> Steeleye Span > Songs > Cadgwith Anthem

The Robber's Retreat / Cadgwith Anthem

[ Roud 3314 ; trad.]

This highway robbers was printed with the title The Robber's Retreat in The Handy Man Afloat and Ashore by George Goodenough (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1901, p. 92), and in The Naval Song Book, ca. 1906, probably compiled by Chaplain to the Fleet, Rev. G. Goodenough. The first book had only two verses and the chorus of the song, and gave this introduction:

The following song always struck me as having one of the finest airs ever sung on a foc's'le. To hear the chorus pealing forth from some hundred or more throats was a thing to be remembered. The only pity is that the words are not more sensible. Such as they are they were very difficult to obtain. A bluejacket once wrote down all he could remember of them for me, but the copy got mixed up with other papers and I thought I had lost it. No one else could I find that could repair the supposed loss. Inquiries at second-hand music shops in London were fruitless. Many men could tell me that they knew the song but could not give me the words. Quite recently I came across my copy and here is the song.

Poor words: the lines not even rhyming, and the sentiment not very edifying. But you forget this as you hear the melody rolling out from those lusty throats with a glorious swing in the chorus of “Then away, then away, then away … away!” Perhaps we may some day find a poet who will link stirring and worthy words to this splendid melody; but meantime we may forgive the poorness of the song for the sake of the ring of the music.

Peter Kennedy recorded The Cadgwith Anthem (or The Robber's Retreat) from “a group of local fishermen at Cadgwith” in 1953 (according to the notes to Kennedy's Folktrax cassette Hard Times) or 1956 (according to Gundry, see below). It is not clear when the song changed its title and was thus annexed as an “Old Cornish folksong”. Inglis Gundry printed this version, using the title The Robbers' Retreat—The Cadgwith Anthem, in his 1966 book of songs and dances from Cornwall, Canow Kernow. Steeleye Span apparently based their recording on this version too, though they mentioned no source. Their Cadgwith Anthem appeared in 1976 on the album All Around My Hat. It was also one of the alternative B-sides of their single Hard Times of Old England. This is one of Steeleye Span's best harmony tracks, with a subtle brass section creeping in on the unaccompanied singing.

Robin Dransfield sang The Cadgwith Anthem in 1980 on his Topic LP Tidewave. He commented in the sleeve notes:

A fine Cornish song still sung, I believe, by the fishermen of Cadgwith. I learned it several years ago from Dick Gaughan who heard it while living in nearby Devon.

Tommy Morrissey sang The Robber's Retreat on his and his fellow Cornishman Charlie Pitman's Veteran Tapes cassette Pass Around the Grog (VT122) that was released in between 1987 and 1989. This track was also included in 2004 on the Veteran CD anthology of folk songs sung in the West Country, Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and All. John Howson commented:

The Cadgwith Anthem, as it has become known, originates from this small fishing village on the south Cornwall coast. For years the bar of the ‘Cadgwith Hotel’ has resounded to the local fisherman’s rendition of this unique song. Peter Kennedy recorded there in 1956 when the singers described the song as “just given to us by the old friends gone by” and John Henry Jane was said to be the first man who sang [it] in the bar. The song is now popular with choirs all over the county.

Jackie Oates sang Robbers' Retreat on her 2015 CD The Spyglass & the Herringbone, referring in her liner notes to The Naval Song Book and to Canow Kernow.

Lyrics

The Robber's Retreat in The Handy Man Afloat and Ashore The Robber's Retreat in The Naval Song Book

We come from yonder mountains, our pistols are loaded,
For to rob and to plunder it is our intent,

We come from yonder mountains, our pistols are loaded,
For to rob and to plunder it is our intent,

Chorus (after each verse):
As we roam through the valleys
Where the lilies and the roses,
And the beautiful cashmere lies drooping its head.
Then away, then away, then away, away,
To the caves in yonder mountains,
To the robbers' retreat.

Chorus (after each verse):
As we roam through the valleys
Where the lilies and the roses,
And the beautiful cashmere lies drooping its head.
Then away, then away, then away, away,
To the caves in yonder mountains,
To the robbers' retreat.

Hark, hark! In the distance there's footsteps approaching
Stand, stand and deliver! Shall be our watchword.

Hark, hark! In the distance there's footsteps approaching
Stand, stand and deliver! Shall be our watchword.

Your gold and your jewels,—Your life if resisted!
We shall laugh at your agony, and scorn at your threats.

Come fill up your glasses and let be a-drinking,
For the moonbeams are shining all over our heads.

The Robbers' Retreat in Canow Kernow Tommy Morrissey sings The Robber's Retreat

Come fill up your glasses and let us be merry,
For to rob bags of plunder it is our intent.

Come fill up your glasses and let us be merry,
For to rob and to plunder it is our intent.

Chorus (after each verse):
As we roam through the valleys,
Where the lilies and the roses
And the beauty of Kashmir lay drooping his head.
Then away, then away, then away,
To those caves in yonder mountain
Where the robbers retreat.

Chorus (after each verse):
As we roam through the valley,
Where the lily and the roses
And the beautiful Kashmir lay drooping his head.
Then away, then away, then away -a -a -a ay,
To those caves in yonder mountain
Where the robbers retreat.

Hush! Hush! in the distance there's footsteps approaching,
Stand, stand and deliver, it is our watch-cry.

Hark, hark, in the distance there's footsteps approaching,
Stand, stand and deliver, it is our watch cry.
For to roam …

Steeleye Span sing Cadgwith Anthem Robin Dransfield sings Cadgwith Anthem

Come fill up your glasses and let us be merry,
For to rob bags of plunder it is our intent.

Come fill up your glasses and let us be merry,
For to rob bags of plunder it is our intent.

Chorus (after each verse):
As we roam through the valleys
Where the lilies and the roses,
And the beauty of Kashmir lay drooping his head.
Then away, then away, then away,
To the caves in yonder mountain
Where the robbers retreat

Chorus (after each verse):
As we roam through the valleys
Where the lilies and the roses
And the beauty of Kashmir lay drooping his head
Then away, then away, then away,
To the caves in yonder mountains
Where the robbers retreat

Hush, hush! In the distance there's footsteps approaching
Stand, stand and deliver! It is our watch cry.

But hark! In the distance there's footsteps approaching
And it's, Stand and deliver! It is our watch cry.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café threads Lyr Req: Cadgwith Anthem and Origins: Cadgwith Anthem.