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Rambleaway / Derry Down Fair

[ Roud 171 ; G/D 7:1485 ; Ballad Index ShH31 ; Bodleian Roud 171 ; trad.]

Shirley Collins sang Rambleaway in 1963 on her Topic EP Heroes in Love. Like all tracks of this EP, it was included in her compilation Fountain of Snow and on the CD reissue of The Sweet Primeroses. It was also included in the Topic Sampler Folk Songs: An Anthology. The original recording's sleeve notes comment:

Here our hero is something of a rake, and the encounter has been related in several broadsides. The tune is from Somerset, collected and published by Sharp in the Folk Song Society Journal No. 31. This latter incomplete text has been collated with a broadside published by Hodge, of Seven Dials, London.

Shirley and Dolly Collins recorded this song for a second time in 1969 for their album Anthems in Eden. This was reissued on the compilation Troubadours of British Folk Vol. 1.

The Young Tradition sang this song as Derry Down Fair on their eponymous debut album of 1966, The Young Tradition. Their album liner notes commented:

In the more common variants of Young Rambleaway, the song ends with the girl going home to her parents, sadder, wiser and pregnant. This Dorset version ends instead with a boastful half warning, half invitation from Rambleaway himself: “My hat, cap and feathers, my dear, you shall wear, and a bunch of blue ribbons to tie up your hair.” And that is the limit of what any girl can expect of him. The words were collected by Hammond from Robert Barrett, of Puddletown, in 1905. The tune is not Mr. Barrett's, however, it came to us in its present form by mistake, but we liked it and kept it.

Al O'Donnell sang Ramble Away in 1972 on his eponymous Trailer album, Al O'Donnell.

Jumbo Brightwell sang Rambleaway in 1975 on this Topic LP Songs from the Eel's Foot: Traditional Songs and Ballads from Suffolk

Norma Waterson sang Rambleaway in 1996 on Waterson:Carthy's second album, Common Tongue; this was finished with the Valentine Waltz arranged by Saul Rose. The recording was re-released on the Topic anthologies And We'll All Have Tea and English Originals. Martin Carthy commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Norma loves waltzes and so do we. The tune of Rambleaway is more usually associated with a song that I don't like much—called Old Mother Crawley—and it's an absolute peach. The character himself advertises himself for what he is and yet there is still somebody who falls for it. And, how they fall. You see people like him on Ricki Lake or Oprah Winfrey all the time. The audience boo and hiss and it makes not a ha'porth of difference. For him it's just another advert.

Saul (Rose) had the idea for Valentine Waltz—it's the morris tune, Valentine's Day, slowed right down.

Jackie Oates sang Rambleaway in 2006 on her eponymous first album, Jackie Oates.

Steve Roud included Young Rambleaway in 2012 in The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Brian Peters sang it a year later on the accompanying Fellside CD The Liberty to Choose: A Selection of Songs from The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll sang Rambleaway in 2014 on their WildGoose CD A Handful of Sky. They commented in their liner notes:

The version of this well-known song comes from the collection of folk songs by the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould. We have combined the words of James Parsons with Sam Fone's melody and added our own interpretation to the mix.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings Rambleaway Norma Waterson sings Rambleaway

As I go a-walking down Birmingham Street
In my new scarlet jacket all neat and complete,
The girls all say as they pass me by,
“Is that the young man they call Rambleaway?”

As I was a-going to Pocklington Fair
In my fine scarlet jacket and everything rare,
Enough to 'tice all the maidens away
When they set their eyes on young Rambleaway.
Rambleaway, Rambleaway,
When they set their eyes on young Rambleaway.

As I was a-walking to Birmingham Fair
I saw lovely Nancy a-curling her hair.
I tipped her the wink and she rolled her dark eye,
And said I to myself, “I'll be there by and by.”

Now the very first steps that I took to the fair
I saw lovely Nancy a-combing her hair.
I smiled at the lass and she laughed and she sighed,
Said I to myself, “I'll be there by and by.”
There by and by, there by and by,
Says I to myself, “I'll be there by and by.”

As I was out walking that night in the dark
I took lovely Nancy to be my sweetheart;
She smiled in my face and to me she did say,
“Aren't you the young man they call Rambleaway?”

As I was a-walking that night in the dark
I took that young maiden to be my sweetheart;
She sighed in my face and a word she did say,
“Are you the young fellow called Rambleaway?”
Rambleaway, Rambleaway,
“Aren't you the young fellow called Rambleaway?”

I said, “My dear Nancy, don't smile in my face,
For I do not intend to stay long in this place.”
“Then where are you going, come tell me, my dear.“
I told her I'd ramble the devil knows where.

I said, “Pretty Nancy, don't smile in my face,
I do not intend to stay long in this place.”
I packed up my clothes and I went from the fair;
I told her I'd ramble the devil knows where.
Devil knows where, devil knows where,
I told her I'd ramble the devil knows where.

Before twelve weeks was over and past
This pretty young Nancy, she grew sick at last.
Her dress wouldn't pin nor her apron strings tie
And she longed for the sight of young Rambleaway.

When twenty-four weeks they were over and past
This pretty young girl she did sicken at last.
Her gown wouldn't meet nor her apron strings tie;
She longed for the sight of young Rambleaway.
Rambleaway, Rambleaway,
She longed for the sight of young Rambleaway.

My dad and my mother have both come from home.
But when they return I won't sit down and mourn
I'll tell them the story and leave them to say,
“Well, no doubt she's been playing with young Rambleaway.”

So come all you young ladies, take a warning by me,
When courting the boys, don't be easy and free.
Just dress yourselves up as you step out to pay
But take care if you meet with young Rambleaway.

Come all you young maidens wherever you be,
When you're courting fellows don't make yourself free.
For if you do you'll rue the sad day
You met with the likes of young Rambleaway.
Rambleaway, Rambleaway,
You met with the likes of young Rambleaway.

The Young Tradition sing Derry Down Fair

As I was a-going to Derry Down Fair
With my neat scarlet cloak and everything rare,
In order to entice all the buxom and gay
Who wished for to go with young Rambleaway.
Rambleaway,
Who wished for to go with young Rambleaway.

The very first steps I put into the fair
I spied pretty Nancy a-combing her hair.
I tipped her the wink and she rolled her dark eye,
Says I to myself, “I'll be there by and by,”
There by and by,
Says I to myself, “I'll be there by and by.”

As I was a-walking that night in the dark
I took pretty Nancy to be my sweetheart.
She smiled in my face and to me she did say,
“Ain't you the young man that's called Rambleaway?
Rambleaway,
Ain't you the young man that's called Rambleaway?”

Says I, “Pretty Nancy, don't smile in my face
For I do not intend to stay long in this place.”
So I give her three doubles and fair length and share
And I said that I'd ramble but didn't know where,
Didn't know where,
And I said that I'd ramble but didn't know where.

So come all you young maidens where'er you may be,
From this jolly bank wit I'll have you go free;
My hat, cap and feathers, my dear, you shall wear
And a bunch of blue ribbons to tie up your hair,
Tie up your hair,
And a bunch of blue ribbons to tie up your hair.

Acknowledgements

Norma Waterson version transcribed by Garry Gillard, with a bit of help from Steve Willis: thanks!