blowing,
My love I'll be ready to reef your topsails.”

“Well, your pretty little fingers they can't handle our tackle,
Your delicate feets to our topmast can't go.
Your little behind, love, would freeze in the wind, love;
I would have you ashore when them winds it do blow.”

“Fare you well my lovely Nancy for now I must leave you;
All on the salt seas I am bound for to go.
But though we are parted, my love, be true-hearted
For I will return in the spring of the year.”

A.L. Lloyd sings Farewell Nancy on First Person

“Fare you well my dearest Nancy for now I must leave you;
All across the Western ocean I'm bound for to go.
Don't let my long voyage to trouble and grieve you
For I will return in the spring as you know.”

She says, “Like a little sea boy I'll dress and go with you;
In the midst of all dangers your help I'll remain.
In the cold stormy weather when the winds are a-blowing,
My dear I'll be ready to reef your topsail.”

“Well, your pretty slender fingers couldn't handle our tackle,
Your delicate feets to our topmast can't go.
And your little behind love would freeze in the wind love;
I would have you at home when them stormy winds do blow.”

“So fare you well my dearest Nancy for now I must leave you;
All for the West Indies I'm bound to bear.
And though we are parted my love be true-hearted
For I will return in the spring of the year.”

Martin Carthy sings Farewell Nancy on his Second Album

“Oh farewell my dearest Nancy for now I must leave you;
Far across to the West Indies our course we must steer.
Don't let my long voyage to trouble and grieve you
For you know I'll be back in the spring of the year.”

She says, “Like some little sea boy I'll dress and I'll go with you;
In the midst of all danger your help I'll remain.
In the cold stormy weather when the winds they are a-blowing,
Oh, my love I'll be there for to reef your topsail.”

“Oh, your pretty little hands they can't manage our tackle,
Your delicate feet to our topsail can't go.
Your little behind love would freeze in the wind love;
I would have you ashore when them stormy winds do blow.”

“So farewell my lovely Nancy for now I must leave you;
Far across the western ocean I'm bound far away.
Before we are parted my love be true-hearted
For you know I'll be back in the spring of the year.”

Tim Hart sings Farewell Nancy

“Farewell my lovely Nancy for I must now leave you
Unto the salt seas I am bound for to go.
But let my long absence be no trouble to you
For I will return in the spring as you know.”

“Like some pretty little sea boy I will dress and go with you
In the deepest of dangers I shall stand your friend.
In the cold stormy weather when the winds they are a-blowing,
My love I'll be willing to wait on you then.”

“Your pretty little hands cannot handle our tackle,
Your pretty little feet to our topmast can't go.
And the cold stormy weather love you never could endure
Therefore lovely Nancy to the sea do not go.”

(repeat first verse)

Waterson:Carthy sing Farewell Lovely Nancy on Fishes & Fine Yellow Sand

“Fare you well lovely Nancy for now I must leave you;
Far across to the Indies our course we must steer.
Don't you let my long voyage to trouble and grieve you
For you know I'll be back in the spring of the year.”

“Oh, don't talk of leaving me, my dearest Johnny,
Don't talk of leaving my here all alone.
For it is your sweet company that I do admire;
I will sigh till I die if I ne'er see you more.”

“I will dress in men's clothing and I will go with you;
In the midst of all danger your help I'll remain.
In the cold stormy weather with the stormy winds blowing;
Oh, my love I'll be there for to reef your topsail.”

“Oh, your beautiful fingers can't manage our cable,
Your sweet little feet to our topsail can't go.
Your delicate body strong winds can't endure,
Stay at home, lovely Nancy, to the seas do not go.”

Now Johnny is sailing and Nancy be wailing,
The tears from her eyes in some torrents do flow.
Her beautiful hair she is riving and tearing,
Saying, “I will sigh till I die if I ne'er see you more.”

“Fare you well lovely Nancy for now I must leave you;
Far across to the Indies our course we must steer.
Don't you let my long voyage to trouble and grieve you
For you know I'll be back in the spring of the year.”

Danny Spooner sings Farewell Nancy

“Fare thee well me dearest Nancy for now I must leave you,
Across the salt-seas I am bound for to go;
But don't let me long voyage to trouble and grieve you,
For I will return in the spring as you know.”

She said, “Like a little sea-boy I'll dress and go with you,
In spite of all dangers, your help I'll remain;
In the cold, stormy weather love, when the winds are a-blowing,
Me love I'll be ready to trim your topsail.”

“Oh! Your pretty little fingers can't handle our tackle,
Your delicate feet to our topmast can't go;
And your little behind, love, it would freeze in the wind, love,
I would have you ashore when the bitter winds do blow.

“So fare thee well me dearest Nancy for tis now I must leave you,
Unto the West Indies our course we must steer,
But though we are parted, me love stay true-hearted,
For I will return in the springtime of the year.”

John Roberts sings Farewell Nancy

“Fare you well, my dearest Nancy, for now I must leave you,
All across the western ocean I am bound for to go.
Don't let my long absence to trouble and grieve you
For I shall return in the spring, as you know.”

She says, “Like a pretty sea boy I'll dress and go with you,
In the midst of all danger your help I'll remain.
In the cold stormy weather, when the winds they are a blowing,
My love, I'll be ready to reef your topsail.”

“Oh, your slender little hands they couldn't handle our tackle,
And your delicate feet to our top mast can't go.
Your little behind, love, would freeze in the wind, love,
I would have you at home when the stormy winds do blow.

“So fare you well, my lovely Nancy, since now I must leave you,
All for the West Indies I am bound for to steer.
But though we are parted, my love, be true-hearted,
And I will return in the spring of the year.”

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Garry Gillard and Reinhard Zierke.