Jon says, “I learnt this at the behest of Derek Schofield who was programming a Vaughan Williams night at Cecil Sharp House a few years ago. Most of the concert is on YouTube including this one done on concertina, so I thought I’d try it on guitar for variety.”
I had a feeling that it was all going to go badly from the opening verse of carefree ease, but does that make me a pessimist or a folk-song-realist. Another cautionary tale and lesson that has a heavy ‘know your place and accept your lot’ feel to it, with a fatal dose of don’t slight your superiors. The poor lad ultimately seems damned whatever course he follows. This story is a popular plotline and a version of it was used by Henry Fielding (a magistrate by trade!) in his tales of Joseph Andrew, although the consequences are less severe. This also has one of those warnings from beyond the grave conundrums hovering over it. Anyway it seems to be popular and an often printed broadside on both sides of the Atlantic according to the notes on Hedy West’s version, which you can read at Mainly Norfolk. That’s supported by this Mudcat thread as well, which also offers a Cornish variant, although I get the sense that the location of the apprentice is flexible enough to suit the singer. The same grim outcome remains.
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