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Carrion Crow

[ Roud 891 ; Ballad Index LoF072 ; VWML CJS2/9/1948 ; Bodleian Roud 891 ; Wiltshire 748 , 749 ; trad.]

Frank Purslow and John Pearse sang Carrion Crow in 1961 on their EP of “English soak songs for fools”, Bottom's Up!.

Roy and Val Bailey sang Carrion Crow in 1968 on their album with Leion Rosselson, Oats & Beans & Kangaroos, and Roy Bailey recorded it again in 2010 for his CD Tomorrow.

Cyril Tawney sang Carrion Crow on his 1970 Argo album Cyril Tawney Sings Children’s Songs from Devon and Cornwall. He commented in his liner notes:

From Baring-Gould's A Garland of Country Song, in which he says it was taken down from a Cornishman in 1844.

Folly Bridge sang Carrion Crow in 1992 on their second WildGoose cassette, Unabridged. Claire Lloyd commented:

Generally regarded as a children's song, there may be more to this piece of nonsense than meets the eye. According to Robert Bell (Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of England) it is allegorical:

The reader familiar with the annals of the Commonwealth and the Restoration, will readily detect the leading points of the allegory. The ‘Carrion Crow’ in the oak is Charles II, who is represented as that bird of voracious appetite, because he deprived the puritan clergy of their livings; perhaps, also, because he ordered the bodies of the regicides to be exhumed. … The religion of the ‘old sow’, whoever she may be, is clearly pointed out by her little pigs praying for her soul. The ‘tailor’ is not easily identified. It is possibly intended for some puritan divine of the name of Taylor, who wrote and preached against both prelacy and papacy, but with an especial hatred of the latter. … The song is found in collections of the time of Charles II.

Mary Humphreys and Anahata played the Jenny Bell Polka and sang Carrion Crow in 2003 on their WildGoose album Sharp Practice. They noted:

The polka is a traditional tune from Northumberland (probably from the Clough family of Newsham). The song was collected by Cecil Sharp from Sister Emma, Clewer, Berks on 27 February 1909 [ VWML CJS2/9/1948 ] .

Sister Emma sang Cecil Sharp lots of songs which have a real North-Eastern flavour, such as Dance to Thee Daddy. We thought that The Jenny Bell Polka from the North East of England would be a good introduction and set the scene for the tale of a poor marksman with a healthy appetite for a variety of pork dinners. The words are changed just a little, as the original ‘hog puddings, chitterlings and souse’ are not in the Delia Smith Cookbook. The song has a venerable history, a version being written down as early as 1627, according to Cecil Sharp. Children and grown-up kids have been enjoying it ever since.


Folly Bridge sing Carrion Crow

Carrion crow sitting on an oak
    With a ling dong dilly dong kyro me
Saw a tailor mending his cloak
    With a ling dong dilly dong kyro me

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Hey falee falay falero, hey falero lero lee;
Up jumps John, ringing on his bell,
With a ling dong dilly dong kyro me.

Wife go get me old bent bow
    With a ling dong dilly dong kyro me
I'll go shoot the carrion crow
    With a ling dong dilly dong kyro me

The tailor shot but he missed his mark
Shot the old sow through the heart

Wife, get brandy in a spoon
Our old sow is down in a swoon

The old sow died and the bell did toll
The little ones prayed for the old sow's soul

(repeat first verse)