Jon recalls his Oxford days again saying, “A strange song in that it glorifies theft. It was sung a lot at the half moon, I think by Ian Giles but it may have been Graham Metcalfe.” We can also add that fellow Bellowheadee, Paul Sartin can trace this song back through family history. He recorded it as I Am A Brisk Lad on the self titled Faustus CD, the sleeve notes of which refer to the song being “Sung by Paul’s ancestor Edith Sartin in Corscombe, Dorset, to the Hammond Brothers in July 1907.” Her words weren’t recorded although another version was also collected in Dorset a couple of years earlier from a George Dowden. Sheep stealing was of course a very serious matter and a capital offence, although many people were transported, with poverty and genuine hunger at the roots of the crime. This song seems to be utterly defiant. I wonder whether the reference to “building a house out on the moor” is as some sort of remote hideaway. Read more at Mainly Norfolk and here’s a Mudcat link to explore still further, which gives an alternate song on a similar theme by Carthy & Swarbrick.
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