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The Oyster Girl

[ Roud 875 ; Laws Q13 ; G/D 2:304 ; Henry H725 ; Ballad Index LQ13 ; Bodleian Roud 875 ; Wiltshire Roud 875 ; trad.]

Phil Tanner sang The Oyster Girl in a BBC recording made on December 21, 1937 at Llangennith. It was included in 1968 on his eponymous EFDSS album Phil Tanner. and in 2003 on his Veteran CD The Gower Nightingale. Roy Palmer noted in the latter album's booklet:

The very mention of oysters—long reputed to be an aphrodisiac—would have been enough to prepare the listener for some kind of amorous intrigue. The song’s earliest appearance in print seems to have been as The Eating of Oysters in a garland (booklet) with seven other texts issued by M. Randall of Stirling in Scotland, c.1794-1812, under the overall title of A New Patriotic Song. With the help of further broadside printings, The Oyster Girl spread through Britain, Ireland and the USA, and remained in oral tradition until late in the twentieth century.

Sam Larner sang The Oyster Girl in 1958-1960 to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. This recording was included on 2014 on his Musical Traditions anthology Cruising Round Yarmouth.

Chris Willett sang The Oyster Girl in 1962 to Ken Stubbs. This recording was included in 2013 on two Willett Family anthologies, A-Swinging Down the Lane and Adieu to Old England.

Caroline Hughes sang The Oyster Girl in between 1963 and 1966 to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. This recording was included on 2014 on her Musical Traditions anthology Sheep-Crook and Black Dog

Heather Wood sang The Oyster Girl—“probably learned indirectly from Hamish Imlach”—at the Young Tradition concert at Oberlin College, Ohio, on November 17, 1968. A taped recording of this concert was published in 2013 as the Fledgling CD Oberlin 1968.

George Dunn of Quarry Bank, Staffordshire, sang The Oyster Girl in December 1971 to Bill Leader. This recording was released in 1975 on the Trailer LP George Dunn. An earlier recording made by Roy Palmer on June 7, 1971 was included in 2002 on Musical Tradition's George Dunn anthology, Chainmaker. Roy Palmer and Rod Stradling commented in the album's booklet:

Here, as so often, George Dunn sings with infectious zest. The song is reported from oral tradition in England, Scotland, Wales and the North of Ireland. George's version was one of several collected in the seventies. Others were sung by Nelson Ridley, George Spicer, Duncan Williamson, and one came from Douglas Dowdy in 1982. No other CD version appears to be available.

The song's earliest appearance in print seems to be as The Eating of Oysters in a garland of eight texts issued under the title of A New Patriotic Song by M Randall of Stirling (c.1794-1812), which may help to account for the thirteen versions noted a century later in north-east Scotland by Greig and Duncan. Some nineteenth century broadsides headed The Oyster Girl give a completely different song, beginning “Many a knight and lady gay”.

George Spicer sang The Oyster Girl to Mike Yates at home in Selsfield, West Hoathly, Sussex, in 1972-74. This recording was released in 1974 on his Topic album Blackberry Fold.

Mary Ann Haynes sang The Oyster Girl to Mike Yates in Brighton in 1972-75. This recording was included in 2003 on the Musical Traditions anthology of gypsy songs and music from South-East England, Here's Luck to a Man.

Robbie Ellis sang The Oyster Girl in 1979 on the Fellside album of songs and tales in Cumbrian dialect, Canny Cumberland.

Bob Roberts sang The Oyster Girl in 1981 on his Solent album Breeze for a Bargeman.

Brian Peters sang The Oyster Girl in 1992 on his Harbourtown CD The Seeds of Time.

Andy Turner learned The Oyster Girl from Roy Palmer's book Songs of the Midlands, as collected from George Dunn. He sang it as the July 9, 2015 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Rosie Upton sang Oyster Girl as the title track of her 2014 CD Basket of Oysters. She noted:

My old friend John Dix from Matlock introduced me to his artist friends Chris and Judy Jensen who lived in Tideswell, Derbyshire. I learnt this cautionary tale from the singing of Judy's Father, a Methodist minister, in The Three Stag Heads at Wardlow Mires near Tideswell.

Kim Lowings & the Greenwood sang The Oyster Girl in 2017 on their CD Wild & Wicked Youth.

Lyrics

Phil Tanner sings The Oyster Girl

“Oh oysters, oh oysters, oh oysters,” said she,
“I’ve got some of the finest oysters that ever you did see.
𝄆 Oh ’tis three a penny I do sell, but four I’ll give to thee.
For to bargain for the basket of oysters.” 𝄇

“Oh landlord, oh landlord, oh landlord,” said he,
“Have you got a little private room for the oyster girl and me?
𝄆 Where we both may sit down and so merry, merry be.
While we bargain for the basket of oysters.” 𝄇

“Oh yes sir, oh yes sir, oh yes sir,” said he,
“I’ve a got a little private room for the oyster girl and thee,
𝄆 Where you both can sit down and so merry, merry be.
‘Til you bargain for the basket of oysters.’ 𝄇

“Oh landlord, oh landlord, oh landlord,” said he
“Hath you seen that little oyster girl that came along with me?
She hath pick-ed my pocket of all of my money,
And left me with my basket of oysters.
She hath picked my pocket of eighty pound or more
And left me with my basket of oysters.”

“Oh yes, sir, oh yes, sir, oh yes, sir,” said he,
“I’ve seen that little oyster girl that came along with thee.
𝄆 She hath paid all the reckoning so now you can’t go free,
For to travel with thy basket of oysters.” 𝄇

I’ve travelled through England, through Ireland, through Scotland and France.
But never was I, in all my life, served out by such a dance.,
𝄆 By a bold English girl who her voice it was so clear,
She hath teached me the way to sell oysters. 𝄇

George Dunn sings The Oyster Girl

As I was a-walking down fair London street,
A charming little oyster girl I chanced for to meet,
And so into her basket so nimbly I did peep
For to see if she had any oysters.

“Oh, oysters, oh, oysters, oh, oysters,” said she,
“Three a tenner I'm selling them, but four I'll give to thee;
Three a tenner I'm selling them, but four I'll give to thee,
If you'll bargain for my basket of oysters.”

“Oh, landlord, oh, landlord, oh, landlord,” said he,
“Have you a little private room for the oyster girl and me,
That we can sit down and so merrily, merrily be,
While I bargain for her basket of oysters?”

“Oh, yes,” says the landlord, “oh, yes,” says he,
“I have a little private room for the oyster girl and thee,
That you may sit down and so merrily, merrily be,
Whilst you bargain for her basket of oysters.”

We had not been inside the room for half an hour, you see,
Before she picked my pocket of all my money;
Then around the room she tripped and she gave to me the slip,
And she left me with her basket of oysters.

“Oh, landlord, oh, landlord, oh, landlord,” said he,
“Have you seen the little oyster girl that came along with me?”
“Yes [spoken] and she's paid me your reck'ning, sir, so you may go free,
So it's 'ook it with your basket of oysters.”

Mary Ann Haynes sings The Oyster Girl

“Oh, oysters, oh, oysters, oh, oysters,” cried he,
“Have you seen that pretty gal who come along with me?
Oh, she's picked all my pockets, took all my money,
And she's left me with a basket of oysters.”

Was it “Oh, landlord, oh, landlord, oh, landlord.” said me.
“Have you got a private room for this oyster girl and me?
So we might sleep merrily, and merrily we'll be,
And she'll learn me how to bargain for oysters.”

Oh, not long in the private room, a-just an hour or more,
Out of the bed and down the stairs she flew.
She've took all my money and me gold watch too,
But she's learnt me how to bargain for oysters.

“So, oysters, oh, oysters, oh, oysters,” cried me.
“Have you seen that little girl, she come along with me?”
But don't I call it a shame, she's took a French man in but [for?] trade,
And to learn him how to bargain for oysters.