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The Yarmouth Tragedy

[ Roud 187 ; Master title: The Yarmouth Tragedy ; Laws M38 ; G/D 2:222 ; Ballad Index LM38 ; Bodleian Roud 187 ; GlosTrad Roud 187 ; trad.]

Tony Rose sang The Yarmouth Tragedy in 1982 on his album Poor Fellows. He noted:

Only pallor and wanness seem to distinguish the “revenant” of the traditional ballad from the living… and that’s scarcely foolproof! No wrathlike phantom, this—but a material, corporeal ghost, whose spectral status is betrayed only by his clammy ball-room hold. This broadside variant of the Lover’s Ghost theme comes from the prodigious Marina Russell of Upway in Dorset, via the Hammonds and Frank Purslow’s Foggy Dew [E.F.D.S. Publications, 1974].

Ken Wilson sang The Yarmouth Tragedy on his 2018 CD Portraits. He noted:

From the singing of Tony Rose on his album Poor Fellows. The song/broadside is a version of the Lover’s Ghost, which Tony sourced from Marina Russell of Upway in Dorset.

There are two other completely different songs that also refer to a Nancy in Yarmouth, Nancy of Yarmouth (Roud 407), and Farewell Dearest Nancy (Roud 527; Laws K14).


Tony Rose sings The Yarmouth Tragedy

In the dead of the night when all were a-sleeping
Young Jimmy’s ghost to his love did appear,
Crying loudly, “Rise me beautiful Nancy
Remember the vows that you made to your dear!”

“Who’s that,” she cries, “calling under my window?
Surely it is the voice of me dear.”
And in raising her head from her downy soft pillow
Straight to the window she then did repair.

By the light of the moon which brightly was shining
She spied her own true love who to her did say,
“Oh your parents are sleeping—before they awaken,
Rise, my dear Nancy you, must come away.”

And a gown she’d embroidered with gold and with silver
Instantly round her middle she threw,
And with a young maid who waited there upon her
Instantly down to the seaside did go.

There it’s close in his arms did the ghost then enfold her.
“Jimmy,” she cried, “you are colder than clay!
And surely you’re not the young man I admire
For paler than death you appear to me.”

“Nancy”, he cries, “I am your true lover
But now I sleep in a watery grave.
For your cruel parents have been my undoing,
But dead or alive it’s you I will have.”

This trembling lady was sorely affrighted,
Amazed she stood on the brink of the sea;
All wringing her hands, crying, “Oh cruel parents,
May Heaven reward you for your cruelty!”

But still she cries, “My love I am coming!
And in your arms it’s soon I shall be.”
And as soon as she spoke this unfortunate creature
Carelessly plunged herself into the sea.


Transcribed by Garry Gillard.