Introduced by Tim Radford
I have always had a deep interest in Penal Transportation Songs. I think of them as being that perfect combination of a rural song and a sea song, tinged often with aspects of politics and law and order.
Transportation as a punishment started in Great Britain in the 17th century and was originally to North America, but that ceased in 1776 with the US becoming independent. Transportation to Australia began in 1787, and although it officially ended with the passing of the Penal Servitude Act of 1857, the last convicts were transported as late as 1868.
Here’s Adieu to All Judges and Juries ticks all the boxes for me: a great tune, a poignant story with that touch of hope at the end. The version I list here was collected in 1908 by Dr. George Gardiner in Hampshire from the singing of George Blake, who spent most of his life living and working in and around Lyndhurst & Emery Down in The New Forest.
(As collected from George Blake on May 30, 1906)
Here’s adieu to all judges & juries
Here’s adieu to you bailiffs also
Seven years you’ve parted me from my true love
Seven years I’m transported you know.
Oh Polly I’m going for to leave you
For seven long years or more
But the time it will seem but one moment
When I think on the girl I adore.
Going to some strange country don’t grieve me
Nor leaving old England behind
But it’s all for the sake of my Polly
And my comrades I’m leaving behind.
And if ever I return for the ocean
Store of riches I’ll bring my dear
It’s all for the sake of my Polly
I’ll cross the salt sea without fear.
How hard is my place of confinement,
That keeps me from my hearts delight
Cold chains & cold irons around me
And a plank for my pillow at night.
Oft times I have wished that some eagle
Would lend me her wings for to fly
I would fly to the arms of my Polly
And on her sweet bosom I’ll lie.
Repeat verse 1
Tim Radford is an English singer, living since 1996 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA, but born in Hampshire, England on the edge of The New Forest; he moved from there in 1972. When living in North Oxfordshire for 25 years, he became deeply involved with morris dancing. He has been singing all his life, but in recent years has been doing more singing since having to give up dancing.
He has two Hampshire recorded CDs – one on the entire repertoire of the above source singer – George Blake and an another of Maritime songs collected in Hampshire.