Child Morris


A version of this appeared on the Spiers & Boden Songs CD with the same tune and Jon Says, “This is one of a number of ballads that I’ve set to a popular English country dance, in this case The Dark Girl Dressed In Blue. Martin Carthy first (?) employed this trick setting The Maid And The Palmer to From Night Till Morn’. Since many instrumental tunes started life as song melodies it seems very natural to reverse the process.” The notes  about the track on Songs say “Or Gil Maurice (Gil Morice and Bill Norrie also -admin)- once a very well known ballad in Scotland inspiring tawdry dramatic adaptations and cropping up all over the place in various ballad versions. Our version is based on a version collected from Banffshire in 1826 from Widow Michael, a very old woman.”  Fittingly it’s also Child Ballad #83 and is likely to prove one of the hardest for anyone to learn on account of its length. As usual, Mainly Norfolk turns up trumps with details of the recordings and you’ll also find some Mudcat here under one of the title variants (there are others, but Child Morris won’t get you anything.) Elsewhere, there are threads that pick at the similarities to Mattie Groves and Little Musgrave, with a Lord Bernard (Barnard) putting the titular subject to the sword in a jealous rage, although the reason here is somewhat different. If you have time this Mudcat thread, trying to nail Lord Barnard in history is quite entertaining, although somewhat futile. If you don’t have time, suffice to say that someone has plucked a reference to Musgrave being sung from a play apparently first performed in 1607.

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:


16 Responses to “Child Morris”

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

  2. muzza says:

    Wow…….the song was bowling along and I sat back expecting a “Little Musgrave” ending……….and the twist caught me by surprise……………….powerful song.

  3. Phil says:

    This. Is. The. Stuff!

    Absolutely the best yet. Just what I was hoping for from this series, only better. Thankyou, Jon!

    (And ditto about the twist ending. Nice one, Anon.)

  4. edith lewis says:

    They just get better and better

  5. Simon Dewsbury says:

    Perhaps it’s even sadder as a song than Little Musgrove; after all in that, at least it’s a conscious decision by someone to take a risk which goes wrong. Here, it’s just misunderstanding and human weakness. Grim. Wonderful.

  6. Andy says:

    This is one of my favourite songs from the Spiers & Boden collection. I’m glad it’s turned up so early on, it will keep me listening out for more gems of such quality!

  7. Jane Ramsden says:

    Well, I wouldna want to be wed to him! You think it’s going to be Matty Groves until the twist in the tail. Cracking! I’m staggered it’s not in the July voting list.

  8. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    I have just got to comment to say that I am still listening to the re-runs…
    we seem to have run out of comments in 2011 for the last couple of songs.

  9. Linda says:

    Love these epics. Been travelling to work with the Songs CD this week . It makes sitting in a queue quite painless!

  10. Diana says:

    A sorrowful tale indeed. Nicely sung Jon but I prefer your version on “Songs” I think the music does it for me.

  11. Linda says:

    Still enjoy the epics ( am now travelling with Revival)

  12. Linda says:

    Update travelling with Songs from the Floodplain

  13. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey) says:

    Aha Lindy Lou……..I was thinking you had fallen for ‘listening to tomorrows song early’ but I see you were burning the midnight oil of the 28th and waiting to fall into bed so I’ll forgive you 38minutes early!

  14. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey) says:

    That Lord Barnard has gained a bit of a reputation for Hot-headed acts of jealousy!….
    He’s a bit too quick and handy with that old broadsword…cutting bits off folk!
    I have just listened to the whole 7:03 minutes and I’d forgotten the grisly end…….how am I gonna sleep NOW!

  15. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Ok Ok….I have jumped ahead…only because our freak UK weather is sending down regular deluges of rain on a humid ‘Summer????!!!! day….and it is soooo dark.. I have had to put the lights on! at 4.45pm!
    Oh this is a chilling tale….I was mislead again by the victim’s name being ‘child’… was only when rechecking the lyric on Mainly Norfolk’s excellent site that I realised it wasn’t the page boy that was called child! (old blokes-I ask yer!)
    Why did Child think his mother was gross?….surely not just to make it rhyme!
    I might just pop ahead to tomorrow’s song to see if that will cheer me up.

  16. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    I fell for it again…looked a day ahead….oh no…not the dastardly Lord Barnard at it yet again…who’s for the chop this time…..horrific tale….and I ‘ll bet this sort of thing happened all the time in those torrid times.
    (I wonder if it was the same Lord Barnard’s castle that Dominic visited to test his eyes in more recent times? )

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