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Miles Weatherhill (and Sarah Bell)

[ Roud V7515 ; Mudcat 8375 ; words trad., music Nic Jones]

Nic Jones recorded the sad broadside ballad Miles Weatherhill for his 1977 album The Noah’s Ark Trap. This song is also on the Halliard’s CD The Last Goodnight, a collection of recordings from 1968 that were published only in 2006. On this album it has the longer title Miles Weatherhill and Sarah Bell. Dave Moran noted:

We believe this may well have come from Charles Hindley’s Curiosities of Street Literature. Printed and published by John Foreman, the Broadsheet King, London, 1966, and if it didn’t, then we are content to give Johnny Foreman a plug for his wonderful work. It also certainly appears in Henderson’s Victorian Street Ballads. Henderson reports that Weatherhill was executed at Manchester on 4 April (?) for the murder of Jane Bell of Todmorden. The Halliard’s original version of Weatherhill was sung by Dave and also there was a later version of the same song but with the additions and alterations by that notable changer of songs both verses and music, Nic.

Nancy Kerr and James Fagan recorded Miles Weatherhill in 1997 for their first duo album on the Fellside label, Starry Gazy Pie. They noted:

In the days before video nasties people might have hired broadside ballads like this one for a gory night in. All the elements are there—young lovers parted cruelly by forces beyond their control, violent revenge, an innocent bystander slain and, unfortunately for Miles, a sturdy branch at the end of it. We learned this from the singing of Nic Jones, who wrote the melody.

Rachael McShane sang Miles Weatherhill in 2009 on her CD No Man’s Fool.


Nic Jones sings Miles Weatherhill

Miles Weatherhill was a brisk young weaver
And at Todmorden he did dwell.
He fell in love with a handsome maiden:
The parson’s servant Sarah Bell.

It was at Todmorden when these true lovers
At the parson’s house their love did tell;
And none in the world will be more constant
Than Miles Weatherhill and Sarah Bell.

But they were parted broken hearted,
Separated were those lovers far.
Those constant lovers adored each other
And love will penetrate through iron bars.

They would have married, tales were carried,
Caused displeasure as you shall hear,
Miles was refused to meet his lover,
She left Todmorden, Lancashire.

She left her true love broken hearted
And to her mother at York did go.
And o’er the distance they were parted,
Caused sorrow, grief, and pain and woe.

All through this sadness, Miles, and madness,
He made a deep and a solemn vow:
Separated from his own true lover,
He’d be revenged on Parson Plough.

Four loaded pistols, a fit of frenzy,
Miles to the vicarage went forthwith,
And with a weapon wounded the master,
And he shot the maiden named Jane Smith.

To the lady’s chamber, rage and anger,
Bent on destruction, intent to kill,
He took a poker and he beat her,
Till crimson blood on the floor did spill.

If Miles and Sarah had not been parted
Those in the grave would be living now;
And Miles would not have died on the gallows
For slaying the servant of Parson Plough.

At the early age of three and twenty
In the shade below where the worms do dwell,
Come all young people and consider
Miles Weatherhill and Sarah Bell.