Banks of Green Willow


Another song that Jon picked up from Martin Carthy and as he says, “You can either read this as a warning against blind superstition, or as an instructional model for how to deal with a faerie infestation.” It seems that the song possibly alludes to a superstition that the presence of a wrong doer on a ship will bring disaster, although what the poor unfortunate lady who is thrown overboard has done is debatable. Still, as always, there are plenty of thoughts at Mudcat. This seems to come from a particulary period of Martin Cathy’s recordings and is to be found on Shearwater again from 1972.


The buy links should now work properly. We had some problems with a duplicate track and everything needed to be updated, but I’ve just tested them and they are now OK!

You can buy the digital album now from the following stores:


21 Responses to “Banks of Green Willow”

  1. Sarah says:


  2. Linda Champ says:

    This version of the tune is very like, if not the one, collected by Gardiner in Hampshire from David Clements of Basingstoke, 1906

  3. Jane Ramsden says:

    Well, what can I say? Except we would say in Yorkshire, ‘She picked a wrong ‘un, there.’ More swine than swain. Yup, that’s miserable enough for me!

  4. Nick Hallam says:

    More about Banks of the Green Willow from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

    There are 68 records of The Banks of Green Willow in the Library having been collected at various times by Sharp, Butterworth, Hammond and Gardiner

    When searched on Roud No. this rises to 90 with versions form Scotland, Bonnie Annie, and Northern Ireland

    If you wish to see more detail on each record, change the ‘output’ to ‘record’ and press ‘submit query’.

    There are 7 records of the song in the Take 6 Archive collected by George Butterworth and Henry Hammond, the earliest one being collected from Mrs Gulliver in May 1905 in Combe Florey Somerset.

    To find these go to enter the name of the song into the first empty field, select ‘Title’ from the drop down menu ‘all fields’ and press ‘submit search.

    We use the Roud index and the Take 6 online collections in the search for information on Jon’s selections.

    For more information, or to carry out your own search for songs, please visit

    If you need any help accessing the library online or have any questions, please contact the VWML on 020 7485 2206 or

  5. Mzz.Beee says:

    Hi, lovely song – and I’m glad to hear more of unaccompanied Jon too. Unsure what the ‘faerie infestation’ notion cited is about though? I should let you know that your link isn’t working, so I’m off to Mudcat now to find the thread discussing it 🙂

  6. SRD says:

    I’m surprised that there are so few comments here, especially second time round, as you don’t get much more traditional than this. Beautifully done.

  7. Diana says:

    A bit too depressing for me I am sorry to say.

  8. Linda says:

    Haunting. A very short comment, deserves better, beautifully sung.

  9. Linda says:


  10. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Nope…..not for me……barely a tune and a dreadful story…….probably why I haven’t commented before

  11. John Bryson says:

    Good Morning Muzza,

    I’m the same as you, a bit too depressing for me

  12. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Hey young JohnB….what about a link to your Youtube performance!

  13. John Bryson says:

    Hello Muzza,

    I’d not forgotten, it’s been a bit hectic few days and I needed to search YouTube for them – my capitalist lean has caused the hectic few days!

    Anyway, there’s me in spoken form and singing form. The former is not musical, so I digress there.

    The singing – my Wife Jane and I are belting it out with the Remnant Kings on a mid February on here during the band’s tour in 2011. We’re in the atrium of King’s Place for the post show sing and we join in with ‘Hanging Jonny’. I always say we pick purselves out – yeah, right!

    The one I would suggest you look up on YouTube is ‘Harlow Hospital Radio The AJ’s’. The station had an Awards night for some years and we performed around three times. The name is the first letter of our forenames – Alison, Jane (my Wife and our Musical Director), Andy and I. We enjoyed doing it – the Tuesday evening rehearsals in our home at that time were fun to do, fuelled by tea and bacon and sandwiches, plus our neighbour enjoyed listening to us!

  14. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Tea and bacon sarnies!!!!!!!!!…the old Wanderin’ star himself…albeit with the lights turned down

  15. John Bryson says:

    Caught in the act!???

  16. oldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Wow John B….tricky key changes!

  17. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    DRAT………nope….. moderated and deleted yet again…..must be me!

  18. OldMuzza(NWSurreyUK) says:

    Wey Hey young John B…..still doing charity gigs I hope! Hang in there with your wanderin’!

  19. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    We need a few willow trees to suck up the rain in the South…we have had all of the July rain in the first 8 days and temperatures not reached average yet and not forecast! sigh!

  20. John Bryson says:

    Good Morning Muzza,
    The singing I do now is at folk clubs, I get up and belt out a few.

    In tennis mode at the moment and catching up a backlog of songs – Wimbledon on. I day this week and again on Friday – might sound daft but it’s tiring travelling to Wimbledon and back and watching tennis 🎾😀

  21. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Hiya John…good to see that you are still in the frame.
    yup,,,Wimbledon very tiring…..I have to struggle off the sofa and find the bally remote…….they keep mentioning this bloke Mick Stubbles but I have yet to see him turn up for a match!

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