Submitted by Dave Para

The song is also known by “Whiskey on a Sunday” or “Come Day, Go Day.” Liverpool folksinger Glyn Hughes wrote it in 1959 after hearing stories from older people who remembered seeing Davy in the 1890s.

Originally a sailor from Jamaica, Seth Davy became a fixed character on the streets of Liverpool entertaining, especially young children, dancing his three homemade dolls on a plank. He sang the minstrel song “Massa Is a Stingy Man,” with the chorus, “Sing come day go day, God send Sunday, we’ll drink whiskey all the week, and buttermilk on Sunday.”

The place and idioms in the lyrics reference Liverpool, but Irish singers have sung the song often with words changed to reference Dublin.

Listen to John Roberts and Tony Barrand singing “Seth Davy:”

See English singer Christopher Lawley essentially re-enacting Seth Davy:

Sheet music for "Seth Davy"
Download the sheet music for “Seth Davy.”

Lyrics: Seth Davy or Come Day, Go Day

By Glyn Hughes

Chorus:
Come day, go day
Wish in my heart for Sunday
Drinking buttermilk all the week
Whiskey on a Sunday.


He sat on the corner of Bevington Bush
Beside an old packing case
And the dolls on the end of his plank went a-dancing
As he crooned with a smile on his face:

The tired old man drummed the wooden beam
His dolls, they danced the gear
A better old show as you’ve ever seen
At the Pivvy or the New Brighton Pier:

In 1902 old Seth Davy died
His song was heard no more
The three dancing dolls in the jowler bin ended
And the plank went to mend the back door:

But on some stormy nights down old Scotty Road way
With the wind blowing in from the sea
You can still hear the song of old Seth Davy
As he croons to his dancing dolls three:

Dave Para is a folksinger from Missouri and now from New Mexico, who with his late wife, Cathy Barton, danced the limberjack for children many, many times. He used information from a Mudcat thread and Secondhand Songs for this article.

Submitted by Sara Grey

“Cobweb of Dreams” was written by Joy Masefield and Leon Rosselson, an English songwriter whose specialty is topical political songs. It is not just the simple love song it first appears to be. In Oxfordshire, England, it was the tradition to present a historical documentary, a combination of drama, music, and light show, of the ancient village of Towersey. “Cobweb of Dreams” was the song which opened and closed the drama, thus binding together the life-cycle of the townspeople of Towersey.

Leon was commissioned to write a love song that was to be sung at the Towersey Festival, and he was very reluctant to do so because he was primarily a writer of political songs and felt uneasy about writing a love song….what a misconception! It turned out to be one of the most poignant and beautiful love songs ever written!

Listen to Sara Grey and the late Ed Trickett performing “Cobweb of Dreams:”

Sheet music for "Cobweb of Dreams"
Download the sheet music for “Cobweb of Dreams.”

Lyrics

Words by Joy Masefield, Music by Leon Rosselson

I have been searching through the timeless past
Because of you, my love, because of you
Weaving a cobweb that will hold you fast
Because of you, my love, because of you.

Oh sing again the song I heard you singing
The song that set the bells of Heaven ringing.
The song that surely told me
The grave could never hold me
Because of you, my love, because of you.

And now I know that love’s a fragile flower
Because of you my love, because of you
So little time between the sun and showers
Because of you, my love, because of you.

Only by singing can I soothe my sorrow
Because of you, my love, because of you.
Today is gone, but there is always tomorrow
Because of you, my love, because of you.

Sara Grey is a fine American singer, banjo player and song collector, who is immersed in the song traditions of both sides of the Atlantic. Her love affair with traditional songs for over 60 years has given her an incomparable knowledge of songs and ballads and how they have moved and evolved. She wants to gather the songs and pass them on to future generations so that they will have the pleasure of hearing and singing them just as she has. After living and singing in Britain for more than 45 years, Sara has returned to her native New England and is living in Vermont with her husband Dave. She continues to tour actively, mostly with her son Kieron Means. See more about Sara on her website.

Submitted by Mary Garvey

“The Badger Drive” is a Newfoundland folk song/ballad. The song is about a lumber drive near Badger, Newfoundland. As with many Newfoundland ballads, the lyrics are about traditional places and events and sometimes actual individuals—and this song has all those qualities.

The song was composed in 1912 by John V. Devine of King’s Cove, Bonavista Bay, NL. Local and family tradition hold that Devine composed it in a Grand Falls boarding house after having been fired from his job as scaler for the Anglo Newfoundland Development Company (A.N.D.). He sang the song at a St. Patrick’s Day concert at which company officials were present, and allegedly won his job back.

Listen to Barry Delaney performing “The Badger Drive:”

Sheet music for "The Badger Drive"
Download the sheet music for “The Badger Drive.”

Lyrics

There is one class of men in this country that never is mentioned in song.

And now, since their trade is advancing, they’ll come out on top before long.

They say that our sailors have danger, and likewise our warriors bold,

But there’s none know the life of a driver, what he suffers with hardship and cold.

Chorus: 

With their pike poles and peavies and bateaus and all

They’re sure to drive out in the spring, that’s the time

With the caulks on their boots as they get on the logs,

And it’s hard to get over their time.

Bill Dorothey he is the manager, and he’s a good man at the trade;

And when he’s around seeking drivers, he’s like a train going down grade,

But still he is a man that’s kindhearted, on his word you can always depend.

And there’s never a man that works with him but likes to go with him again.

Chorus

I tell you today home in London, The Times it is read by each man,

But little they think of the fellows that drove the wood on Mary Ann,

For paper is made out of pulpwood and many things more you may know,

And long may our men live to drive it upon Paymeoch and Tomjoe.

Chorus

The drive it is just below Badger, and everything is working grand,

With a jolly good crew of picked drivers and Ronald Kelly in command,

For Ronald is boss on the river, and I tell you he’s a man that’s alive,

He drove the wood off Victoria, now he’s out on the main river drive.

Chorus

So now to conclude and to finish, I hope that ye all will agree

In wishing success to all Badger and the A.N.D. Company.

And long may they live for to flourish, and continue to chop, drive and roll,

And long may the business be managed by Mr. Dorothey and Mr. Cole.

Chorus

Mary Garvey writes: I am a retired but still working person originally from the lumber (major log drives here and pulp mills) region of Southwest Washington, USA. I did graduate work in experimental psychology at the University of Newfoundland (unfortunately was unable to complete it) and heard magnificent music there, including in my own house. I have been given a number of songs about my own corner of the world and put out CDs with other people on traditional songs of here (SW WA) and other places. Love Irish and British Isles songs, and Newfoundland songs, of course.  

Submitted by Derek Piotr

I recently collected a version of “I Wonder When I Shall Be Married” from famed writer Roxana Robinson, at her home in North Cornwall, Connecticut. While the song is primarily attributed to the Ritchie family of Viper, Kentucky, Roxana had learned it from her family in Pine Mountain, and sings it to a different tune.

The song is strangely neutral in tone: the lyrics speak of hope and anticipation, yet the overall tone of the song is melancholic and open-ended.

This song also has the distinction of being the seven hundredth song I have recorded for my Fieldwork Archive!

Hear Roxana Robinson sing “I Wonder When I Shall Be Married:”

Sheet music for "I Wonder When I Shall Be Married"
Download the sheet music for “I Wonder When I Shall Be Married.”

Lyrics

I wonder when I shall be married,
Be married, O be married,
I wonder when I shall be married,
For my beauty’s beginning to fade.

My mother she is so willing,
So willing, O so willing,
My mother she is so willing,
For she has more daughters than I.

My father has forty good shillings,
Good shillings, O good shillings,
My father has forty good shillings,
And they will be mine when he dies.

My shoes they have gone to be mended,
Be mended, O be mended,
My shoes they have gone to be mended,
And my petticoat gone to dye green.

And they shall be ready by Sunday,
By Sunday, O by Sunday,
And they shall be ready by Sunday,
And then shan’t I look like a queen.

O say, won’t I be a bargain,
A bargain, O a bargain,
O say, won’t I be a bargain,
For someone to carry away.

I wonder when I shall be married,
Be married, O be married,
I wonder when I shall be married,
For my beauty’s beginning to fade.

Derek Piotr is a folklorist, researcher and performer whose work focuses primarily on the human voice. His work covers practices including fieldwork, vocal performance, preservation and autoethnography; and is primarily concerned with tenderness, fragility, beauty and brutality. His work has been supported by The Traditional Song Forum and The Danbury Cultural Commission, and has featured on Death Is Not the End and the BBC. He recently launched the Fieldwork Archive.

Submitted by Andrew Calhoun

Collected by James Carmichael of Ballymena, Ulster; printed in Sam Henry’s Songs of the People. Arranged by Andrew Calhoun.

Listen to Andrew Calhoun performing “The Hills of Tandragee:”

Sheet music for "The Hills of Tandragee"
Download the sheet music for “The Hills of Tandragee.”

Lyrics

When my love wakes in the morning,
She oils and combs her hair;
And dresses in her superfine
All for to meet her dear.
Her name I will not mention
Lest she should offended be;
For she is the fairest creature
In the hills of Tandragee.

The time is drawing nigh, brave lads,
When I must leave you here;
And part with all my comrades,
Likewise my sweetheart dear.
For her beauty I admire
Above all that I can see;
And her killing glances bring the blush
On the hills of Tandragee.

Farewell unto my native rocks,
Likewise you grand old shore;
Where with my daily comrades,
I’ve trod the sands all o’er.
And when I’m on the ocean wide,
Nor house nor home can see;
I’ll be thinking of you Rosy dear,
That dwells in Tandragee.

When my love wakes in the morning,
She walks down to the sea;
To watch for the ship returning
That bore her love away.
She’ll watch the foaming billows
As they roll in from the sea;
Saying “Oh, poor Johnny Hartin,
You’re far from Tandragee.”

Andrew Calhoun is a gigging singer-songwriter/folk artist since 1975. He founded and managed Waterbug Records, Inc. from 1992–2019. In 2012 he received the Lantern Bearer Award from Folk Alliance Region Midwest; in 2014, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Woodstock Folk Festival. He’s currently (2023) at work on a Robert Burns songbook called Glorious Work, which will have 410 songs based on research into Burns’s original tunes and texts. Different Now, a CD of 20 old and new original songs, will be released in 2024. 

Submitted by Marc Bernier

“Christmas in the Trenches” is a song written by John McCutcheon. It tells the story of the 1914 Christmas Truce between the British and German lines on the Western Front during the First World War from the perspective of a fictional British soldier. Although Francis Tolliver is a fictional character, the events depicted in the ballad are mostly true.

McCutcheon often prefaces the song in concert by telling one of several stories about it. One is about how he first heard the story of the Christmas Truce from a janitor with whom he swapped stories before a concert. He also tells of performing the song at various festivals, where old men would come to him after and explain that they were there. 

The Christmas Truce was not an isolated incident, but rather a series of unofficial ceasefires leading up to Christmas that year. You can read more about the Christmas Truce on Wikipedia.

Listen to John McCutcheon performing “Christmas in the Trenches:”

"Christmas in the Trenches" sheet music
Download the sheet music for “Christmas in the Trenches.”

Lyrics

My name is Francis Tolliver. I come from Liverpool

Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school

To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here

I fought for King and country I love dear


It was Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter hung

The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung

Our families back in England were toasting us that day

Their brave and glorious lads so far away

I was lyin’ with my mess-mates on the cold and rocky ground

When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound

Says I, “Now listen up, me boys.” Each soldier strained to hear

As one young German voice sang out so clear


“He’s singin’ bloody well, you know,” my partner says to me

Soon one by one each German voice joined in in harmony

The cannons rested silent. The gas cloud rolled no more

As Christmas brought us respite from the war

As soon as they were finished, a reverent pause was spent

“God rest ye merry, gentlemen,” struck up some lads from Kent

The next they sang was “Stille Nacht.” “‘Tis ‘Silent Night,'” says I

And in two tongues, one song filled up that sky


“There’s someone comin’ towards us,” the front-line sentry cried

All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side

His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright

As he bravely strode, unarmed, into the night

Then one by one on either side walked into no-man’s-land

With neither gun nor bayonet, we met there hand to hand

We shared some secret brandy and wished each other well

And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave ’em hell


We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home

These sons and fathers far away from families of their own

Young Sanders played his squeeze box and they had a violin

This curious and unlikely band of men

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more

With sad farewells we each began to settle back to war

But the question haunted every heart that lived that wonderous night

“Whose family have I fixed within my sights?”

It was Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter hung

The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung

For the walls they’d kept between us to exact the work of war

Had been crumbled and were gone for ever more


My name is Francis Tolliver. In Liverpool I dwell

Each Christmas come since World War One I’ve learned it’s lessons well

That the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame

And on each end of the rifle we’re the same

Marc Bernier is a chanteyman, musician, chef, and sailor with a diverse musical and professional background. He spent over 5 years as a Mystic Seaport Chanteyman. As part of the Seaport Interpretation Department, he presented music programs for both educational and social functions. He has worked as a musician and educator for the Clearwater program on the Hudson River, and has sailed as cook, deck hand, and entertainer on numerous traditional sailing vessels from the coast of Maine to Chesapeake Bay.

Submitted by Sally Rogers

Sally originally learned “The Handsome Cabin Boy” out of Jean Ritchie’s “Dulcimer People” book.  She was on a search for songs with women dressing as men for all the many reasons they might do that. This is a wonderful and singable example of those songs.

Listen to Gordon Bok performing “The Handsome Cabin Boy:”

Sheet music for "The Handsome Cabin Boy"
Download the sheet music for “The Handsome Cabin Boy.”

Lyrics

’Tis of a handsome female as you may understand,
Her mind bein’ set on ramblin’ unto some foreign land,
She dressed herself in men’s attire or so it does appear,
And hired on with our captain to serve him for a year.

The captain’s wife, she bein’ on board, she seemed in great joy
To think her husband had engaged such a handsome cabin boy.
And now and then she’d slip him a kiss and she would’ve liked to toy
But ’twas the captain found out the secret of our handsome cabin boy.

Her cheeks were red and rosy, her hair was all in curls
The sailors ofttimes smiled and said, “Why he looks just like a girl!”
But eatin’ of the captain’s biscuits her color did destroy
And the waist did swell of our pretty Nell the handsome cabin boy.

Around the bay of Biscay our gallant ship did plow
Among the sailors there arose such a frightful, scurryin’ row.
They tumbled from their hammocks for their sleep it did destroy.
And they cursed about the groanin’ of our handsome cabin boy.

“Oh, Doctor, dearest Doctor,” the cabin boy did cry,
“My time it is come and I am undone and I must surely die,”
The doctor come a runnin’ and a smilin’ at the fun,
To think a sailor lad should have a daughter or a son.

The sailors come a runnin’, they came to gape and stare,
The child belonged to none of them, they solemnly did swear.
The captain’s wife she smiled at him and said, ‘Dear, I wish you joy,
For was either you or I betrayed the handsome cabin boy.”

Then each man took his tot of rum and drank success to trade,
And likewise to the cabin boy who was neither man nor maid.
Here’s hoping that the wars don’t rise again, our sailors to destroy,
And here’s hopin’ for a jolly lot more like our handsome cabin boy.

Sally Rogers has been a songwriter, performer and educator for more than 40 years, and she is still steaming ahead, warming hearts and minds wherever she goes. Her songs “Lovely Agnes” and “Touch of the Master’s Hand” have frequently been mistaken for traditional, while “Love Will Guide Us” and “Circle of the Sun” are now anthems for rituals of passage and protest.

Submitted by Cindy Mangsen

I first heard the “Seal Lullaby” in a choral setting created by Eric Whitacre, sung by our local Bennington Children’s Chorus. I loved the poem and found myself humming my own tune not long after. The poem opens Rudyard Kipling’s story “The White Seal,” first published in 1893 and reprinted in The Jungle Book the following year. My version is recorded on a duet CD with Steve Gillette, Home By Dark.

Listen to Cindy and Steve performing “Seal Lullaby:”

Sheet music for "Seal Lullaby"
Download the sheet music for “Seal Lullaby”

Lyrics

Seal Lullaby
poem by Rudyard Kipling
music by Cindy Mangsen (Compass Rose Music/BMI, © 2011)

Oh hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us
And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
The moon o’er the combers looks downward to find us
At rest in the hollows that rustle between.

Where billow meets billow, there soft be thy pillow.
Oh weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee nor shark overtake thee,
Asleep in the arms of the slow swinging sea.

Cindy Mangsen has been a singer of all kinds of songs since her early days in the Chicago folk clubs of the 1970s. She’s known for her collaborations with husband Steve Gillette, as well as trio work with Priscilla Herdman and Anne Hills, and even a quartet with Steve, Anne, and Michael Smith. More voices, more fun! She lives in Vermont, where she shares a home with Steve and a very black cat named Persephone.

Submitted by Judy Cook

There are many versions of the nursery rhyme of “Cock Robin” in both Britain and America. Some say the song originated with the intrigues that led to the downfall of Robert Walpole in 1742. He was the longest serving British Prime Minister; the period of his dominance is sometimes called “the Robinocracy.”

I found this version of “Cock Robin” in Songs of All Time, sponsored by Council of the Southern Mountains, 1946. In that lovely little book, it is credited as a Virginia version collected by Richard Chase.

The same version appears in American Folk Tales and Songs, compiled by Richard Chase, 1956. In that book, Chase says he collected it from a singer, whose name he failed to record, near Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He also reports that a Native American told him that the tune is the same as a Shoshone night chant. I find the song delightful and mesmerizing.

Listen to Judy and Dennis Cook performing “Cock Robin:”

Sheet music for "Cock Robin"
Download the sheet music for “Cock Robin.”

Lyrics

Who killed Cock Robin? Who killed Cock Robin?
“I,” said the sparrow, “With my little bow and arrow.
It was I, oh it was I.”

Who saw him die? Who saw him die?
“I,” said the fly, “With my little teensy eye.
It was I, oh it was I.”

Who caught his blood? Who caught his blood?
“I,” said the fish, “With my little silver dish.
It was I, oh it was I.”

Who sewed his shroud? Who sewed his shroud?
“I,” said the beetle, “With my little sewing needle.
It was I, oh it was I.”

Who dug his grave? Who dug his grave?
“I,” said the crow, “With my little spade and hoe.
It was I, oh it was I.”

Who hauled him to it? Who hauled him to it?
“I,” said the bear, “Just as hard as I could tear.
It was I, oh it was I.”

Who lowered him down? Who lowered him down?
“I,” said the crane, “With my little golden chain.
It was I, oh it was I.”

Who pat his grave? Who pat his grave?
“I,” said the duck, “With my big old splatter foot.
It was I, oh it was I.”

Who preached the funeral? Who preached the funeral?
“I,” said the swallow, “Just as loud as I could holler.
It was I, oh it was I.”

Who killed Cock Robin? Who killed Cock Robin?
“I,” said the sparrow, “With my little bow and arrow.
It was I, oh it was I.
It was I, oh it was I.”

Judy Cook is an author, entertainer, and folk singer. She has been living in Oberlin, Ohio, with her husband Dennis since 2013. Since 1998, she has been touring throughout both Britain and the US. She is known for her repertoire and storytelling ability in song. Judy has one book and several CDs. Lyrics and recordings of her songs are on her website. You may reach her at judy@judycook.net.

Submitted by Margaret Nelson

I see Lazarus as a “good guy” in a small village—not the smartest fellow, but the one who helps the women draw water at the village well, keeps an eye on the younger kids when their mothers are washing clothes, patches up the stray dogs when they get hurt, looks after village seniors when their health starts to fail.

Dives and his greedy friends want to knock down the old village houses, and turn the village into a high-priced summer resort for the gentry. Dives gives a feast to attract investors.

Lazarus comes to Dives’ gate asking for donations of leftover food to give to the poor of the village, addressing him as “Brother Dives.” Dives refuses the (traditional) request, and refuses to recognize Lazarus as a brother.

Lazarus starts a hunger strike. Dives tells Lazarus he can starve. Lazarus invokes Jesus’ name. Dives gets annoyed, sends hungry dogs out to bite Lazarus. Turns out the dogs know Lazarus; they don’t bite him; insted, they lick his sores away.

Dives gets really annoyed, tells his hired men to go out and whip Lazarus. But the young hired men also know Lazarus, and throw their whips away rather than hurt him. 

“That isn’t a bum, that’s Lazarus! He sat with my grandma when she was dying! To heck with Dives and his cronies!”

After some time, Lazarus dies; angels take him to heaven. Dives also dies; serpents take him to hell, where he is tormented with thirst. Dives looks up, and sees Lazarus blest. Then, and only then, does he address Lazarus as “Brother.”

Listen to Cooper & Nelson performing “Dives and Lazarus:”

Sheet music for "Dives and Lazarus"
Download the sheet music for “Dives and Lazarus.”

Lyrics

As it fell out all on one day, rich Dives made a feast
And he has invited all his friends, and gentry of the best
Then Lazarus he laid down and down, and down by Dives’ door
Some meat, some drink, Brother Dives, to bestow upon the poor
Thou art none of my brothers, Lazarus, who lie begging at my door
No meat nor drink will I give thee, nor bestow upon the poor.

Then Lazarus he laid down and down, and down by Dives’ wall
Some meat, some drink, Brother Dives, or of hunger starve I shall
Thou art none of my brothers, Lazarus, who lie begging at my wall
No meat nor drink will I give thee, though of hunger starve you shall

Then Lazarus he laid down and down, and down by Dives’ gate
Some meat, some drink, Brother Dives, for Jesus’ Christ’s own sake
Thou art none of my brothers, Lazarus, who lie begging at my gate
No meat nor drink will I give thee, for Jesus Christ’s own sake

Then Dives sent his hungry dogs, to bite him where he lay
But they had not the power to bite one bite, but they licked his sores away
Then Dives sent his hired men, to beat him where he lay
But they had not the power to strike one stroke, but they flung their whips away

As it fell out all on one day, poor Lazarus sickened and died
There came two angels out of heaven, his soul therein to guide
Rise up now, Brother Lazarus, and come along with we
There is a place in Heaven prepared, for to sit by an angel’s knee

As it fell out all on one day, rich Dives sickened and died
There came two serpents out of Hell, his soul therein to guide
Rise up, now, Brother Dives, and come along with we
There is a place in Hell prepared, for wicked men like thee

Then Dives looked up with his eyes, and saw poor Lazarus blest
Give me one drop of water, Brother Lazarus, to quench my burning thirst!

Margaret Nelson learned her first traditional ballad in the early 1960s. In 1982, she joined musical forces with guitarist and singer Phil Cooper. As a duo, as a trio with singer Kate Early, and as members of two successive Christmas bands, Cooper & Nelson toured, performed, and spent a lot of time recording mostly traditional songs and tunes. They released 24 recordings in 28 years, including cassettes, an LP, and CDs. (Many of the CDs are still available for sale.)

In November and December, Margaret still tours with Kate Early, Phil Cooper, and Susan Urban as the Bittersweet Christmas Band. Among other things, she performs at Memorial Day and Veterans Day gatherings sponsored by Veterans for Peace, and has been asked to lead songs at larger Chicago-area rallies for peace, social justice, and environmental sanity.

Margaret describes her current condition as “Still vertical, still musical, and increasingly political.” Visit her website for videos of Margaret in performance.

Margaret served as Board President of the Folk Alliance-Region Midwest (FARM) from 1999-2002. She was booker, host and sound babe for the Sunday Evening Folk concert series, Evanston, Illinois, 2003-2005. She is the recipient of the Folk Alliance Region Midwest Lifetime Service Award, 2006.