> Sandy Denny > Songs > Fotheringay: Gypsy Davey
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> June Tabor > Songs > Gypsum Davey

Gypsy Davey / Gypsum Davy / Black Jack Davy / Gypsy Rover

[ Roud 1 ; Child 200 ; G/D 2:278 ; Henry H124 ; Ballad Index C200 ; GypsyDavy at Old Songs ; Bodleian Roud 1 ; GlosTrad Roud 1 ; DT GYPDAVY ; Mudcat 158710 ; trad.]

Jean Ritchie sang Gypsum Davy in 1952 on her Elektra album Singing the Traditional Songs of Her Traditional Kentucky Mountain Family. Edward Tatnall Canby wrote in the sleeve notes:

Many will recognise this as an American version of the Wraggle-Taggle Gypsies, the word “gypsum” a typical word-of-mouth corruption. Collected about 1900 at the Pine Mountain Settlement school, where mountain children brought in songs from their families to entertain each other and thereby spreading the wealth of folk music. Sharp lists ten American versions of this song—he did much to spread such music himself by “trading” his recent acquisitions for new ones, thus carrying them from locality to locality.

O.J. Abbott from Hull, Quebec, sang The Gypsy Daisy in a field recording made by Edith Fowke that was included in 1961 on his Folkways album Irish and British Songs From the Ottawa Valley. Edith Fowke noted:

The tale of the lady who deserts her husband and baby to run away with a gypsy is one of the most popular of the Child ballads. The first British versions were noted in the second half of the eighteenth century, although the ballad is probably older. It has been collected in many parts of North America under a wide variety of titles, the most common being The Gypsy Laddie, The Gypsy Daisy, and The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies. The Gypsy Daisy version is fairly rare, although it has been found in Nova Scotia (JAF 18:191). Mr. Abbott learned it from Mr. O’Malley.

Almeda Riddle sang Black Jack Davey in 1964 on her Vanguard album Songs and Ballads of the Ozarks.

Hedy West sang Gypsy Davy in 1967 on her Fontana LP Serves ’Em Fine. She commented in her sleeve notes:

Gypsy Davy, an Anglo-American ballad, was once well known in Britain and became widespread in America. It is the 200th ballad that the American professor Francis James Child entered in his famous collection of British ballads (compiled in the last half of the 19th century) that is still used as a reference and guide by folk-ballad scholars.

The version I sing here was collected by Maud Karpeles in 1950 in Western North Carolina, where I went to high school and college. The story is of a noblewoman who deserts her comfortable life to go with the gypsy she loves. She comments on the hardship of her new life, but doesn’t say she is discontent.

Fotheringay recorded Gypsy Davey at Sound Techniques in Autumn 1970 for the aborted Fotheringay 2 album. It was included in 1986 on the Sandy Denny anthology box Who Knows Where the Time Goes?. When Fotheringay was reissued as a CD by Hannibal, this song finally found its way onto the disk. It was dropped from the album’s Fledg’ling CD reissue in favour of several other live recordings, but then again was included on the 5CD Fledg’ling Sandy Denny anthology A Boxful of Treasures. Finally in 2008, after 48 years of waiting, Fledg’ling Records published the Fotheringay 2 CD.

A Fotheringay live performance of Gypsy Davey at Grugahalle, Essen, Germany, on 23 October 1970 was included in 2011 on the concert recording Essen 1970. A TV studio performance filmed for the “Beat Club” TV programme of Radio Bremen, Germany, in October 1970 wasn’t actually broadcast. Extracts from this performance were published in 2006 on the DVD Sandy Denny: Under Review, and it was included in 2015 on the DVD of Fotheringay’s Universal anthology Nothing More. Another performance on BBC Radio “Sound of the Seventies”, hosted by Bob Harris, recorded on 15 November 1970 and broadcast on 21 December, was included on Nothing More. too.

Putnam String County Band learned Black Jack Davey from Almeda Riddle and sang it in 1973 on their Rounder album Home Grown.

Steeleye Span recorded this “old song of the power of lust” (Maddy Prior) as Black Jack Davy in 1975 for their album All Around My Hat and a second time for the CD Present to accompany the December 2002 Steeleye Span reunion tour.

A live recording from the Royal Opera Theatre in Adelaide, Australia in 1982 was released on the Australian-only LP On Tour and in 2001 on the CD Gone to Australia. Another live recording from the Beck Theatre on 16 September 1989 was released on the video A 20th Anniversary Celebration. And Steeleye Span performed this live in Salisbury on 16 December 2002; this recording can be found on The Official Bootleg.

Joe Holmes sang Dark-Eyed Gypsy in 1976 on his and Len Graham’s Free Reed album of traditional songs, ballads, lilts and fiddle tunes from the North of Ireland, Chaste Muses, Bards and Sages.

Bob Fox & Stu Luckley sang Gypsy Davey on their 1978 Rubber Records LP Nowt So Good’ll Pass.

Eunice Yeatts MacAlexander of Meadows of Dan, Patrick County, Virginia sang Black Jack Davy on 11 August 1979 in a recording by Mike Yates that was included in 1998 on the EFDSS CD A Century of Song.

Suzie Adams and Helen Watson (now Helen Hockenhull) sang Gypsy Davy in 1983 on their Dingle’s Records album Songbird.

Barry Dransfield sang Gypsy Davey in 1996 on his Rhiannon CD Wings of the Sphinx.

June Tabor sang Gypsum Davey live at the Schlachthof, Bremen on 9 February 1995. This recording was included in 2005 on her Topic anthology Always.

Rosie Doonan and Ben Murray sang Gypsy Davy on their 2004 CD Mill Lane.

Bryony Holden sang Gypsy Davy in 2013 on her Sandy Denny tribute album Across the Purple Sky.

Fay Hield learned Raggle Taggle Gypsy from Suzie Adams and Helen Hockenhull’s album and sang it in 2016 on her CD Old Adam, commenting:

Raggle Taggle Gypsy gives an enticing glimpse at a world we could inhabit if we would only follow our hearts.

Jeff Warner sang Gypsum Davy in 2018 on his WildGoose CD Roam the Country Through. He noted:

Cecil Sharp collected this version of the Gypsy Laddie ballad in the mountains of Tennessee in 1916. The fine mixolydian tune is as he found it. I have inadvertently added text from other versions over the years, but the story remains the same, one that has echoed down the generations. I play it in double C banjo tuning.

Lankum sang The Dark Eyed Gypsy on their 2019 CD The Livelong Day. They noted:

The Dark Eyed Gypsy is a song that we learned from Micheal Quinn from Mullaghbawn, County Armagh, a fine singer with whom we have spent many a long night of song and companionship. It is a version of the widely known Gypsy Laddie ballad, and according to Hugh Shields was almost the only old British ballad printed by the Irish popular press, a fact that may help to explain its widespread popularity in the country. This particular version of the ballad has been recorded from the oral tradition many times in the north of the country. There is a recording of Joe Holmes singing a particularly sweet rendition on the album Early Ballads in Ireland 1968-1985 [Góilín 007-8], recently reissued on double CD by the Góilín Singers Club, Dublin.

Gypsy Rover

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem sang a variant called Whistling Gypsy Rover on Chicago PBS special in July 1962:

The Clancy Brothers with Louis Killen also sang Whistling Gypsy in 1973 on their Vanguard album Greatest Hits.

Lorna Campbell and the Ian Campbell Folk Group sang Gypsy Rover in 1964 on their second album, Across the Hills, and Jon Boden sang it as the 18 May 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

I’ve only ever heard this sung on Forest School Camps but I dare say it was sung a lot in the sixties. I’m guessing it’s an American version. Interesting that the subtext here is “you might as well run off with a gypsy cause he might be a lord in disguise”, unlike Seven Yellow Gypsies where the subtext is more “keep an eye on your wife or she may run off with the gypsies.”

Woodbine Lizzie sang Whistling Gypsy in a live recording from The Theatre in the Forest, Grizedale, Cumbria, on 17 July 1981 on their Fellside album A Night Out With Woodbine Lizzie.


O.J. Abbott sings The Gypsy Daisy

Oh the gypsy he came into town,
He whistled loud and clearly,
He whistled and sang, caused the wild woods to ring,
And he charmed the heart of a lady.

Chorus (after each verse, repeating the verse’s second half):
Laddie fal the dinko dinko day,
Laddie fal the dinko daisy,
He whistled and he sang, caused the wild woods to ring,
And he charmed the heart of a lady.

This lady she came tripping downstairs
With the servant girl behind her,
And in each hand a bottle of wine
To drink with the gypsy daisy.

Her lord came home in the middle of the night
Inquiring for his lady,
When the servant girl made this reply:
“She’s gone with the gypsy daisy.”

“Go saddle me my old grey steed;
The bay is not so speedy.
I’ve drove all day and I’ll drive all night
Till I overtake my lady.”

He drove along by the water’s edge,
The water it being muddy,
And from each eye a tear trinkled down
When he espied his lady.

“Last night I lay on a nice feather bed
That was both soft and easy;
Tonight I lie on the damp cold ground
And a band of gypsies round me.”

Fotheringay sing Gypsy Davey

There was a gypsy came over the land,
He sang so sweet and gaily.
He sang beneath the wild wood tree
And charmed the great lord’s lady.

The lord he did come home
Enquiring for his lady,
“She’s gone, she’s gone,” said the serving man,
“She’s gone with the gypsy Davey.”

“Go saddle me my black mare,
The grey is ne’er so speedy.
And I’ll ride all night and I’ll ride all day
Till I overtake my lady.”

He rode all by the riverside
On the grass so wet and dewy,
And seated with her gipsy lad
It’s there he spied his lady.

“Would you forsake your house and home,
Would you forsake your baby?
Would you forsake your own true love
And the promises you gave me?”

“What care I for my house and home
Or even my wee baby?
What care I for my own true love
For I love the gypsy Davey.”

“Well it’s fare thee well my dearest dear,
It’s fare thee well forever,
And if you don’t return with me
I swear you’ll see me never.”

And the lord he did go homeward
And kissed his own wee baby.
And ere six months had passed away
He’d married another lady.

Putnam String County Band sings Black Jack Davey

O Black Jack Davey came riding by,
A-whistling so merrily.
He made the woods all around him ring
And he charmed the heart of a lady. (2x)

“O come with me my pretty little onem
O come with me my honey.
I swear by the beard upon my chin
That you’ll never want for money.

“Pull off, pull off your high heeled shoes
All made of Spanish leather,
Put on, put on your low heeled boots
And we’ll ride off together.”

She pulled off her high heeled shoes
All made of Spanish leather,
She jumped behind him on his horse
And they rode off together.

That night her husband he came home
A-looking for his lady.
Her maid she spoke before she thought,
Said, “She’s gone with Black Jack Davey.”

“O saddle me up my coal black steed,
My white one’s not so speedy.
I rode all day and I’ll ride all night
And I’ll bring home my lady.”

He rode all night till broad day light,
He came to a rive raging.
And there he spied his darling bride
In the arms of Black Jack Davey.

“Pull off, pull off your long black gloves
All made of Spanish leather,
And jump behind me on my horse
And we’ll ride home together.”

She pulled off her long black gloves
All made of Spanish leather,
She gave to him her lily white hand
and said good-by for ever.

“Would you forsake your house and home;
Would you forsake our baby?
Would you forsake your wedded love
And go with Black Jack Davey?”

“Last night I slept in a warm feather bed
Beside my husband and baby,
Tonight I’ll sleep on the cold, cold ground
In the arms of Black Jack Davey.”

Steeleye Span sing Black Jack Davy

Late last night when the squire came home
Enquiring for his lady,
Some denied and some replied,
“She’s gone with the Black Jack Davy.”

“Go saddle to me the bonny brown steed
For the grey was never so speedy.
I’ll ride all day and I’ll ride all night
Till I catch that Black Jack Davy.”

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
He rode up hills and he rode down dales
Over many a wild high mountain,
And they did say that saw him go,
“Black Jack Davy he is hunting.”

He rode east and he rode west
All in the morning early
Until he spied his lady fair,
Cold and wet and weary.

“Why did you leave your house and land?
Why did you leave your baby?
Why did you leave your own wedded lord
To go with the Black Jack Davy?”

“What care I for your goose feather bed
With the sheets turned down so bravely?
Well I may sleep on the cold hard ground
Along with the Black Jack Davy.

“Then I’ll kick off my high healed shoes
Made of the Spanish leather,
And I’ll put on my lowland brogues
And skip it o’er the heather.”

Bob Fox & Stu Luckley sing Gypsy Davey

It’s of a gypsy come over the land and he sang so sweet and gaily.
Sang beneath the wildwood tree and charmed.the great Lord’s lady,
She lay down her silken gown, and she left her new-born baby,
She rode down by the riverside, along with the Gypsy Davey.

They rode North and they rode South and they rode it late and early.
They sat down by the riverside for the lady she was weary,
She says, “Last night I came by here with me servants all around me
But tonight I will sleep on the open ground, along with the Gypsy Davey.”

It was late that night when the Lord came home and his servants all stood ready,
And one took his boots, another took his horse, but away was his own dear lady.
He searched the house all round but could only find his baby,
Forsaken by its mother dear, to ride with the Gypsy Davey.

“Go saddle for me my bonny black mare, for the brown she’s not so speedy,
I’ll ride all night and I’ll ride all day ’til I overtake my lady.”
He rode down by the riverside on the grass so wet and dewy,
And lying with her gypsy lad, it’s there he spied his lady.

“Would you forsake your house, your land, would you forsake your baby,
Would you forsake your own true love and the promises you gave me?”
“What care I for me house or me land, what care I for me little baby,
What care I for me own true love, when I love the Gypsy Davey.”

“Last night you slept in a goose-feather bed with the sheets turned down so bravely,
Tonight you will sleep on the open ground not fitted for a lady.”
“What care I for a goose-feather bed with the sheets turned down so bravely,
Tonight I will sleep on the open ground, along with me Gypsy Davey.”

“Well, it’s fare you well me dearest dear and fare you well for ever,
If if’s you won’t return with me I swear I’ ll see thee never.”
The great Lord he went home, and he cursed the Gypsy Davey,
But before six months were up and passed he’d married another lady.

Fay Hield sings Raggle Taggle Gypsy

Gypsy Davey come through the wood,
A-singing so loud and merry.
The green hills all around him rang
And he won the heart of a lady.

“How old are you, my pretty fair miss?
How old are you, my lady?”
She answered him down by the riverside,
“I’ll be sixteen next Sunday.”

“Come go with me, my pretty fair miss,
Come go with me, my lady.
I’ll take you over the country wide,
You never shall want for money.”

So she kicked off her high-heeled shoes,
All made with bows and feathers,
She pulled on her low flat shoes
And they rode off together.

Chorus (repeated after every other verse):
𝄆 Raggle taggle gypsy, gypsy,
Raggle taggle gypsy Davey. 𝄇

It was late at night when the squire came home,
Enquiring for his lady.
The servants all around him said,
“She’s gone with Black Jack Davey.”

Go saddle up for me my milk-white steed,
The black one’s not so speedy.
He rode all night to the broad daylight
And overtook his lady.

“How can you leave your house and land,
Your feather bed and baby?
How can you leave your husband man
To go with Black Jack Davey?”

“Very well can I leave my feather bed,
I’m sorry to leave my baby.
Much better can I leave my husband man
To go with Black Jack Davey.

“I won’t come back, my darling dear,
I won’t come back, my honey.
I wouldn’t give a kiss from Davey’s lips
For you nor all your money.”

So she pulled off her milk-white glove,
All made of Spanish leather.
She’s gave to him her lily-white hand
And bade farewell for ever.

She soon ran through her silken gown,
Her velvet shoes and stockings.
The gold ring from her finger’s gone
And she was left with nothing.

“Oh once I had a house and land,
A feather bed and baby.
But now I lie on the cold clay ground
With the gypsy dancing round me.”

Lorna Campbell sings Gypsy Rover

The gypsy rover came over the hill
Down through the valley so shady.
He whistled and he sang ’til the green wood rang
And he won the heart of a lady.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Ah dee doo, ah dee doo dah day,
Ah dee doo, ah dee day dee,
He whistled and he sang ’til the green wood rang
And he won the heart of a lady.

She left her father’s castle gate,
She left her own true lover;
She left her servants and her estate
To follow the gypsy rover.

Her father saddled his fastest stead,
Roamed the valley all over;
Sought his daughter at great speed
And the whistlin’ gypsy rover.

He came at last to a mansion fine
Down by the river Claydee;
There was music and there was wine
For the gypsy and his lady.

“He is no gypsy, my Father,” she cried,
“But Lord of these lands all over.
I shall stay ’til my dying day
With my whistlin’ gypsy rover.”