> Martin Carthy > Songs > The Green Wedding

The Green Wedding / There Was a Lord in Edinburgh

[ Roud 93 ; Child 221 ; G/D 5:1024 ; Ballad Index C221 ; VWML CJS2/9/1113 ; Bodleian Roud 93 ; trad.]

Norman Buchan and Peter Hall: The Scottish Folksinger Joanna C. Colcord: Songs of American Sailormen Alexander Keith: Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs James Kinsley: The Oxford Book of Ballads Roy Palmer: Everyman's Book of British Ballads Sir Walter Scott: Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border Cecil J. Sharp: One Hundred English Folksongs

Cecilia Costello sang There Was a Squire in Edinboro' Lived to Maria Slocombe and Patrick Shuldham-Shaw for the BBC on 30 November 1951 in Birmingham. This recording was included in 1975 on her eponymous Leader album Cecilia Costello, and, as The Green Wedding, in 2000 on the Rounder anthology Classic Ballads of Britain and Ireland Volume 2, and in 2014 on her Musical Traditions anthology Old Fashioned Songs. Rod Stradling noted:

Songs in which there is a dilemma over possible marriage partners abound. The usual pattern is that parents wish a woman to choose a particular man, while she inclines to another, usually of lower social status. Here the reverse is true, and she marries the squire instead of the farmer—although this is most atypical of this ballad; the farmer is more usually a rich Lord’s son.

This is a Scottish ballad, often known as Katherine Jaffray, and Mrs Costello’s splendid and very full version is a great surprise to find in industrial Birmingham in the 1950s. It is very rare in England—only two other English singers have been collected; Charles Neville and Robert Parrish, both from Somerset. It has, however, been found quite frequently in North America.

Although Cecilia’s version doesn’t make this terribly clear, the trick the Squire plays is a clever one. Elves and Faries are known to dress in green, and since they are lightly-built, often ride two to a horse. So when the Squire arrives at the wedding house with a company of green-clad, double-mounted men, they are taken to be an Elvish host—and nobody in their right mind messes with the Elves! Thus the Squire is able to abduct his love, out of the middle of the company, without any problem.

LaRena Clark sang There Was a Lord in Edinburgh in 1965 on her Topic album A Canadian Garland: Folksongs from the Province of Ontario. Edith Fowke commented in the sleeve notes:

In its early form this ballad told how a Scots lass, Katherine Jaffray, was wooed by a Scots laird; when she jilted him for an English lord, her first lover showed up at the wedding and carried her off. This provided the model for the tale of Young Lochinvar that Sir Walter Scott included in Marmion, and Scott himself was the first to print the ballad in his Border Minstrelsy in 1802, from versions in Herd's manuscripts. The original form is rare in tradition, but an Irish remodelling of the story as The Squire of Edinborough Town has had wider currency, particularly in North America. Another Ontario version will be found in [Edith Fowke's] A Garland of Ontario Folk Songs, where full references are given.

Nora Cleary sang The Green Wedding at home at The Hand near Milton Malbay, Co. Clare, July 1976. This recording by Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology Tonight I'll Make You My Bride (The Voice of the People Series, Vol. 6).

Martin Carthy sang The Green Wedding unaccompanied live at the Sunflower Folk Club, Belfast, on 20 October 1978. In his introductory words he credited Thomas Moran as his source for this song (who also supplied him with Handsome Polly-O). A recording of this concert was released in 2011 on his CD The January Man.

Malinky sang The Green Wedding in 2000 on their Greentrax album Last Leaves. They noted:

Karine [Polwart] adapted this from a recording of Irish singer Nora Cleary on the cracking Topic Records series Voice of the People. It's better known in Scotland as Katherine Jeffrey. Green is traditionally a “forsaken token” for the dumped and lovelorn. So you have to wonder about the intelligence of the groom when his bride turns up in a green frock. Anyway, she gets the right man in the end and they all jig away happily ever after tae Edinburgh! Of course.

Joe Ray sang Katharine Johnston on his 2001 Musical Traditions anthology of ballads, songs and stories from Ayrshire, The Broom Blooms Bonny. Rod Stradling noted:

In this ballad, two Lords court the same girl. Sometimes both Lords are from Scotland. At other times, as in this version, one Lord is from England and when this occurs the English Lord inevitably fails to gain the girl’s hand in marriage. Sir Walter Scott’s poem Lochinvar is, of course, modelled on the same story..

In 1906 Cecil Sharp collected a song The Green Wedding from Robert Parish of Exford in Somerset [ VWML CJS2/9/1113 ] . We know that Sharp was something of a ‘twitcher’ when it came to adding Child numbers to his collection, and, seeing a similarity between The Green Wedding and Katharine Jaffray, he was only too happy to call The Green Wedding a version of our present ballad. In fact, Professor Child was aware of The Green Wedding and he printed part of the text in his notes to Katharine Jaffray. He did not, however, print the text alongside the versions that he printed under the title Katharine Jaffray, a fact that suggests that Child had doubts about whether or not it was a version of the ballad, or merely a song which closely resembled the ballad's story.

This is yet another ballad that Joe had from Ned Robertson, who, much to Joe’s regret, was probably never recorded.

Versions of The Green Wedding can be heard sung by Thomas Moran and Cecilia Costello on volume two of Classic Ballads of Britain and Ireland Volume 2, and by Nora Cleary on volume six of The Voice of the People. A Nova Scotian version of Katharine Jaffray, collected in 1931 in the form of a cante-fable, was reprinted in Edith Fowke’s book Tales Told in Canada (Toronto, 1986, pp. 59-60).

Rod Stradling sang The Green Wedding in 2005 on the Musical Traditions anthology Songs from the Golden Fleece. He noted:

I first heard this ballad some years ago in Scotland, and remembered it when next in Scotland, where we happened to pass a signpost to Jaffray. Then I heard Nora Cleary's great version on The Voice of the People. But it wasn't until I was making the Musical Traditions CD of Joe Rae that I realised. It was Joe's 12th verse that got me—the whole of the denouement in two brilliantly concise lines! I knew there and then that I wanted to sing it.

But I didn't want to sing a Scots or Irish version if there was an English one available, and Sharp collected one in 1906 from Robert Parish, aged 84, of Exford, Somerset, upon which I decided to base my song. The tune is my own.

Nancy Wallace sang The Green Wedding in 2011 on the Woodbine & Ivy Band's eponymous album The Woodbine & Ivy Band.

Lyrics

Cecilia Costello sings The Green Wedding

There was a squire in Hainborough lived, and a squire of a high degree,
He came to court a country girl and a comely maid was she.
When her father came to hear of it, oh, an angry man was he,
He requested of his daughter dear for to shun his company.

Now there was a farmer lived in the east, and he had one only son,
He came to court this country girl until he had her won.
He got consent from her father and mother, from old and young likewise,
But still she cries, “I am undone” whilst the tears rolled from her eyes.

She sent her love a letter and she sealed it with her hand,
Saying, “My dearest dear, I'm going to be wed unto a farmer's son.”
Oh, the very first line that he read of it, he smiled and this did say,
“Oh, I will deprive him of his bride all on his wedding day.”

He sent her back an answer to be sure and dress in green,
And a suit of the same he would put on the wedding to prepare.
Then he looked east and he looked west, he looked all round his land,
He mounted eight score of his men unto the cottage clan.
He mounted them all with a milk-white steed and an angry man rode he,
And away away to Hainborough went with his company dressed in green.

“Oh, you’re welcome here, you are welcome here, where have you been all day?
And who are all those gentlemen that are riding out this way?”
He laughed at her, he scoffed at them, he smiled and this did say,
“Oh, there may have been some very jolly troops that would ride out today.”

Then up spoke the intended groom and an angry man was he,
“If it is for fight that you've came here well I am the man for thee.”
“Oh, it's not for fight that I've came here but friendship for to show.”
Saying, “Give me one kiss from your bonny lips and away from you I'll go.”

He caught hold of her lily-white hand around the middle so small,
He brought her out of the wedding house without the leave of all.
He brought her out of the wedding house without the leave of me,
And away away to Hainborough went with his company dressed in green.

Nora Cleary sings The Green Wedding

There was a squire in Edinburgh town, and a squire of high degree,
He's fell courting a comely girl and a comely girl was she.
She got consent from father and mother, from old and young likewise,
And it's then she said, “I am undone,” as the tears fell from her eyes.

She wrote her love a letter and sealed it with her right hand,
And told him she was to be wedded to a very rich farmer's son.
The very first line he looked over it, he smiled and thus did say,
“I might deprive him of his bride all on his wedding day.”

He wrote her back an answer and that without delay,
He wrote her back an answer to be sure to be dressed in green,
“A suit of the same I will put on; the wedding I will see.
A suit of the same I will put on; your wedding I will prepare,
Oh dearest, dearest, it's with you I will wed in spite of all that's there.”

He looked east and he looked west and all around the land;
He selected a score of fine young men all of a Scottish clan.
They rode on in twos and threes and a single man rode he,
And away they went to the wedding's house with his company dressed in green.

“Oh, welcome, and oh, welcome, where have you spent the day?”
He laughed at them, he scoffed at them, he smiled and thus did say,
“They might have been some fairy troops who rode along this way.”

She filled him a glass of new port wine; he says to the company round,
“Where,” he replied, “ is the man,” he said, “the man they call him groom?”
“Where,” he replied, “ is the man,” he said, “who will enjoy the bride?
For another might like her as well as him and would take her from his side.”

Then out spoke the bachelor with a voice so loud and clear,
Saying, “If it is for fight that you came here, I am the man for thee.”
“It's not for fight that I came here, but friendship for to show.
Give me one kiss from your bonny, bonny bride and away from you I go.”

He caught her by the middle so smart and by the grass-green sleeve,
He marched her out of the wedding house, but his company asked no leave.
The drums they'd beat, and the morning sun most glorious to be seen,
And away he went to Edinburgh town with his company dressed in green.

Martin Carthy sings The Green Wedding

Now there was a squire in Edinburgh town, and a wealthy squire was he,
And he has a-courted a country girl and a comely lass was she.
And he's got consent from father and mother, and old and young likewise,
But still she cries, “I am undone,” as the tears fell from her eyes.

So she's wrote her love a letter and she sealed it with her hand,
All for to say she was to be wed unto some other man.
Now the very first line that he looked o'er, he smiled and this did say,
“Oh, I think I'll have his bride from him all on his wedding day.”

So he's wrote her back a letter to be sure and dress in the green,
“And a suit of the same I will put on; for your wedding day I'll prepare.
Now he's looked east and he's looked west and he's looked all over his land;
And he has a-mounted eight score men all from the Scottish clan.

And he's mounted two on every steed and a single man rode he,
And they are off into Edinburgh town with the company dressed in green.
“Oh, you're welcome, oh, you're welcome, oh, where have you been all the day?”
Oh, did you see them fairy troops that rode all on this way?”

And they filled him a glass of the new port wine and he drank to the company round,
“Oh happy is the man,” he says, “the man that they call the groom.
But happier is the man,” he says, “that shall enjoy the bride,
For another might like her as well as him and have her from his side.”

Oh, then up jumped the young bridegroom and an angry man was he,
He says, “If it's to fight that you came here, I am the man for thee.”
“Now it wasn't to fight that I came here, but friendship I mean to show.
Give me one kiss of your bonny, bonny bride and away from you I'll go.”

And he's ta'en her by her middle so small and by her grass-green sleeve,
And he's waltzed her through the wedding house door, of the company's asked no leave.
And they laughed at him and they scoffed at him, they scorned then this did say,
“Oh, it must have been some fairy troops that stole your bride away.”

Joe Ray sings Katharine Johnston

There lived a lass doon in yon glen,
As I have heard men say.
Her name was Katharine Johnston,
Well known tae many men.

Doon come the Laird o’Lamington,
Doon tae the sooth countrie.
And he is for this bonny lass,
Her bridegroom for tae be.

He speirt her faither, he speirt her mother,
The chief o’ aa her kin.
And syne he speirt the lass hersel
And did her favour win.

Doon come an English gentleman,
Doon from the English border;
And he is for this bonny lass,
Tae keep his hoose in order.

He speirt her faither, he speirt her mother,
As I do hear them say.
But he never speirt the lass hersel,
Until her waddin day.

Then she has written a letter,
And sealed it wi her hand.
And sent it to Laird Lamington,
Tae let him understand.

The first line o’ the letter he read,
A lood, lood laugh gaed he.
But ere he read the letter o’er,
Man, the saut tear blint his ee.

Then he has sent a messenger
And oot through all his lands,
And four and twenty gentlemen
Were aa at his command.

And they’re awa tae the waddin hoose,
Tae see whit they could see.
And when they come tae the waddin hoose,
He left his men on the lea.

Oh it’s, “Come ye here for sport, young man?
Or come ye here for play?
Or it’s come ye for oor bonny bride,
On this her waddin day?”

“I come na here for sport,” he said.
“Neither did I for play.
But for one word o’ your bonny bride,
I’ll mount and gyang away.”

Well the first word that he speirt at her
Was aye she answered “Nae.”
And the neist word that he speirt at her,
Was, “Mount and come away.”

Well it’s up the Cooden Banks,
And doon the Cooden Braes.
And it’s aye she garred the trumpet sound,
Oh, it’s aa fair play.

Oh, mickle was the blood was shed
Upon the Cooden Braes.
And it’s aye she gard the trumpet sound,
Oh, it’s aa fair play.

So come all ye English gentlemen,
That are of England born.
Come na doon tae Scotland,
For fear ye get the scorn.

They’ll feed ye up wi flatterin words,
And that is foul play.
And they’ll feed ye frogs instead o’ fish,
Just for your waddin day.

Rod Stradling sings The Green Wedding

There was a squire lived in the West, a squire of high degree.
He has won the heart of a lady gay, though fortune small had he.
But when her father he come to know, oh, an angry man was he;
He's ordered of his daughter dear to shun such company.

And there was a rich lord he lived nearby, he had one handsome young son
Come a-courting of this lady gay, though wooing he gave her none.
But he's wooed her father, he's wooed her kin, and I have heard men say
That he never did woo the lass herself before their wedding day.
He's gained consent of her father and mother, and old and young likewise,
Until she cries “Oh, I am undone” and the tears fell from her eyes.

She's wrote a letter to the squire To let him understand
“This very day I am forced to wed Unto this rich lord's son.”
Well, the first few lines that he read o’er, He smiled and thus did say,
“I might deprive him of his bride All on his wedding day.”

He's wrote her back another letter, “Be sure to dress all in green.
And a suit of the same, love, I will put on; at your wedding I'll be seen.
A suit of the same I will put on; to your wedding I'll repair.
My dearest dear, I'll have you yet, in spite of all that is there.”

He's lookèd East, he's lookèd West, he's lookèd over all his lands.
He's gathered then a score of men all for to join his plan.
He's mounted two on every steed, though a single man rode he,
Then up and away to the wedding house went the company dressed all in green.

And when they've come to the wedding house, they unto him did say,
“You're welcome, Sir, you're welcome here, but are you alone this day?”
He's laughed at them, he's scorned at them, he smiled and thus did say,
“For you might have seen my green-clad troops come riding out this way.”

Then the squire he took up a glass of wine, he's filled it to the brim.
“Here is a health unto that man; the man they call the groom.
Here is a health unto the man that would enjoy his bride;
Though another might love her twice as well and steal her from his side.”

Then up and spoke that rich young lord, oh, an angry man was he,
“If it's to fight that you come here, then I'm the man for thee.”
“Well, it's not to fight that I come here, but only friendship for to show.
Give me one word of your bonny young bride and away from you I will go.”

Well the very first word he spoke to her, her answer it was “Nay.”
And the very next words he spoke to her, was, “Mount and come away!”
He's took her by the middle so small and by the grass-green sleeve,
He's led her out of the wedding house, nor asked of any, leave.

And the trumpets blew and the flags they flew, so glorious to be seen;
Then over the hills and far away went the company dressed all in green.
The wedding guests, they scorned at him; they smiled and thus did say,
“Well, it must have been some fairy troop that stole your bride away.”