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Young Banker

[ Roud 3321 ; Master title: Young Banker ; VWML FK/3/62 ; GlosTrad Roud 3321 ; Wiltshire 68 ; trad.]

There are two Watersons’ recordings of Young Banker. The first one is on their 1981 album Green Fields; its title comes from the second line of this song. Another (rare) recording on a Sounds of Yorkshire promotional LP of 1985 is now available on both The Carthy Chronicles and the Watersons’ anthology Mighty River of Song. A.L. Lloyd noted on the first album:

“Banker” sounds grand enough. In fact it was used to describe a man who made embankments, stone walls and such. It’s probably not local to Yorkshire, though that is where it has most often been found. This set was noted by Frank Kidson from Mrs Kate Thompson of Knaresborough.

And the Carthy Chronicles sleeve notes comment on the song’s second version:

It’s no use searching the Watersons’ albums and reissues for this track, for it was released on an album put together for Yorkshire and Humberside Tourist Board by Brendan Hearne’s Ambisonic Studios! To give a flavour of the variety of the album’s 21 tracks, this sits between a prissy version of The Holmfirth Anthem by Holmfirth Choral Society and an 18th century dance tune played on a 1976 Broadwood Piano. The album also featured Yorkshire Relish and the Filey Fisherman’s choir, but the author of the original sleeve notes clearly felt the Watersons’ presence needed justifying, describing them as “rightly considered to be amongst Britain’s finest folk-singers” as well as setting them alongside William Wilberforce as “famous sons and daughters” of Hull.

Young Banker has words collected from a maidservant from the Isle of Axholme near Doncaster, set to a tune which Frank Kidson collected from Kate Thompson of Knaresborough. This particular banker, by the way, is part of the walling and ditching trade and in no way involved in finance. The Watersons’ other contribution to the album is Chickens in the Garden, released by them on For Pence and Spicy Ale, and a song regularly featured by the group in live performances. This version was recorded in the living room of their farmhouse.

The Wilson Family sang Young Banker in 1991 on their Wilson Family Album. This YouTube video shows them singing it at Shrewsbury Folk Festival in 2008:

Will Noble and John Cocking sang Young Banker live at the Huntsman, Holmfirth, Yorkshire, on 23 November 2004. This recording was published a year later on their Veteran CD Yon Green Banks. They and John Howson noted:

Although the song has a northern feel, Cecil Sharp found it in Somerset in 1906 sung by Loiusa Barrett and in Gloucestershire in 1909 sung by Mrs P. Wiggett (or Wicket).

Further north Percy Grainger collected it in Brigg, Lincolnshire from George R. Orton in 1906. In Frank Kidson’s manuscripts there are versions from Hereford and York as well as one submitted by Alfred Atkinson from Brigg who got it from a maidservant at the Isle of Axholme. Kidson also has a tune noted down from Kate Thompson who worked for his own family. In the Madden collection there is also a broadside published by Robertson of Wigton under the title The Banking Boy. In recent years it has been popularised by the Watersons who used the Alfred Atkinson words and the Kate Thompson tune. It was from them that Will and John got the song.

In stonemasonry a banker is the workstone used to cut other stones on and a banker mason is the one who exclusively uses this. The song particularly appealed to Will and John as they are both proficient drystone wallers.

Mary Humphreys and Anahata sang Young Banker in 2003 on their WildGoose album Sharp Practice. They noted:

The song tells the tale of a handsome young navvy whose proposal of marriage is rejected and who then turns the tables on his erstwhile fiancee. It can be found in the Kidson Collection. Mary’s first memory of the song was hearing Chris Coe singing it. Later she found that it had been popularised by The Watersons in the 1970s, but only heard their version after Chris had sung the song at the Ryburn Three-Step club in West Yorkshire. If influences exist on her singing of this song, it has to be Chris’s fine expressive style.

Anahata plays his new Salterelle melodeon on this track (a lot quieter than the Oakwood!) and Dave Holland provides fiddle obbligato in fine style, suitable for a man of Young Banker’s superior sort.

Jon Boden got Young Banker from the Watersons and sang it as the 15 February 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Alice Jones sang Young Banker in 2014 on her and Pete Coe’s album of songs collected by Frank Kidson, The Search for Five Finger Frank.

Andy Turner learned Young Banker from the Watersons’s original recording too. He sang it as the 5 August 2016 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

BACCApella used the tune of Young Banker for their version of The First Nowell on their privately released 1989 album The Haworth Set and on the Free Reed anthology Midwinter.


The Watersons sing Young Banker

As I walked out one morning fair
To view the green fields and take fresh air,
I saw young banker standing there
And his true love was a lady fair.

Chorus (after each verse):
Young banker he had (such) an handsome face
(And) all around his hat he wore a band of lace;
Beside such an handsome head of hair,
For my young banker I will go there.

He said, “My pretty fair maid, will you go on deck,
With a chain of gold around your neck?
Whatever you do I will prove true.”
But the answer that she gave, “I’ll have none of you!”

Young banker turned around for to go away
But she called after him for to bid him stay,
“Oh stay, oh stay, and I will prove true.”
But the answer that she gave, “I’ll have none of you!”

Now she thought she heard a foreign man say,
“Come pack up your clothes and come away.”
It pierced her through the very heart
To think that young banker and her should part.

So come all you pretty fair maids with senses of loss
Since the day in love you have been crossed,
For you may lament and you may say
Forever rue the day that you said nay.


Thanks to Greer Gilman for the transcription.