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Gilderoy

[ Roud 1486 ; Ballad Index RL040 ; VWML LEB/2/10/2 ; Bodleian Roud 1486 ; Wiltshire 806 ; trad.]

Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. Everyman's Book of English Country Songs The Singing Island

This ballad was collected by Lucy Broadwood from Henry Burstow of Horsham, Sussex, in 1903 [VWML LEB/2/10/2] .

Ewan MacColl sang Gilderoy in 1957 on his Riverside album with Peggy Seeger, Bad Lads and Hard Cases.

Sandra Kerr sang Gilderoy in 1973 on the Argo anthology The World of Folk Vol. 2.

Jean Redpath sang it in 1976 on her Trailer album There Were Minstrels. She noted:

Many years ago Arthur Argo sang Gilderoy to me and I was much taken with the melody. This song, too, is in the Orpheus Caledonius and my text is from that collection.

Shirley Collins sang Gilderoy accompanied by Dolly Collins on piano and Philip Pickett playing tenor curtal and cornet on the sisters' 1978 album For As Many As Will. This recording was also included on their anthologies Fountain of Snow (1992), Within Sound (2002) and The Classic Collection (2004). Shirley Collins commented in the first album's notes:

Noted from Henry [Burstow] by Lucy Broadwood who wrote in the Folk-Song Journal: “Mr Burstow sang me one verse of Gilderoy and sent me the whole ballad a year later. I have omitted one stanza.” (This was the central part of verse 3.) I searched through the Lucy Broadwood file at Cecil Sharp House and came across the complete song, and the accompanying letter from Henry. He wrote, “Dear Madam … I give you the song the same as I have heard it sung many years ago … I dare say you can alter some of the words …”

Jim Moray recorded Gilderoy in 2006 for his eponymous album Jim Moray.

Granny's Attic sang Gilderoy on their 2019 CD Wheels of the World. They noted:

George [Sansome] came across this song in Roy Palmer’s brilliant Everyman's Book of English Country Songs. The real Gilderoy was a Scottish outlaw executed in Edinburgh in July 1636, and was well known across England by the 1650s due to the popularity of street ballads such as this one. This variant was collected from Henry Burstow, in Horsham, by Lucy Broadwood between 1893 and 1894. William Stenhouse, writing in 1839, said that the song had “real poetical merit” but that there were “many indelicate luxuriances that required the aid of the pruning-hook”. Here, these “indelicate luxuriances” in the third verse remain un-pruned for your enjoyment.

Lyrics

Sandra Kerr sings Gilderoy

Now Gilderoy was as bonny a boy as Scotland ever bred,
He'd knots of ribbons on his shoes and a scarlet cloak so red.
He was beloved by the ladies all; he was such a rakish boy
But he was my sovereign heart's delight, my handsome Gilderoy.

Now Gilderoy and I was born both in one town together
And not past seven years of age that we did love each other.
Our dads and mothers did agree and crowned with mirth and joy
To think upon the bridal day 'twixt me and Gilderoy.

Now Gilderoy and I walked out when we were both fifteen
And gently he did lay me down among the leaves so green.
When he had done what he could do he rose and went away;
He was my sovereign heart's delight, my handsome Gilderoy.

Now what a pity, a man be hanged for stealing a woman there
For he stole neither house nor land, nor stole neither horse nor mare.
Yet none dare meet him face to face, he was such a rakish boy,
At length with numbers he was taken, my handsome Gilderoy.

Now Gilderoy is in Edinburgh Town; it's long ere I was there,
They hanged him on the gallows high and he wagged in the air.
His relics they were more esteemed than Hector's were at Troy,
I never loved to see the face that gazed on Gilderoy.

Now Gilderoy is dead and gone, and how then shall I live?
With a brace of pistols at my side, I'll guard his lonely grave.
They hanged him on the gallows high for being such a rakish boy,
But he was my sovereign heart's delight, my handsome Gilderoy.

Shirley Collins sings Gilderoy

Now Gilderoy was a bonny boy and he would knots of ribbons wear.
He's pulled off his scarlet coat, he gartered below his knee.
He was beloved by the ladies so gay and he was such a rakish boy;
He is my sovereign heart's delight, my handsome, bold young Gilderoy.

Young Gilderoy and I was born all in one town together
And at the age of seventeen years we courted one each other.
Our dads and our mums they both did agree and crowned with mirth and joy
To think that I should marry with my handsome, bold young Gilderoy.

Now Gilderoy and I walked out all in the fields together;
He took me round the waist so small and down we went together.
And when he had done all a man could do, he rose and kissed his joy,
He is my sovereign heart's delight, my handsome, bold young Gilderoy.

What a pity it is a man should hang for stealing of a women where
He had neither robbed a house nor land and he stole neither horse nor deer.
For he was beloved by the old and the young and he was such a rakish boy,
He was my sovereign heart's delight, my handsome, bold young Gilderoy.

Now Gilderoy, they've hung him high and a funeral for him we shall have;
With a sword and a pistol by my side I'll guard my true love to his grave.
For he was beloved by the young and the old and he was such a rakish boy,
He was my sovereign heart's delight, my handsome, bold young Gilderoy.