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The Brisk Young Widow

[ Roud 2438 ; trad.]

Royston Wood sang The Brisk Young Widow in 1968 on the Young Tradition's last LP, Galleries. According to the sleeve notes, he got it from Heather Wood who learned it from school radio. Peter Bellamy took over from his Young Tradition colleague and sang it at the Cockermouth Folk Club in January 1991. This concert was published as the posthumous Fellside cassette Songs an' Rummy Conjurin' Tricks, and this track was also included in 1991 on the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented intThe latter album's notes:

Peter could be said to be the most distinctive singer or traditional songs in England. He came to prominence in a group called The Young Tradition and this sung was always sung by Royston Wood in the group. When Royston was killed in a car accident Pete started to sing this song as a tribute to him. It comes from Cecil Sharp's collection and is delivered in typical Bellamy flamboyant style. Pete would always go full tilt at any song and this is no exception!

Dave Burland sang The Brisk Young Widow in 1971 on his Trailer album A Dalesman's Litany.

Kerfuffle recorded The Brisk Young Widow in 2003 for their first CD, Not to Scale. A live recording from Priddy Folk Festival in 2005 was included in 2006 on their third CD, Links.

John Kirkpatrick sang A Brisk Young Widow in 2004 on Brass Monkey's fifth album Flame of Fire. He commented in the record's sleeve notes:

A Brisk Young Widow was sung to Cecil Sharp by George Radford, aged 76, on 22nd August 1905—not in Chester, as you might imagine, but in the Bridgwater Union [workhouse] in Somerset. Maud Karpeles included it in Book 2 of her selection of Sharp's songs published in 1975, called The Crystal Spring.

This video shows Brass Monkey performing A Brisk Young Widow at Cheltenham Folk Festival 2008:

Jack Crawford sang A Brisk Young Widow in 2008 on his WildGoose CD Pride of the Season. He commented in his liner notes:

The only known example of this song in the oral tradition was collected by Cecil Sharp from George Radford at Bridgwater Union Workhouse, Somerset, on 22 August 1905. Mr Radford was 76 at the time, and died less than a year later. According to Maud Karpeles he told Sharp that his father, Job Radford, had been a great singer but that this was the only song he had managed to learn from him. It came to me through the singing of the late, lamented Royston Wood.

Jon Boden sang The Brisk Young Widow as the September 29, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

James Findlay sang The Brisk Young Widow in 2012 on his second Fellside CD, Another Day Another Story. He commented in his sleeve notes:

“As the tune is a good one and the words are spirited, the song seems worth printing.” (Cecil Sharp).
Collected from George Radford in 1905 at Bridgwater Union, Somerset, a shoemaker from East Brent, and a bachelor with no children to support him in his old age. George learnt this song from his father, “a great singer”. Peter Bellamy recorded the definitive version of this song in my eyes. He brought the song to life with his phrasings and expressions.

Hannah James learned The Brisk Young Widow from Peter Bellamy's album and sang it with Maddy Prior and Giles Lewin in 2012 on their CD 3 for Joy.

Andy Turner first heard The Brisk Young Widow from the Young Tradition's album and learned it from Maud Karpeles’ collection The Crystal Spring. He sang it as the February 25, 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

Peter Bellamy sings The Brisk Young Widow

In Chester town there lived a brisk young widow
For beauty and fine clothes none could excel her
She was proper, stout and tall, her fingers long and small
She's a comely dame withall, she's a brisk young widow

So a lover soon there came, a brisk young farmer
With his hat turned up all round, thinking to gain her
“My dear, for love of you, this wide world I'll go through
If you would but prove true, you shall wed a farmer.”

Says she, “I'm not for you nor no such fellow,
I'm for some lively lad with lands and riches.
'Tis not your hogs and ewes can maintain furbelows
My silks and satin clothes they're all me glory.”

“Madam, don't be coy for all your glory
For fear of another day and another story.
If the world on you should frown, your topknot must come down
To a linsey-woolsey gown, where is then your glory?”

And at length there came that way a sooty collier
With his hat bent down all round he soon did gain her
Whereat that farmer swore, “Whew, that widow's 'mazed I'm sure
I'll never court no more with a brisk young widow.”

Brass Monkey's version of A Brisk Young Widow

In Chester town there lived a brisk young widow
For beauty and fine clothes none could excel her
She was proper, stout and tall, her fingers long and small
She's a comely dame withall, she's a brisk young widow

A lover soon there came, a brisk young farmer
With his hat turned up all round, thinking to gain her
Saying, “Madam, 'tis for you, this wide world I'll go through
If you will but prove true, you shall wed a farmer.”

She says, “I'm not for you in your country britches
I am for a lively lad that have got riches.
It's not your hogs and ewes can maintain furbelows
My silk and satin clothes are all me glory.”

“Oh, madam, don't be coy in all your glory
For fear of another day and another story.
If the world on you should frown, your topknot must come down
To a linsey-woolsey gown, where is then your glory?”

At last there came that way a sooty collier
With his hat bent down all round he soon did gain her
Though how the farmer swore, “No, widow's 'mazed I'm sure
And I'll never court no more a brisk young widow.”