Bloody Gardener


Asked for his thoughts on this Jon simply said, “Dark.” I don’t think I can add to that, although this particularly creepy tale comes via Martin Carthy, who in turn got it for A.L. Lloyd. This link is instructive and points to our penchant for the macarbre. You can also Mudcat to your hearts’ content here.

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:


18 Responses to “Bloody Gardener”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelley Rainey, Jon Boden. Jon Boden said: Latest Post: Bloody Gardener […]

  2. Mzz.Beee says:

    I heard this for the first time about six months ago at Irene Shettle’s page ( ), and (like Carthy) considering the classic themes of cruel mothers, bloody murders, magical birds and suicidal lovers*, I was surprised at it’s seeming invisibility in revival recordings and sessions alike (at least from my own limited experience). I’ve passed it on to others since, as the tale certainly has plenty of gothic appeal for those of us who like a bit of ‘Brothers Grimm’ in our songs. I wonder if this blog might inspire a few renditions in clubs around the country?

    *This the final verse from aunty Maude’s Folk Songs from Newfoundland:

    O this young man arose and unto his home did go,
    Saying: Mother dear, you have me undone;
    You have robbed me of my dear, my joy and my delight,
    So it’s alone with my darling I’ll soon take flight.

  3. Mzz.Beee says:

    PS: ADMIN, your first link doesn’t appear to work.

  4. Mzz.Beee says:

    Lol, where’s the spam advertising landscape gardening companies, who throw in assassinations?

  5. admin says:

    Gardening spam deleted and link fixed (it worked when I scheduled it!!) Thanks Mzz Beee.

  6. Reinhard says:

    This blog is awful – it forces my to update and correct my website every day 🙂

    I’ve added A.L. Lloyd singing The Bloody Gardener from the LP English Street Songs to the page you linked to (and added some stuff to Go and Leave Me to be ready for tomorrow.)

  7. JohnnyEv says:

    Link seems to stop after 13 secs….. 🙁

  8. Roberto Campo says:

    It seems the aduio clip is not complete. It ends at 1:40…

  9. Interesting — I see that I’ve been quoted above. I’ve been singing this broadside ballad since around 1999, and have a great fondness for it. Strangely enough, the first time that I had ever managed to forget the words in performing it in all those years of singing it, was on Sunday 19th July at an event in Derbyshire – Jon was standing at the bar as well. Sadly, swiss cheese syndrome set in through tiredness, and I had to give up half way through. (Annoying, as on a good day I find that the emotion and the dark bloodiness of the song tend to make me feel as though I’ve been punched hard in the solar plexus). I had no idea until now that he’d picked it for that day’s song … now that’s spooky!

    In fact, since I recorded the version which Mzz Beee has cited for private use, I’ve added a final verse

    ” Then he took out his knife and cut his single thread of life
    In that bloody garden where his true love lay.
    “Oh my virgin beauty bright, my joy and my heart’s delight
    Now we both shall meet all in that garden fair”

    For many years I resisted the temptation to add an extra verse, although I knew that there were printed versions around with at least two different versions of ending (in one he also kills his mother as well as himself ) as I felt the version that I had learned – in my case from the admirable singing of Arthur Knevett (a ballad singer of some skill, who in turn had also taken his version from A L Lloyd), was quite satisfactory – until I found a link (in the first instance) to a facsimile of the “The Bloody Gardener’s Cruelty; or The Shepherd’s Daughter betrayed” at

    This is a copy of the ballad held in the National Library of Scotland’s archives … and a great deal longer than any recorded version I have come across …I then found various other printed versions of the longer ballad, and at long last I had found a verse that I wanted to add.

    There are quite a few other recordings available – I believe Maggie Boyle recorded one, I’ve found a recording by a group called Gulliver’s Spree (which I have to admit I’m none too sure I like), and Notts Alliance certainly recorded it – if you Google you will find many more – so it has not exactly been neglected . Since first singing it myself in public at the National Folk Music Festival (sadly missed) in 1999 I have come across four other singers who have it in their repertoire – the first of these being Sue Burgess at that particular Festival … who ran after to me to enquire where I had come across it, as at that point she had never come across anyone else who sang it. She had gleaned it from Maud Karpeles’ Newfoundland collection herself . A year later I bumped into the Kent singer Marian Button – who had learned her version from Martin Carthy’s recording … and the three of us (who jokingly refer to ourselves as the BG’s because of this) usually have to check out with each other if we are intending to sing the ballad at any session where we all happen to be present … which has been on more than one occasion 🙂

    The song’s fascination for me was initially the verse which refers to the dove fluttering above the grave, bleeding drops of blood onto it … which for me recalled the rather vivid and gory fairy stories in the various collection such as The Lilac Fairy Story Book which I had been given to read as a child.

    It took me about six months of singing it before I realised that the story in the version sung by Martin Carthy and Arthur Knevett ( I had never heard Lloyd’s version) actually left out huge chunks of the story …. for instance, the reason for the mother’s unpleasant action at the start of the story is never specified. In singing it I had supplied the material to bridge the gaps … to a large degree they didn’t matter.

    It’s a stunningly satisfying song to sing if, like me, you like singing songs which have a sense of dark power in them !!

    Shame I didn’t quite make it on Sunday … roll on Sidmouth – I’ll have another go 🙂

  10. For Sunday 19th July – read Sunday 18th July … it was a long weekend at the BradfieldTraditional Music Weekend ! 😉

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  12. Jane Ramsden says:

    A great song, and thank you, Irene, for your wonderfully-detailed informative post, which I must have missed first time around.

    I see the gardening spam is back… compost… I can think of another word for it… hahahaha!

  13. Diana says:

    Vaguely familiar – overtones of another song perhaps. Nicely done though.

  14. Linda says:

    @Diana, rose purchased ready to go!!!
    Nice video on the link.

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

    @Irene Shettle………the myspace link has a problem but the lady can be seen on her youtube site…….while browsing her site I came across a couple of old friends that played for ‘the Bismarks’…small world…AFSAD influence yet again!

  16. Linda says:

    Can’t believe it is 10 years since Diana and I were getting ready for meeting up at The Lowry see comments 2012

  17. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Awwwww Lindy Lou…that Daina keeps popping up in our memories and you actually met her.
    Ref Irene Shettle in comments above.. I actually see her on the ‘Guildford folk club zoom sessions….ain’t technology wonderful….and blimey, IT AINT ‘ARF OT MUM! and due to be a UK temperature, record breaking day tomorrow before the weather breaks on Thursday.
    Ref the song….oooer…too gruesome for me so please don’t write even MORE verses!

  18. OldMuzza(NWSurreyUK) says:

    Ha…..last year we had the heat (I’d already forgotten about it) and this year we are chilly and Europe and America qre getting record breaking temps!!

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