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Long Years Ago / The Bride's Lament

[ Roud 274 ; Laws K10 ; G/D 1:19 ; Ballad Index LK10 ; Mudcat 57083 ; trad.]

Shirley Collins sang Long Years Ago, accompanied by Seamus Ennis on whistle and Perry Friedman on banjo, on the 1960 HMV album A Pinch of Salt: British Sea Songs Old and New. This track was later included in her anthology Within Sound. Peter Kennedy noted on the original album:

John Hasted collected this song from a soldier during the last war. Like a ship that passed in the night, the soldier was gone, without leaving his name or his place of origin. It is an unusual one typical of many Maid on the Shore ballads of drowned lovers. The use of the tin-whistle, like that of the flute or recorder, proves to be a most effective accompaniment for the more lyrical type of British songs.

Cyril Tawney sang this song as The Bride's Lament on his 1992 Neptune cassette In Every Port.

Louise Bichan sang The Bride's Lament in 2020 on Bellwether's eponymous EP Bellwether. They noted:

An old traditional song, versions of which have come from both sides of the North Atlantic. A version by Sydney Scott, recorded by the School of Scottish Studies in 1967, can be found in The Orkney Library and Archive. Louise first heard this sung by Brian Cromarty of Orcadian duo Saltfishforty, (the other half of which, Douglas Montgomery, just so happens to have taught her to play the fiddle…)

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings Long Years Ago

Long years ago when I was young
The flowers bloomed and the birds they sung.
A sailor and his lovely bride
Lay sleeping by the ocean.

It's scarce six months since we were wed
But, oh, how fast the time has fled.
And I must go at the break of day
When the great ship bears my love away.

The years have gone, he comes no more,
She sits weeping by the ocean shore.
The ship went down in the howling of the storm
And the waves consumed his lifeless form.

I wish that I were with him too
Beneath the waves of the ocean blue,
My soul to god, my body to the sea,
And the great green waters a-rolling over me.