> Louis Killen > Songs > Sair Fyeld, Hinny

Sair Fyel’d, Hinny

[ Roud 3062 ; G/D 3:481 ; Ballad Index StoR048 ; Mudcat 18836 ; trad.]

J. Collingwood Bruce, John Stokoe: Northumbrian Minstrelsy John Stokoe: Northumbrian Minstrelsy

Louis Killen sang Sair Fyeld, Hinny in 1962 on his Topic EP of songs from the North-East and the border, Northumbrian Garland. This was also included in 1968 on the Topic LP (and in 1998 CD) of old and new Northumbrian songs, Along the Coaly Tyne. Louis Killen noted:

This song was first published in Bruce and Stokoe’s Northumbrian Minstrelsy (1882). No notes were given, however, it is one of the most popular of Northumbrian folk songs—even today. The refrain means: sorely failed (in health and strength) since I knew you (as a young tree).

Carolyn Robson sang Sair Fyel’d Hinny in 1998 on Kathryn Tickell & Friends’ Park Records CD The Northumberland Collection. And she and Moira Craig with Sarah Morgen sang it on their 2016 CD Both Sides the Tweed. She noted:

A traditional song from the North East of England published in Bruce & Stokoe’s Northumbrian Minstrelsy (1882). It’s a lament about old age. The gist is that the old man sings to an oak tree that he is sorely felled or worn out since he first knew the tree (‘sin a ken’d thee’ = ‘since I knew thee’), presumably because it just gets stronger as it gets older, while he’s losing his vitality and energy. (By the way, to ‘loup’ is to jump, a ‘dyke’ is a stone wall and a ‘syke’ is a small stream or burn).

Graham Pirt sang Sair Fyeld Hinny in 2008 on his and his son Sam Pirt’s Fellside CD Dance ti’ Thee Daddy.

Sarah Hayes sang Sair Fyel’d Hinny on her 2015 CD Woven.

Jez Lowe sang Sair Fail’d on his 2017 CD The Dillen Doll.

Andrew Cadie sang Sair Fyel’d Hinny on his 2018 CD of Northumbrian fiddle music from William Vickers’ Manuscript, Half-Witted, Merry & Mad. He noted:

I was taught this song by Nancy Kerr and I arranged it for voice and fiddle in 2005. It was around when Vickers was compiling his manuscript and tells the story of an old man lamenting the fact that the oak tree grow stronger with age, while he grows weaker. The melody of the song has the same modal quirks that many Vickers tunes exhibit.


Louis Killen sings Sair Fyeld, Hinny

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Sair fyeld, hinny, sair fyeld noo,
Sair fyeld, hinny, sinna kenned thou.

Aw was young and lusty, aw was fair and clear,
Aw was young and lusty, mony a lang year.

When aw was five and twenty, aw was brave and bold;
But noo aw’m five and sixty, aw’m byeth stiff and cuald.

Thus spoke the awd man to the oak tree:
Sair fyeld is aw sin’ aw kenned thee.