With this one Jon has confused me somewhat, he says “It’s an unusual melody this with a sharpened fourth that I learnt from Anne Briggs.”
I can add that I haven’t been able to track down an Anne Briggs version of this at all, even under a couple of other possible title variants. Reinhard at Mainly Norfolk is also doubtful, so if anyone knows different please enlighten us. I’ve asked Jon and he’s now unsure himself. Anyway, June Tabor has certainly recorded it and Mainly Norfolk has that covered. It comes from Sarah Mackem and it’s interesting to see this described at MN as her “greatest contribution to the annals of folk song.” I say that because there’s a suggestion on this Mudcat thread that she composed this. There are possibly similar songs or simple variations of this called The Forsaken Mother And Child, The Cruel Father, It Was On A Winter’s Morning and The Snowstorm. The theme of the women left literally holding the baby is fairly common and the inference is that there is a gulf in class, probably between a family heir and a servant girl. The former takes the money or is despatched off by the wealthy parents rather than doing his duty, so hence the warning to others at the end that is once again a fairly common folk-lesson device. I think a similar plotline was used in an episode of Lark Rise… or some such BBC costme drama. Still, wherever Jon got it from (and let’s face I can hardly remember what day it is so no criticism is implied), it’s a haunting little number, sharply economical in the telling of a tragedy.
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