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[Sandy Denny]

Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned for 21 years in the castle of Fotheringhay by Queen Elizabeth I for conspiring to overthrow Elizabeth and was executed in 1587. Sandy Denny’s song Fotheringay concentrates more on the long imprisonment rather than the sensational execution.

There are at least five recordings of Fotheringay by Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention:

  1. The first version is a home demo, released on The Attic Tracks Vol. 3. It was recorded in 1967 and Sandy plays guitar. This version was played to Fairport when they were planning their What We Did on Our Holidays LP.

  2. The second version subsequently appeared in 1969 as the opening song of What We Did on Our Holidays and later on The History of Fairport Convention, on the double CD album Meet on the Ledge: The Classic Years 1967-1975, on the 2CD Sandy Denny anthology No More Sad Refrains, and in 2004 on the 5CD Fledg’ling anthology A Boxful of Treasures.

    On this version, Sandy plays acoustic guitar with Richard Thompson; Simon Nicol plays autoharp and Martin Lamble bells. Ashley Hutchings plays bass. It is interesting to note how much the band adds to the song.

  3. An alternative take from the recording sessions was released in 1996 on Ashley Hutchings’ The Guv’nor Vol. 4.

  4. A fourth version was broadcast on 26 August 1968 on the BBC Top Gear session. It was for a long time available on the bootleg A Chronicle of Sorts only but was finally released in 2002 on the Fairport unConventioNal 4CD set (The sleeve notes incorrectly claim this to be the next version).

  5. The fifth known version was recorded on 4 February 1969 in BBC Studio 1, 201 Piccadilly, for “Symonds on Sunday” and broadcast on 9 February 1969. This track was released in 2002 on the Island re-release of Heyday.

Cover Versions

  1. Vikki Clayton on her album It Suits Me Well (1994)
  2. Marja Mattlar on her single Olipa kerran (1994)
  3. Wendy Stewart on her album About Time 2 (1997)
  4. Still No Bagpipes on their album Still No Bagpipes (1999)
  5. Elspeth Cowie on her album Naked Voice (2000)
  6. Susanna and the Magical Orchestra on their album Melody Mountain (2006)
  7. Fiona White on her album Myths of Time (2007)
  8. The Julie July Band on their CD Who Knows Where the Time Goes? (July 2018)

In this 2009 video Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker perform Fotheringay:


Sandy Denny sings Fotheringay

How often she has gazed from castle windows o’er,
And watched the daylight passing within her captive wall,
With no-one to heed her call.

The evening hour is fading within the dwindling sun,
And in a lonely moment those embers will be gone
And the last of all the young birds flown.

Her days of precious freedom, forfeited long before,
To live such fruitless years behind a guarded door,
But those days will last no more.

Tomorrow at this hour she will be far away,
Much farther than these islands,
Or the lonely Fotheringay

(Copyright © 1967 Warlock Music)

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