Sweet Mossom


Jon says, “Very Sussex this. Sung by Shirley Collins on the brilliant Voices album on Fellside.”

Sussex through and through as appropriately enough it’s in the Copper archive, collected by Bob from a Harold “Jim” Swain who got it from a shepherd near Felpham. Hastings’ born Shirley Collins originally recorded this for her Adieu To Old England and she described it as “a little confused,” but was suitably taken with it to record it as she found it. This seems to have several variant takes on Mossom, Mossen, Mossing, etc, although none of them actually seem to have much meaning for the word. There is, however, a River Mosson in France and the trade back and forth between Southern England and our near neighbour may account for a cross-channel origin, although that’s pure speculation. Mainly Norfolk has Shirley’s recordings noted and you can also link to Mudact here although it doesn’t really add much.



15 Responses to “Sweet Mossom”

  1. Simon Dewsbury says:

    I’m afraid that I don’t believe that an English folk song is going to include a reference to a French river, especially as nothing else is remotely French. According to Mr Google the surname Mossom goes back to the 16th Century and is derived from ‘son of moll’, maybe originally from the north East. Maybe the original writer of the lyrics just liked the sound of the word – I do.

    Anyway, a lovely lilting version of a lovely lilting song.

  2. Peter Walsh says:

    I agree Simon, the sound of the word perfectly fits the mood of the song, so it doesn’t matter what it really means! A peaceful, serene tune to match a beautiful sunny morning here.

  3. Diana says:

    A lovely gentle song conjuring up a beatiful summer’s day full of sunshine.

    Pewter you are extremely lucky with your sunshine. Here and not too many miles away cloudy and dull – hope it improves.

  4. Diana says:

    What is beatiful – it was supposed to be beautiful.

  5. Muzza(NW Surrey.UK) says:

    Nancy was a very popular name in folk songs…….I seem to recollect it was a ‘secret name ‘for whisky…I could be wrong(Chas McDevitt&Nancy whisky from skiffle days)

  6. Jane Ramsden says:

    Despite putting the anorak on, I was unable this year or now to find out owt about ‘sweet mossam’ – I know! Beggars belief!

    @ Muzza – ye are thinking of ‘Freight train, freight train, going so fast…’ are ye not? The singer, Nancy Whiskey, took her name from an old folky song called ‘The Calton Weaver’ from the early 1900s. He spent all his money on ‘the drink’, so the song is the usual cautionery tale!

    Come all ye weavers, Calton weavers
    A’ ye weavers where’er ye be
    Beware of whiskey, Nancy Whiskey
    She’ll ruin you as she ruined me.

    Calton is now part of Glasgow methinks, and here’s a proper Scottish rendition of the song:


    You can find the lyrics here as well, and 2 very pertinent historical comments, which give a clue as to why a Calton Weaver might have turned to the drink! Shades of the Lister’s Mill strike here in Bradford, and much worse by the sound of it.

  7. Jane Ramsden says:

    This link tells a bit more about the Calton Weavers’ strike. It’s an article from Scotland’s Evening Times on how a friend’s society has been set up (in 2007) to restore both the graves and the story of the Calton Weavers.


    I first found out that 3 weavers had been killed, but this article says 6, but only 3 were known by name. Amazing and sad that the others died and are not even identified. Well, they are remembered on AFSAD today! As ye know, I am very sympathetic to mill workers from t’olden days!

  8. Muzza(NW Surrey.UK) says:

    @Jane……….thanks for the links….great song & pics on the Calton Video.
    Ref ChasMcDevitt/skiffle..we played for the same youth football team and meet at friends funerals!(My only other claim to fame was that I used to go out with King Hussain’s first wife-Princess Muna, when she was 13!)
    I forgot to say that I like the song “Sweet Mossom” and hope to learn it one day.

  9. Jane Ramsden says:

    Sweet Mossom, another mystery possibly solved! – From A Folk Song A Week: ‘This song has been referred to under a variety of titles: Banks of the Mossen, Mossem, Mossom, Mossing… but Mike Tristram, in a discussion on the Tradsong list, says:

    ‘Mossen’ in my understanding is a Saxon plural, ie ‘mosses’, rather than the name of a river; in other words it is ‘mossy banks’ good for lambs and love, rather than riverbanks.’

    I had had this idea missen from the Ash Hutchings/Chris While song called ‘Mossing We’ll Go’ on the Ridgeriders In Concert CD from 2001. Great album, also with Phil Beer.

  10. Phil says:

    Here’s mine, recorded in my kitchen-sink phase:

    The banks of the Mossom

  11. Diana says:

    Still like this one – a gentle summery song.

  12. Linda says:

    Bury met last night to see Jon and the Remnant Kings , suberb! can recommend.The after show sing song was enjoyable including Jon singing Dont go out to night father dear.

  13. Priscilla Jensen says:

    This is UNCANNY . . without having seen the website in ages, I spent the 8th singing and trying to remember Banks of Sweet Mossom . . no kidding, at all!

  14. Old Muzza(N.W surrey.UK) says:

    Soooooo…..looking back at the comments……….absolutely NOBODY was impressed with my claims to fame!!!..both true

  15. Diana says:

    I wonder why MUzza.
    Still a summery song!

Your Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /customers/a/0/f/afolksongaday.com/httpd.www/wp-content/themes/comment-central/comments.php on line 121