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The Lass of London City / White Copper Alley

[ Roud 1554 ; Master title: The Lass of London City ; Bodleian Roud 1554 ; trad.]

Nic Jones recorded the bawdy song The Lass of London City in 1971 for his eponymous second album, Nic Jones. He noted:

Gullible Casanovas appear fairly frequently within folk songs, usually swaggering along Ratcliffe Highway, Lime Street or some other unsavoury locality. Here the area is known as “White Copper Alley”, and the whole quixotic scene is played out to its unfortunate, but amusing conclusion.

Derek Sarjeant and Hazel King sang The Lass of London City in 1976 on their album Hills and Dales. Derek Sarjeant noted:

This song was collected in 1906 by Dr George Gardiner of Hasingstoke, Hants, and slightly augmented from a broadside by J. Pitts of Seven Dials. Verse four was added by Frank Purslow and appears in The Wanton Seed.

Steve Turner sang this song as White Copper Alley on his 1984 Fellside album Eclogue, and as The Gold Watch on his 2008 Tradition Bearers album The Whirligig of Time. He noted on the latter album:

Collected in 1929, this comes from Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland, and is a version of the song White Copper Alley in which Jack Tar pays a high price for his night out on the town.

Stick in the Wheel sang White Copper Alley on their 2018 CD Follow Them True.


Nic Jones sings The Lass of London City

Well as I was a-walking down White Copper Alley,
As I was a-walking out one fine day,
A lass neat and pretty from fair London City,
Her cheeks were like roses, her colour was gay.

And I stepped up to her a-thinking to gain her,
Saying, “Where are you going you pretty fair maid?”
And kisses I vented and love I pretended,
For all was in vain ’cos she was a maid.

“Oh I can not, I will not, I shall not, I dare not
Submit to your passions for I am afraid;
Friends will discover I have a new lover
And then they will call me a wanton young jade,“

But I said, “Me dear there’s no need to fear.
We’ll go to some inn where we shall not be known.”
And then she relented, at last she consented,
“But first, kind Sir, some money pay down.”

And hearing these words it made me right anxious
To think I should purchase a pretty fair maid;
And when she demanded five guineas, t’was granted
And when we’d had supper we went to bed.

But I being tired and weary of drinking,
And I being tired and weary of play,
I fell a-nodding and she fell a-robbing
And left the old bedroom before it was day.

And I turned to kiss her and then I missed her;
I looked for me wallet right under me head.
But the lady had plundered, I roared out like thunder;
All was in vain for the lady had fled.

And it’s not the gold watch and me silver I value,
It’s not the gold watch and the silver I crave.
I think some young doctor will be me conductor,
I wish I’d not met with that pretty fair maid.

Steve Turner sings The Gold Watch

As I was a-walking one fair summer’s evening
In London’s fine city I chanced for to stray
I saw on the highway a handsome young doxy
Her cheeks were like roses and her clothing was gay

I stepped right up to her and thinking for to gain her
I asked this fair maiden where going was she
Kind kisses I gave her, and love to her intending
But all was in vain for she was a maid

“I cannot, I dare not, I shall not go with you
I cannot go with you for I am afraid
My parents they’ll be angry if I should have a lover
My parents they’ll call you a wanton young jade.”

This made me more anxious and eager than ever
To think I could embrace with a comely fair maid
Five guineas she demanded and the money I soon handed
The supper being over and we both went to bed

Now I being tired and weary of drinking
I being tired and weary of game
I fell a-nodding, and she fell a-robbing
She picked my old pockets of all that I had

Well, I turned round to kiss her and I instantly missed her
I started for the bolster lying under my head
But she’d robbed and she’d plundered and I roared out like thunder
But all was in vain for the madam was fled

My gold watch and my money for them I don’t value
My jewels and my riches for them I do mourn
I fear that some doctor will be my conductor
I hope that I never meet such a false girl again!