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The Flash Lad / Adieu, Adieu

[ Roud 30101 ; Master title: The Flash Lad ; VWML RoudFS/S135594 ; Mudcat 73935 ; trad.]

Roy Palmer: Songs of the Midlands

The Watersons sang Adieu, Adieu in 1975 on their album For Pence and Spicy Ale. A.L. Lloyd commented in the liner notes:

The ace and the deuce of robber songs. English, Irish, American versions abound. Some mention “Fielding's gang,” a reference to the semi-official police force organised by the novelist and magistrate Henry Fielding and his blind half-brother John, about the middle of the eighteenth century. Our present set comes from [W.A.] Barrett's English Folk Songs (1891). Its unusual “Welladay” refrain evokes the underworld of Hanoverian England with its shabby finery and grubby lace.

but Malcolm Douglas corrected this in a Mudcat Café posting Lyr Req: Willow Day in 2005:

The subject came up on uk.music.folk recently, and on looking into it more closely I rather think that the sleevenotes Bert Lloyd wrote for For Pence and Spicy Ale. were wrong or misleading as to the Watersons' source for this song. It actually seems to have come from the Journal of the Folk-Song Society (vol VIII, issue 34, 1930, 190-1). Adieu! Adieu! Hard Was My Fate was noted by the Hammond Brothers from Mrs Webb of King's Norton in 1906 [ VWML RoudFS/S135594 ] . Her words are almost exactly the same, and her tune has the same alternating 5/4 3/2 rhythm. The tune is only similar, but the Watersons often changed melodies considerably (they may have got the tune from Barrett, of course). The clincher would probably be the refrain, which the Hammonds wrote down as “Willow day”.

Roy Bailey learned Adieu, Adieu from Songs of the Midlands, edited by Roy Palmer, and sang it in 1976 on his album New Bell Wake.

Clive Collins sang Adieu, Adieu Hard Was My Fate in 1976 on the Living Folk album Here's a Health to the Man and the Maid.

Fairport Convention recorded Adieu, Adieu several times, e.g. in 1977 on their album The Bonny Bunch of Roses (reissued in 1998 on Fiddlestix), in 1984 on The Boot, in 1987 on the video It All Comes Round Again, and in 2002 on Fairport unConventioNal.

Fiddler's Dram sang The Flash Lad in 1978 on their Dingle's album To See the Play. They also released this as the b-side of their 1979 single Day Trip to Bangor, and in 1980 on their eponymous Dingle's album Fiddler's Dram.

Graham and Sheila Nelmes sang Adieu, Adieu in 1983 on their Traditional Sound album High Is the Tower.

John Wright sang Adieu, Adieu in 1993 on his Fellside CD Ride the Rolling Sky.

Mick Ryan sang Adieu, Adieu in 1996 on his and Pete Harris' CD The Widow's Promise.

Eliza Carthy sang Adieu, Adieu on her 1998 album Red. This track was also included in 2013 on her anthology Wayward Daughter. Eliza also sang Adieu, Adieu in 1998 live at the Cambridge Folk Festival.

Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick sang The Flash Lad in 1998 on Brass Monkey's third album Sound and Rumour; this track was included a year later on the Topic anthology English Originals. Martin Carthy commented in the original recording's sleeve notes:

The Ned Fielding who shows up in the The Flash Lad is the same man who, as Henry Fielding, was, and is, loved for his novels. But, as much as he was loved by readers, so was he hated by those who came in contact with what became known as his Gang, who were organised by him as an early police force in London - and a brutal bunch they were.

Martin Simpson sang Adieu, Adieu in 2005 on his Topic CD Kind Letters. He commented in his liner notes:

In my final school year I studied Henry Fielding's novel, Tom Jones, a picaresque tale—that is, the story of a picaroon, or rogue. The Flying Cloud is certainly that, as is Adieu, Adieu, which may be the only song to mention by name Henry Fielding's brother, Ned, who was a bad cop of the day. I first heard this from the Watersons and then learned the tune while on tour with Martins 4. It was one of Mr Carthy's favourite warm-up vehicles at the time, greatly interspersed with magnificent throat-clearings. Again, Roy Bailey's […] album became the final lyric source. I have always loved the attitude of the young man in this song, because he is so fill of life at facing death.

Ron Taylor and Jeff Gillett sang Flash Lad in 2013 on their WildGoose CD Buy It, Try It (and Never Repent You). Jeff Gillett noted:

This was one of the most popular of the highwayman ballads and has been found throughout England. The protagonist's claims that he ‘never robbed any poor man yet” have a somewhat hollow ring, as the song makes clear that his principal concern has always been what he can get for himself and for his wife.

Pilgrims' Way sang Adieu, Adieu on their 2017 album Stand & Deliver.

Owen Ralph sang The Robber on his 2018 EP Chamber Folk.

Jon Wilks sang Adieu, Adieu on his 2018 album Midlife. He noted:

Collected from the aforementioned [see the notes to Colin's Ghost] Mrs Webb [ VWML RoudFS/S135594 ] , this song was described by A.L. Lloyd as, “the ace and the deuce of robber songs”. Indeed, everyone who's anyone seems to have recorded a version of this song, which goes under a myriad of names. It's a wonderful thing to sing, with a narrative you can really get stuck into and a palpable dignity that floods the song with emotion. Ideal for finger-picking guitarists, too. Something for everyone!


The Watersons sing Adieu, Adieu

Adieu, adieu, hard was my fate,
I was brought up in a tender state.
Bad company did me entice,
I left off work and took bad advice.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Which makes me now to lament and say,
Pity the fate of young felons all
Well-a-day, Well-a-day

I robbed Lord Goldwyn, I do declare,
And Lady Masefield of Grosvenor Square.
I shut the shutters and bid them goodnight
And away I went to my heart's delight.

Before Judge Holden I was took,
Before Judge Holden I was tried.
Then Harry Jones said, “This will not do,
My iron chest you have broken through.”

And when I'm dead and going to me grave
No costly tombstone will I crave.
Six bonny lasses to carry my pall
Give them broadswords, gloves, and ribbons all.

Brass Monkey sing The Flash Lad

When I was eighteen I took a wife.
I loved her dearly as I loved my life.
And to maintain her both fine and gay
𝄆 I went a-robbing 𝄇 on the King's highway.

I never robbed any woman yet
And I was never in a tradesman's debt.
But I robbed the lords and the ladies gay
𝄆 To carry home the gold 𝄇 to my love straightway

To Cupid's Garden I did away,
To Cupid's Garden to see the play.
Lord Fielding's gang there did me pursue
𝄆 And I was taken 𝄇 by that cursed crew

My father cried, “Oh my darling son,”
My wife she wept and cried, “I am undone.”
My mother tore her white locks and cried
𝄆 “Oh in his cradle 𝄇 he should have died.”

And when I'm dead and go to my grave
A flashy funeral oh let me have.
Let hundred bold robbers follow me,
𝄆 Give them good broadswords 𝄇 and liberty.

Let six pretty maidens bear up my pall
And let them have my cloaks and ribbons all.
That they may say when they speak the truth,
“There goes a wild youth,
There goes a wild and a wicked youth.”


Greer Gilman transcribed Adieu, Adieu, John Chatterton did some corrections. The Flash Lad was transcribed by Garry Gillard.