Sheffield Apprentice


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.

You can buy the February digital album now from all good download stores.


41 Responses to “Sheffield Apprentice”

  1. John Monk says:

    Could be just me. Just made a few changes to my PC. But for the first time on AFSAD ‘File not Found’!

  2. Ceryswyn says:

    Same here 🙁

  3. Simon Dewsbury says:

    It’s working now. And life’s not fair.

    I think it works very well with the guitar.

  4. LadyD says:

    Ah….are you referring to the video I took? 😉 Thought it was a great concert.

  5. LadyD says:

    The elements of the story kind of reminds me of the story of Joseph and Potifars wife….
    Enjoyed listening to this one.

  6. Rosie says:

    What a cracking good story.I’ve never heard this before, and such a lovely tune as well . Oh the wrath of a woman!

  7. Simon says:

    Are those having problems using i.e? If so it might be that you need to update your flash player although it should tell you if there is a problem. But I opened up i.e in response to this just to check and found that I was prompted to do that before the track would play. You might also like to try Firefox or Google Chrome as alternative browsers. I use the former almost exclusively and while it’s not perfect it’s a bit more cuddly than microsoft’s standard browser. I am assured that the latter is even better, buit just haven’t got round to trying it.

  8. Shelley says:

    That is a lovely song – again, another one I’ve not heard before.

  9. Jan says:

    Is that Jon on guitar? – it’s a lovely piece of playing, and suits the song very well.

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

    Look out Jon Boy…here comes Mr Picky yet again……….”She slipped the ring into my pocket”……it could have been a gift………….. you missed the line/verse that said he “ROBBED ” her…Any first time listeners could be confused….OR DAFT OLD PEDANTS LIKE ME.

  11. Jane Ramsden says:

    I am a first time listener, Muzza, and permanently confused! However, if someone slipped a gold ring in my ‘know your place’ pocket, I don’t think I would mistake for other than a cunning plot and get rid! Poor innocent lad did not find out in time obviously. I was brought up with a hefty dose of know your place in an immutable pecking order and your betters are always your betters, so accept your lot. Hence, I have a lot of empathy for this song!

    The browser on my swishy new Toshiba is IE again, but I can recommend Google Chrome as I used it almost exclusively afore the big pc crash (save IE for Microsoft updates). Not tried Firefox, but have friends who swear by it.

    Beautiful guitar, Jon.

  12. Non Woven says:

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  13. Diana says:

    Another song without a happy ending. Still “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” as the old saying goes. I like the guitar accompaniment rather than the concertina? (couldn’t see it very well) on a previous version on Mainly Norfolk today.

  14. Roo Ramsden says:

    Yes, lovely guitar to an otherwise unfortunate tale, but I like the song very much. Thanks, Jon.

    The mention of Percy Grainger’s cylinder recording of this song by Joseph Leaning prompted me to look Grainger up. This Wiki link reveals him as a talented, but complicated, and ultimately rather sad personality:

    We remember him mostly for his ‘Country Gardens’ that came back to haunt him in later years as he fell out of love with it. But here is the man himself, playing it rather jauntily methinks on the old Joanna:

  15. Roo Ramsden says:

    I could not find owt on Joseph Leaning on a quick internetty research, tho’ I note Reinhard’s MN has an entry on Joseph Taylor, whom Percy Grainger worked with a lot and regarded as one of the finest folk voices in the country at the time. I was pleased to be reminded that there are 2 Percy Grainger trad arr’d songs on my Home Service’s ‘Alright Jack’ (courtesy of Pierre Walsh, ‘cos it also has my favourite ‘Babylon Is Fallen’. Thanks again, Pierre!)

    PS Diana, The cat trap has arrived! Jolly times for me in the cold, dark nights this week!

  16. Diana says:

    Glad the cat trap has arrived. I don’t envy you out in the cold and dark. It is supposed to be up to minus l0 degrees this week so wrap up.

    Muzza back to 29/1 and complete the task I have set you there.

  17. Muzza(NW Surrey.UK) says:

    @Diana…………the longest word in the English language…..hmmmmm…….
    could it be ‘smiles’……there is a mile between the first and last letter…..ta dah!!!!

  18. Diana says:

    Smarty pants! Muzza you have heard that one before. Well it didn’t keep you out of mischief for long did it? I shall have to try harder to stump a clever clogs like you.

  19. Muzza(NW Surrey.UK) says:

    @Diana………we must buy the same brand of Christmas Cracker!

  20. Diana says:

    Yes we must. By the way saw your remark “about the pits” and chose to ignore it thinking it was below me to reply to you. Get it?!!!

  21. Diana says:

    Reynard I meant to ask you, did you smuggle your little friend into see Bellowhead’s mascot? I noticed you said it was a wind-up doll. Does it play the xylophone and more to the point what does she play?

  22. Diana says:

    A tad doleful!

  23. Simon says:

    Is anyone out there? I’m back and have just reset the ball rolling. I have also been trying to tidy up the humungous amounts of spam, so apologies if I’ve deleted anything legitimate comments wise. For anyone who is wondering what the hell is going on and where all of the music has gone to, the songs will once again start appearing each day at just after the witching hour in the UK. Of course you can still find each month’s songs to buy either as a complete set or track by track.

    I really should be in bed, but having got things going again thought, I’d do a bit more house keeping.

    If anyone is looking in and want to comment please jump in.

    If anyone missed it first second or third time around this is how it’s supposed to work, it is after all a folk song a day.

    Enjoy it and I look forward to catching up with a few people and hopefully meeting some ones too.

    TTFN, Admin Simon.

  24. Jane Ramsden says:

    Hulloooo! Welcome back, Skyman! And the songs and comments, of course. I’m sure we can add value to what’s already been said… hahahahaha! But not now, as nearly 3am, and I must to bed! Have a folk gig tonight, so more of that & other stuff later, when hopefully more AFSADDERS will appear. Yeh!

  25. old Muzza(N.W surrey.UK) says:

    So here we are again………….Admin Simon.what are you like eh!…
    talk about opening Pandora’s box…slamming the lid and reopening it !!
    I hope we don’t let you down with uncouth comments and lewd sayings…
    It’s that Diana that needs watching!
    Thanks to Janey for putting it about…….the news of AFSAD being back

    the countdown clock that appeared when I clicked on to the site aid another hour or so to the start

  26. Diana says:

    Great news Simon. Been sadly missed. But Muzza, why do I need watching? Do hope all the regulars get the good news.

  27. Diana says:

    Great to hear Jon again but still a mournful song on such an auspicious day – the return of AFSAD.

  28. Linda says:

    Glad to have you back Admin Simon bet you’ve been busy sorting all that spam!
    Will try to keep up this time round . Hopefully Jon will join us from time to time .
    Looking forward to another taste of AFSAD with old friends and hopefully some new ones.

  29. Jane Ramsden says:

    Hello All! Welcome back! It is the ursine ‘cat-botherer’ here, having foddered all the felines, including former entire tom Tippoo the Tyger in his dog-cage after being fettled at the vets on Friday! Lol.

    But to the musical business in hand, it is AF-SAD to be starting out with our poor young ‘Sheffield Apprentice’ again and his naivety in choosing the lady’s maid over the lady! Methinks his punishment greatly exceeds his ‘crime,’ but a woman scorned and all that, esp when the woman was well above his station. The lasting appeal of this song must lie in the gentle refrain contrasting with the very harsh and unjust treatment of a lad constant to his lass to the end. He has the moral high ground over his higher-born mistress.

    To lighten this dark a bit, I have just been to a lovely folk gig at Otley Courthouse to see the very uplifting Chris Quinn, another Sheffield Apprentice, as he goes into a Sheffield studio today to record his first solo album. This exceptional musician, songwriter and performer has been described as ‘a master of the acoustic guitar’ by Maverick Magazine. As the biographical blurb on his website says: “Heavily influenced by British folk and roots music. his songs have been critically acclaimed in the music press. Chris’ shows cover a wide range of contemporary acoustic music alongside his own songs, from beautiful interpretations of British folk songs to inventive flat-picked tunes, and from mean finger-style delta blues to instrumental solo guitar pieces.” Check out his web site here:

    – but he can also be found on FaceBook and YouTube (not to be confused with the American banjo-playing Chris Quinn!)

    Delivered with a gentle dry humour and audience empathy, his performance is less fusion & more the ability to switch with consummate ease between song styles and musical forms. You can sample various songs under the Media section of his website. I recommend (his own song) ‘The Call Of Home’ and (Matty Groves) ‘Shady Grove,’ but also ‘Sporting Life Blues.’ The latter features on his album with Arthur Ebeling called ‘The Odd Couple’ (blues, jazz, Django), but his forthcoming solo album is more self-penned folky songs with English and American flavours to be called ‘The Great Divide.’ It will feature some impressive collaborative musicians – Eamonn Coyne (banjo Salsa Celtica, currently duetting with Kris Drever), Dan Cassidy (violin, brother of the late Eva Cassidy) and percussionist Cormac Byrne (Uiscedwr, Show of Hands’ ‘Wake the Union.’) Sign up to Chris’ mailing list for advance notice of the album and future gigs. You can do this under Contact on his website.

    (I first saw Chris supporting no other than Mr Spiers and Mr Boden, which he said he found somewhat testing! I can only say that, from the majority audience point-of-view, he more than held his own. Can’t wait for the new album!)

    It’s turned 3am (again!) so I’m off to bed to an appropriate song…

  30. Jane Ramsden says:

    Ooops! Late night/early morning correction, & apologies to Chris! I think I got the title of his forthcoming album wrong. I should have said ‘Across The Divide’ – I was getting confused with Nancy Griffiths’ ‘Great Divide.’ Why do these things always come to you the minute you’ve proofed and posted, then proofed again! Lol. You’ll remember it all the more now!

  31. old Muzza(N.W surrey.UK) says:

    @Jane………….oh…it’s ‘early morning Correction’….misread that…….mouldygrene..see two days hence

  32. Jane Ramsden says:

    Mouldygrene? Would expect nothing else from you, Old Frog! Hahahahaha! When are you going to drop the ‘Old’ prefix to your name? Your spirit is young! x

  33. Old Muzza(NW Surrey.UK says:

    Will I ever learn……..just clicked on ‘Lady D’ link at the top and there goes another few hours watching Jon and Fay videos aaarrrggghhh!!!
    I also seem to be doing a ‘Harry Nielson’ and filling up the RSS comments feed
    (i.e. all by myself!)
    Oh….and happy February everyone and for the archive…Dear old Terry Wogan fell off his perch yesterday

  34. Linda says:

    Help is at hand Muzza . anybody in the Buxton area Fay Hield on at the Pavilion Theatre Thursday Night …… sorry not near to you Muzza

  35. old Muzza(N.W.Surrey-UK) says:

    Blimey…….first of Feb already…….can Spring be far behind…wooHoo

  36. John Bryson says:

    A year on Muzza, where does the time go?!

  37. OldMuzza NW Surrey UK says:

    A leap year to boot …….now what to do with that extra day…start planning now

  38. Jane (Maryland, US) says:

    The song that plays today is not the song referred to in all the comments above! It’s about an apprentice, but it’s yet another tale of a young man murdering his sweetheart. Well sung, of course, but evidently not “Sheffield Apprentice.” I’ll have to go track that one down now!

  39. OldMuzza (NWSurrey UK) says:

    Hi Jane (Maryland US)…….so glad you put your location
    Yes…you are right….as noted in the leader notes….the apprentice changes his hometown depending on the singer

  40. Jane (Maryland) says:

    A year later and it’s still the wrong song, but this year I recognized the song that plays as The Prentice Boy, the song from Sept. 1. But why didn’t I play the YouTube video of Sheffield Apprentice (kindly provided by LadyD) last year? A wonderful performance of a tragic story.

  41. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Just looked again at Briers Bushes video (see comment number 4 above)
    Does young Jon really Need a microphone!!!

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