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Rag Fair

[ Roud 17180 ; trad.]

Rag Fair is a song of a sailor who loses all his belongings after an amorous night. For a similar themed song, see New York Girls.

Frank Purslow and John Pearse sang Rag Fair in 1960 on their album Rap-a-Tap-Tap: English Folk Songs Miss Pringle Never Taught Us.

Peter Bellamy sang Rag Fair on his 1975 album Peter Bellamy. He accompanied himself on the concertina. He commented in the album liner notes:

Rag Fair must, one assumes, have been an eighteenth or nineteenth century London second-hand clothing mart. At any rate, it gives an unexpected twist to the tail of this otherwise familiar tale. The song comes from the Hammond & Gardiner manuscripts.

Jon Boden sang Rag Fair as the 14 June 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

I like the sound of Rag Fair. It’s a shame this song doesn’t go in to more detail, but I also love the closing image of this.

Damien Barber and Mike Wilson learned Rag Fair from Peter Bellamy’s album and sang it in 2011 on their CD The Old Songs.


Peter Bellamy sings Rag Fair

I am a rambling fellow and I rambles up and down;
Without any expectations I rambled London town.
So I went into the Golden Bowl, I called for liquors fine,
She appeared like some angel, her glittering eyes did shine.

I boldly stepped up to her and I gave her hand a squeeze.
She said very softly to me: “You can do just as you please.”
Now when we were together, how we did sport and play,
But while that I was sleeping this young girl stole away.

She took my buckskin britches, my gold watch and guineas three,
She ruined me into the bargain—what will become of me?
I curse the very hour, the day that I was born,
The day that I saw London—or any seaport town.

Now the people they was all amazed to see me go so bare
So they gathered up five shilling and they sent me to Rag Fair
But I did not go to Rag Fair, no britches did I buy,
I just ran into a gin shop and bought a bottle of wine.