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Blackwell Merry Night

[ Roud 1529 ; Ballad Index VWP012 ; Robert Anderson (1770-1833)]

Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Martin and Eliza Carthy sang Blackwell Merry Night on their 2014 duo album, The Moral of the Elephant. Eliza Carthy noted:

When I hear “At five in the morn, eighteen hundred and three” now, I always think, bloody hell, this song is over two hundred years old… Whilst I got this song from the book Bushes and Briars, from the Ralph Vaughan Williams collection, it was written by Robert Anderson, known as the “Cumbrian Burns” for his portrayal in song and poetry of the community he lived in. Dad and I have changed only a few words that we, with our utterly non-Cumbrian accents, were pretty sure we couldn’t get away with. Sounds like a good night. Lumps big as lapstones. Sorry Cumbria if we pronounced anything wrong.


Martin and Eliza Carthy sing Blackwell Merry Night

Aye, lad, such a merry night we’ve had at Blackwell,
The sound of the fiddle still rings in my ear.
All well clipped and heeled were the lads and the lasses
And many a lively young lassie was there.
The better sort they sat snug in the parlour,
In the pantry the sweethearts they whispered so soft.
The dancers they kicked up a dust in the kitchen;
At lanter the card-players sat in the loft.

The clogger from Dawston’s a famous top hero,
And beats all the player-folk twenty to one.
He stamped with his foot and he shouted and roystered,
Till the sweat it ran off his very chin end.
Then he held up a hand like the spout of a tea-pot
And danced “Cross the Buckle” and “Leather to Patch”;
When they cried “Bonny Bell” he leapt up to the ceiling,
Kept snapping his thumbs for a bit of a fratch.

The Heverby lads were well used to deep drinking;
At cocking the Dawstoners never were beat.
The Buckabank chaps were right famous at courting;
Their kisses just sound like the latch of a gate.
The lasses of Blackwell are so many angels,
The Cummersdale beauties all glory in fun.
God help the poor fellow that squints at them dancing;
He’ll steal away heartless as sure as a gun!

The bacca was strong and the ale it was lively,
And many a one emptied a quart like a churn.
Daft Fred in the nook, like a half-roasted devil,
He told smutty stories and made them all grin.
Then one sang “Tom Linton” another “Dick Walters”;
The farmers all bragged of their fillies and foals,
With jibing and joking, and shaking and laughing,
Till some thought it time to set off to the coals.

But hold! I forgot: When the clock struck eleven,
The platter was brought in with white bread and brown;
The knife it was sharp, the great cheese was a topper,
An lumps big as lapstones our lads gobbled down.
The trim, jolly landlady cried, “Do not be shy!
In God’s name step forward; now welcome and eat.”
Our guts were well filled, we paid up for blind Jenny,
And next paid the shot on a great pewter plate.

Now full to the throttle, with headaches an heart-aches,
Some crept to the clock-case instead of the door.
Then sleeping and snoring took place of their roaring,
An one ’top another they laid on the floor.
The last of December, long may we remember,
At five in’ the morn, eighteen hundred and three.
Here’s health and success to the brave Johnny Dawston,
An many such meetings may we live to see.