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Down By the Seaside

[ Roud 1712 ; Ballad Index RcDBTSS ; trad.]

George ‘Pop’ Maynard sang Down By the Seaside at home in Copthorne, Sussex, on December 3, 1955. This recording made by Peter Kennedy was released in 1976 on Maynard's Topic album Ye Subjects of England: Traditional Songs from Sussex and was included in 2012 on the Topic anthology of songs by Southern English traditional singers, You Never Heard So Sweet (The Voice of the People Volume 21). Another version recorded by Brian Matthews at The Cherry Tree, Copthorne, on December 16, 1959 was included in 2000 on Pop's Musical Traditions anthology Down the Cherry Tree. A third version, recorded by Brian Matthews at The Cherry Tree too, but on May 18, 1960, was included in 2001 on the Musical Traditions anthology Just Another Saturday Night: Sussex 1960: Songs from Country Pubs. Rod Stradling commented in the enclosed booklet:

It would appear that this lovely song has appeared in not a single broadside or book in the past. The only Roud entries for this song are the two 1955 and '56 Peter Kennedy recordings of Pop Maynard singing it, the latter of which appeared on the Topic LP Ye Subjects of England. This is surprising in the light of the notes to that album, where Mike Yates puts it in a list of several of Pop's songs described as being “stock Victorian broadside ballads, albeit ones with ancient histories even then”. Mike now tells me that Down by the Seaside is included in a chapbook printed c.1820 by J. Fraser of Stirling as The Sailor's Loss, and says that the internal repeat suggests a late 18th century Stage or Pleasure Garden origin.

Shirley Collins sang Down By the Seaside on her 1974 Topic album, Adieu to Old England. It was also included on her anthologies Fountain of Snow, Within Sound and The Classic Collection, and on the Topic double CD of 1999, The Folk Collection. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

This gentle and unashamedly romantic broadside relic is from George Maynard of Copthorne, Sussex.

Andy Turner sang Down By the Seaside in 1990 on his cassette Love, Death and the Cossack and as the January 5, 2014 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Matt Quinn learned Down By the Seaside from the singing of Pop Maynard and recorded it for his 2017 CD The Brighton Line. He commented:

This one has everything—romance, sailing ships, death and even a unique (happy to be proved wrong) mention of an opera-glass!. This song appears to be collected only from Pop Maynard.

Nick Dow sang Down By the Seaside on his 2018 album of unaccompanied traditional folk songs, Far and Wide. He noted:

From the singing of Pop Maynard. I learned it from those treasured recordings along with everybody else who sings it. Very little is known about the song except that Down By the Seaside is included in a chapbook printed c.1820 by J. Fraser of Stirling as The Sailor's Loss, and shouts an 18th century origin. It's none the worse for that.

Note that there is another song Down By the Seaside (Roud 2733), which is of the returned-token variety, and of course the narrator in the end turns out to be the maid's lost lover. Frank Harte of Dublin sang this song as The Love Token on his album My Name Is Napoleon Bonaparte; Dervish learned it from him and sang it as The Lover's Token in 2013 on their album The Trush in the Storm.

Lyrics

George Maynard sings Down By the Seaside Shirley Collins sings Down By the Seaside

As I were a-walking down by the sea side
I gazed on a damsel, put her in surprise.
I steppèd up to her, these words I did say,
“Well, my pretty fair maid, well, my pretty fair maid,
Are you going this way?”
I steppèd up to her, these words I did say,
“Well, my pretty fair maid, well, my pretty fair maid,
Are you going this way?”

As I was a-walking down by the seaside
I gazed on a young damsel, put her in surprise.
I stepped up to her, these words I did say,
“Well, my pretty fair maid, well, my pretty fair maid,
Are you going my way?”

“Oh no, oh no,” this young damsel replied,
“I'm a-seeking for me true love who has gone far and wide.
And if I don't find him, it's here I'll remain.
And I hope that my true love, I hope that my true love
Will return safe again.”

“Oh no, oh no,” this young damsel replied,
“I'm seeking for my true love who's gone far and wide.
And if I don't find him it's here I'll remain.
I hope that my true love, I hope that my true love
Will return safe again.”

As she was lamenting and could not prevail,
She looked through her opera-glass and saw the ships sail.
“May the heavens protect our love on the Main,
I hope that my true love, I hope that my true love
Will return safe again.
And if I don't find him, it's here I'll remain.”

As she was lamenting and could not prevail,
She looked through her opera glass and saw the ships sail.
“May the heavens protect all lads on the Main,
I hope that my true love, I hope that my true love
Will return safe again.”

As she was a-standing all on the same spot,
The news it came to her, her true love was shot.
“Now since it's been so, I will go to some grove.
And if he died for honour, if he died for honour,
Then I'll die for love.”

As she was a-standing all on the same spot,
The news it came to her, her true love was shot.
“Now since it's been so, I'll go to some grove.
And if he died for honour, if he died for honour
Then I'll die for love.”