Pretty Nancy of Yarmouth


Ahoy me hearties! Here’s the folk process in action as Jon says, “I got this form a book, Green Grow The Laurels I think, or one of those. The chorus is my own addition.” Mainly Norfolk is also instructive here as well as you can see from this link that Jon’s version is a mixture of those that have gone before. I believe it’s also one that Fay includes in her live set (as per my review here.)

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32 Responses to “Pretty Nancy of Yarmouth”

  1. Garry says:

    What does Jon sing in the third line of the second stanza?
    He showed us the mark, me boys, …
    Is it ‘light’ something in the sky?


  2. Simon says:

    I think Reinhard has it right… Check the mainly Norfolk link on the post and you’ll see several different versions. He has the verse as follows, hope that helps.

    It happened one evening just before it grew dark,
    Our captain came to us and he showed us the mark;
    He showed us the mark, my boys, like jewels in the sky,
    “Oh reef up your topsails, there’s a storm blowing nigh.”

  3. Garry says:

    Thanks, Simon, but it was *Reinhard* who asked *me* what I thought the line was.

  4. Reinhard Zierke says:

    Garry and I now agree to claim that Jon sings “He showed us the mark, my boys, light dews in the sky.”

  5. muzza says:

    Here I am on the 20th……..I can see that you have tech probs as site wouldn’t open earlier on… glad to see the site up…even without today’s song.
    Talk about AFSAD addict….I was about to venture up onto the roof at the loss of the cheery banter and cameraderie that we have!…I’ve calmed down now…Simon and Ben will sort it.

  6. Jon Boden says:

    it’s actually ‘showed us the mark m’boys, like Zeus in the sky.’ doesn’t say much for my diction does it… Jon

  7. Simon says:

    Not your diction Jon, it’s our collective ears and failure of immagination (Zeus not being an obvious word and I got juice, but couldn’t believe that was right either.) Thanks for clarifying that though.

  8. Reinhard says:

    I would never have guessed that as I’m accustomed to the German pronounciation of Zeus where the z is quite sharp and the eu is pronounced like the English oi. Thanks Jon, for helping us.

  9. Garry says:

    Thanks, Jon. It *does* sound like what you said – but who would expect a Greek god to turn up in an English folk song? And who knows what Zeus looks like in the sky, anyway? Only Zeus knows!

  10. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    I really like Jon’s version of this and it goes into the ‘One to Learn list ‘.
    References to the mythology of other cultures crop up regularly in our folk songs, it is all part of the folk process.
    The star group Cygnus (The Swan) is also known as the Northern Cross and was an important navigational reference for sailors. In Greek mythology of the stars, Cygnus is in fact ZEUS, disguised as a swan, as he tears across the heavens in pursuit of yet another nymph. So, is the Northern Cross the mark, referred to in the song?
    Of course Zeus is also associated with war, which is a not good news for our sailor friend.

  11. Diana says:

    Another great song, I seem to be accumulating a lot of these folk songs via I tunes.

  12. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ John B: Thanks for the pointer about the Northern Cross and Cygnus, which set me googling again! Here is a Wiki-link, which contains the basic ‘constellar’ information, plus a charming myth about Cygnus and Phaeton. Zeus comes into the story, but not as Cygnus on this occasion, though he did turn himself into a swan in order to seduce Leda:

  13. muzza(S.E.England) says:

    Doncha just love old Zeus….I’ve done a bit of “Swanning around” meself in my time!

  14. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    Jane, I think Zeus used that old swan disguise more than once, its a wonder all the nymphs did not get wise to it. This link connects him to Cygnus. He certainly put it about a bit.

  15. Jane Ramsden says:

    Lovely link, John. I don’t know why Zeus didn’t just charm his way into whatever girlies wore back then. He was King of the Gods after all! Perhaps it was the thrill of ‘la chasse?’

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    Hellooo all! Fay does indeed include this in her live set, ‘cos I just heard her sing it last night at Otley Courthouse! And the ‘Zeus’ debate was referred to. Fay said the ‘correct’ version is likely “He showed us a mark, boys, produced in the sky” but the Party consensus was that she should continue singing the ‘good’ version, i.e. Zeus, ‘cos it’s prettier.

    She and the Hurricane Party were just perfect and I knew EVERY song they included in the set, thanks directly or indirectly (via Fay’s albums) to AFSAD, with only a couple of instrumental pieces being unfamiliar. Result methinks!

  17. Diana says:

    A lovely song well sung by Jon and also Fay on Orfeo.

    @Jane: Glad you had a good evening out and I endorse your comments – haven’t seen them but played the CD enough times.

  18. Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Oh woe is me……………..lamenting that I’m gonna miss Fay & H on Monday……..
    Think I’ll get the old swan costume out…that might cheer me up…
    20 years too late I fear!

  19. Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Another line that varies………I would pick this version to sing:-
    For whilst we at sea roam, brave boys, never fear.”

  20. Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    What version would Mike Harding have picked?…another old fella put out to grass.

  21. Diana says:

    @Muzza: We are in a cheerful mood this morning (not) but do explain why you are getting the swan costume out please.

  22. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: Do not get out the swan costume in the hope of seducing the ladies like Zeus…. you know what happens to people who are in the guise of a swan in folk songs… accidental curtains at the hand of their loved one!

  23. Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    @Diana…….Jane has answered for me.
    @Jane…….certainly don’t want accidental curtains…I’d better pull myself together!

  24. Diana says:

    All I could think of was “The Dying Swan” which I did not think you were referring to Muzza. But now all is clear thanks to Jane. Now no more trips to the psychiatrist please and that old chestnut.

  25. Jane Ramsden says:

    Ha ha, Muzzy: Today less Pretty Nancy of Yarmouth than Mighty Muzza of Sidmouth!

  26. Old Muzza(NW Surrey.UK says:

    What a chorus……………a definite ‘join in bit ………
    Where the cannon loudly rattttttlllleeess and the stormy winds blow

  27. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Have to live on the old memories of ruffling a feather or two…what’s the Zeus of worrying.

  28. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey UK) says:

    Blimey guvnor…….having a few minutes to spare and missing the banter of old ….I rechecked the links to all theses stars and swan thingys…… the heck can anybody pick out a bally swan in that mass of stars……and as for the chasing about /turning into animals/serious criminal offences and laying eggs…..beeee haaaaave!…………..
    those Greeks certainly had vivid imaginations….and they sound a bit gullible as well by all accounts.
    great song though…enjoyed it again and hope to next year as well.

  29. old Muzza (NW Surrey) says:

    Beginning to think that swan upping is more fun than I first thought….(viz viz..snarf snarf!)

  30. Old Muzza (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Sad to say….at my age……..I don’t even think of such things…..and as the old fella in the old joke said…’I’d rather have a talking frog!’

  31. OldMuzza (NWSurrey UK) says:

    Nothing new to say….just that I’m still clinging to the wreckage…enjoying that chorus especially!

  32. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK says:

    I was just saying Hallloooo but my last attempt either got moderated or flew off into the ether!

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