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Bachelor’s Hall

[ Roud 385 ; Ballad Index AF120 ; Bodleian Roud 385 ; DT BACHHALL ; Mudcat 16113 ; trad.]

Edith Fowke: The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs Jean Ritchie: Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians

Jean Ritchie sang Bachelor’s Hall in 1954 on her Elektra album Kentucky Mountain Songs. This track was also included in 1957 on her eponymous Elektra album Jean Ritchie and in 2005 on her anthology Mountain Hearth & Home. She noted on the first album:

A song at once plaintive and rollicking, pathetic and humorous. Probably of British origin, Bachelor’s Hall has acquired so much local mountain flavour that this version at least is completely independent of its beginnings, absolutely American.

Steeleye Span recorded Batchelors Hall in 1975 for their bestselling album All Around My Hat. A live recording from Perth Concert Hall in 1985 was released in 2001 on the CD Gone to Australia. Maddy Prior noted on the latter album:

A rare recording of Rick [Kemp] singing lead on this American traditional song, with a tune reworked by Bob [Johnson].

Dave Burland sang Bachelors Hall on his 1996 CD Benchmark. He noted:

Bachelors Hall I heard sung in a bowling alley in Barnsley by Mike Seeger of the New Lost City Ramblers, to the accompaniment of bowling balls thundering down the lanes.

Martin Simpson sang Batchelor’s Hall in 2007 on his Topic CD Prodigal Son. He noted:

In the mid 1960’s, John Cohen, the folklorist, photographer and member of The New Lost City Ramblers, went to North Carolina to record banjo players and the tunings that they used. He found himself surrounded by such a wealth of material that he recorded much more than the initial concept. […]

In 1963, Cohen had collected a wonderful selection of unaccompanied love-songs and ballads. Among them was Pretty Saro, sung by Cas Wallin of Madison County, North Carolina. Dick Connette of the New York City group, Last Forever, used Wallin’s performance as the basis for Batchelor’s Hall. The recorded version by Last Forever is sung by John Cohen’s daughter, Sonya. Cas Wallin can be heard on the CD Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads on Smithsonian Folkways.


Jean Ritchie sings Bachelor’s Hall

Oh hard is my fortune and hard is my fate,
Controlled by my mother so early and late,
And when I get married just to end all the strife,
Controlled by a man for the rest of my life.

O, young men go a-courtin’ they dress up so fine,
They cheat the girls up, that is all their design;
They’ll titter, they’ll tatter, they’ll laugh and they’ll lie,
They’ll cheat the girls up till they’re ready to die.

When young men go a-courtin’ they stay up all night,
Get out in the mornin’ and look like a fright;
They saddle their horses, they rock and they reel,
Dag-gone them old girls, how sleepy I do feel!

O, bachelor’s hall it is bound to be best,
Get drunk or stay sober, lay down take your rest,
No woman to scold you, no children to bawl,
So happy is the man that keeps bachelor’s hall.

Steeleye Span sing Batchelors Hall

I rode seven horses all to death
I rode them till they had no breath
I wore five saddles to the trees
Non of those girls will marry me.

Those women will fret, those women will fuss
They spend five hours before their glass
The devil take all, I’ll have no money at all
Always stay single, keep Batchelors Hall.
Stay stay close to my door

The women round here, they live by the door
They hear but a word, and repeat it twice o’er
Then they add it as much as they can
Always stay single a bachelor man.

Batchelors Hall is always the best
If you’re sick drunk or sober it’s always a rest
No woman to scold you, no children to bawl
Always stay single, keep Batchelors Hall.
Stay stay close to my door

Batchelors Hall, Batchelors Hall,
I’ll always stay single, keep Batchelors Hall.