Abroad as I Was Walking
Submitted by Carolyn Robson
The folk song collector George Gardiner collected over 1200 songs from the county of Hampshire in southern England during the period 1904–1908. In 1907, he collected about 164 songs from five women in the village of Axford near Basingstoke in the northwest of the county.
One of these women, Sarah Goodyear, gave him 41 of these songs, including one of my favourites, ’Abroad as I was walking.’ It is the common tale of a young woman who is seduced by an older man and falls pregnant. He is what is commonly termed a ‘bounder’ and blames her for her ‘wanton will,’ though she is just 14 years old. These days, it would have been a clear case of child sex abuse.
The song is an English version of the Irish song ‘Blackwaterside.’ I was a member of the trio Craig Morgan Robson, and we joined forces with the lovely Askew Sisters to record a CD of songs collected from these women, called ‘The Axford Five.’ So here I am singing this song accompanied by Hazel and Emily Askew.
Abroad as I was walking down by some green wood side
I heard a fair maid singing ‘I wish I was a bride.’
‘I thank you pretty maiden for the singing of your song.
Tis I myself will marry you.’ ‘Kind Sir, I am too young.’
‘The younger you are the better, more fitter for my bride,
That all the world may plainly see I married my wife a maid.’
Nine times I kissed her ruby lips and viewed her sparkling eye
I catched her by the lily white hand one night with her to lie.
And all the fore part of that night we lay in sport and play
And all the latter part of that night I lay in her arms til day.
Til day, til day, til day, til daylight did appear
Then this young man rose, put on his clothes, said ‘Fare you well, my dear.’
‘What did you promise me last night as I lay by your side?
You promised you would marry me, make me your lawful bride.’
‘What I did promise you last night was in a merry mood,
I vow, I swear, I do declare, I’m not so very good.
Go home to your father’s garden. Go home and weep your fill,
And when you’ve thought on what you’ve done, you’ll blame your wanton will.’
‘My parents brought me up like a small bird in a cage
And now I am with child by you, scarce 14 years of age.
It’s other farmers’ daughters, to market they do go
While I, poor girl, must stay at home and rock the cradle o’er
And rock the cradle o’er and o’er, sing hush-ee lullaby
Was there ever a maid and a pretty fair maid in love, so crossed as I?’
Carolyn Robson is a singer and choir leader now living in the south of England, but originally from the northeast. Her repertoire consists mainly of Northumbrian and Scottish songs, as well as songs from Hampshire, where she runs 4 choirs. She was a member of the renowned a cappella trio Craig Morgan Robson. Carolyn also runs workshops and sings with Moira Craig. The duo have toured the US on numerous occasions and will be tutors at TradMad in 2021.