> Tony Rose > Songs > Sweet Jenny of the Moor
Sweet Jenny of the Moor
; Master title: Sweet Jenny of the Moor
; Laws N34
; G/D 5:1050
; Henry H107
; Ballad Index
The Foggy Dew The Idiom of the People
Martyn Wyndham-Read sang the broken-token ballad Ginny on the Moor in 1973 on his Argo album Harry the Hawker Is Dead. He returned to it in 1992 on his Fellside CD Mussels on a Tree.
This video shows Martyn Wyndham-Read singing Ginny on the Moor in March 2020. His version is from the singing of Simon McDonald, a woodcutter of Creswick, Victoria, Australia, collected by Norm O’Connor and Kath and Arthur Lumsden.
Nick Dow sang Jenny of the Moor in 1980 on his album A Branch of May and in 2018 on his album of unaccompanied traditional folk songs, Far and Wide. He noted on the second album:
The words are in Colm Ó Lochlainn’s More Irish Street Ballads. I wrote the tune in 1979, before the days of Roud Numbers and internet resources. If you do not like the tune in the book you had to write your own; it was that or nothing. I recorded the song in 1980 with guitar backing, and it was taken up by various singers including Jim Moray who recorded it a while back. It gave the song a new lease of life and I found myself singing it without guitar at the Whitby Folk Festival. I prefer it that way now, and have included it here.
Tony Rose sang Sweet Jenny of the Moor in 2003 on Martyn Wyndham-Read’s project celebrating English traditional songs and their Australian variants, Song Links. This was probably his last recording as he died in the year before this anthology was published; the set’s very extensive notes give no recording dates though. Paul Adams did note:
Like so many folk songs this is known by a number of other names, mostly because the heroine is likely to be called Ginny or Janie. The printed collections do not suggest that it was widely sung. The name Dennis Riley (Ryan in the Australian version) and this version naming his home town as Newry both suggest a possible Irish origin. However, it may be that it was published by a number of English broadside publishers, and seems to have been better known in English than in the Irish oral tradition. One version suggests that he died at the Battle of Trafalgar, another, at a considerably later date, at the Battle of Alma, during the Crimean War. Such confusions and doubts about origins and dates are common enough with songs recorded from oral traditions.
Dave de Hugard sang the corresponding Australian variant Ginny of the Moor to which Paul Adams added:
This is another of the songs handed down to Simon McDonald through family tradition. It was recorded from him by Norm O’Connor and Harry Pearce in 1957. This is one of the few broadsides from the British Isles to appear in Australian Songsters (The Australian Melodist). There is less difference between Simon McDonald’s version of the song and the English version used in this album than might appear from the Australian version sung here by Dave de Hugard, who writes, “Ginny of the Moor originally I heard from Simon, however, over time the tune changed somewhat and I have also added and changed some of the verses according to the way that I interpret the song”.
Jim Moray learned Jenny of the Moor from the singing of Nick Dow and sang it in 2010 on his CD In Modern History.
Alison Frosdick sang Jenny of the Moor on Amsher’s 2018 album of Hampshire songs collected by Lucy Broadwood in Oxfordshire, Patience Vaisey at Adwell 1892. Bob Askew noted:
This was fading in popularity by 1892. Only six versions were noted in the next two decades in Southern England, and one in Scotland. It is a ‘Broken Token’ song where the lover returns unrecognised after a long time away. These songs were hugely popular because many lovers were long parted by service at sea, or like Patience by working as servants far away.
Martyn Wyndham-Read sings Ginny of the Moor
One morning for recreation as I strolled by the seaside
Oh the sun was gently rising and in came the morning tide.
I spied a pretty fair maid as she sat by the sea shore
And a-pulling of some choice seaweed was Ginny on the moor.
We both sat down together down by the cool sea side
And I said, “Fair maid with your consent I would make you my bride.
It’s I have plenty of money and I come from a foreign shore
Let us join our hands in wedlock bands I will go to sea no more.”
She said, “I have a true love ’though he is far away.
And it’s virgin I will prove to him when he comes home from sea.”
“Well if you have a true love then tell to me his name.”
“Oh his name is Dennis Ryan and from your home town he came.”
“If Dennis Ryan is his name then I know him very well
T’was at the battle of Trafalgar to an angry ball he fell.”
These words were scarcely spoken as we sat by the sea shore
When she fell she fainted in my arms did Ginny on the moor.
Now when he saw her loyalty, “Look up to me,” he cried,
“For this is your Dennis Ryan who is standing by your side.
And as you’ve proved so faithful I will go to sea no more.
Let us join our hands in wedlock bands my Ginny on the moor.
Let us join our hands in wedlock bands my Ginny on the moor.”
Tony Rose sings Sweet Jenny of the Moor
One morn for recreation I walked by the seaside,
Oh the sun was a gently rising bedecked in his pride,
I beheld a lovely fair maid standing by her cottage door,
Oh her cheeks were like roses, was sweet Jenny of the moor.
I said, “My pretty fair maid, why so early do you rise?”
“To take the sweet air whilst the lark soars in the sky.
And it’s here I love to wander where the breakers do roar,
A-gathering of seaweed,” said sweet Jenny of the moor.
So we both sat down together by some pleasant shady side,
I said, “With your consent I will make you my bride,
For of wealth I have plenty brought from a foreign shore,
I’d be proud to win the heart of sweet Jenny of the moor.”
“I’ve a true love of my own, though long he’s been from me,
It is true I’ll be to him while he is on the sea,
For his vows were fondly spoken as he parted from my door,
And I’ll wait till his return,” said sweet Jenny of the moor.
“If your true love was a sailor pray tell to me his name.”
“Oh his name was Dennis Riley and from Newry town he came.
And with laurels I’ll entwine him when he returns to shore
And we’ll join our hands in wedlock,” said sweet Jenny of the moor.
“If Dennis was your true love I knew him right well,
Whilst fighting in battle by an angry ball he fell;
So behold your true love’s token, which upon his hand he wore.”
And she fell into my arms, did sweet Jenny of the moor.
“Oh since you’ve proved so faithful, my true love,” I cried,
“Now behold it is your Dennis, he is standing at your side.
So come let us be united and live happy on the shore,
And the bells shall ring merry and I’ll go to sea no more.”
Dave de Hugard sings Ginny of the Moor
One morning in exploration I wandered down by the seaside,
The sun was barely risin’ as in came the mornin’ tide.
And that was where I saw her, as I wandered down by the seashore,
There she did stand in the swirlin’ sand, it was Ginny of the moor.
“Good morning,” I said most politely, “Why so early do you rise?”
“Oh I love to breathe the morning air when the birds sing in the skies.
For to breathe the salt spray in the air and to hear the breakers roar,
To see them rise, curl and crush and roll up on the shore.”
And so we stood together, as the sun rose from the sea,
I said, “Fair maid, with your consent I would keep you company,
I have plenty of money, I’ve just come from a foreign shore,
And if it’s yes you say, it’s here I’d stay, I’d go to sea no more.”
Said she, “Well, I have a love of my own, though he is far at sea,
I love him and I’ll be true to him till he comes back to me.
He won my heart and sailed away, and I love him just the same,
Perhaps you may have heard of him, Denis Ryan is his name.”
“Well, if his name is Denis Ryan, yes, I know him very well,
At the battle of Trafalgar to an angry ball he fell.”
These words were scarcely spoken, as we stood down by the seashore,
Then she fell and fainted in my arms did Ginny of the moor.
“Oh open your eyes, look close at me,” he tenderly did cry,
“It is your Denis Ryan who is standing by your side.
And now that we are united, we’ll live down by the seashore
And the bells will ring so merrily and I’ll go to sea no more,
And the bells will ring so merrily for Ginny of the moor.”