Maid On The Shore


I can see what Jon means as he calls this “A crazy tune that takes some learning! We did a version of this song with Eliza And The Ratcatchers but this version is from Frankie Armstrong.”

Magic or simple cunning? Either way the maid in question does a nifty job of getting herself out of a tight spot. I’m guessing that the moonlight adds to the suggestion of a supernatural event and the sleeve notes for Martin Carthy’s version, as included on The Bird In The Bush also pick up on that as you’ll see on Mainly Norfolk. You’ll also find a YouTube video of Eliza & The Ratcatchers on the page. There are a number of threads circling around this on Mudcat, but I’ve not been able to pin down anything especially fascinating, although there is an extra verse about the maid suggesting she was somewhat lovelorn and hence prone to wander alone on the shore-o. You’ll see that both Eliza and Rachel McShane have included that if you compare and contrast the versions on the above link. It’s an interesting contrast to note the more recent versions start with this verse, which makes me wonder from whence it came. Someone more diligent than I might turn up a pearl on this. Please share it if you do.


16 Responses to “Maid On The Shore”

  1. John D says:

    Back in the 1970s I learned a different version of this, found in a copy of Maud Karpeles’ “Folk Songs from Newfoundland” that I borrowed from Westminster Library. It was called The Sea Captain (presumably because the first line was “It’s of a sea captain that ploughs the salt seas …”) and had a slightly more decorous plot in that the captain tells the “beautiful damsel” that “first you shall lie in my arms all this night / And the next you shall marry me, dear” rather than promising her to the rest of the crew. (It also ends more abruptly — “and she paddled away for the shore” — missing out the sailors’ attempts to work out what had happened to them.)
    Soon after that I heard Bert Lloyd sing this version — at a considerably faster speed than Jon’s version — in a folk club in Leyton.This version doesn’t seem to be alluded to in Mainly Norfolk despite Lloyd’s name being evoked.

  2. Mark says:

    What a strange story! I like this one as there don’t seem to be many similar stories.

    Love Eliza’s harmony-fest version, and this one took a while (rather a more difficult tune), but it’s gorwn on me a lot. Ta Jon!

  3. Shelley says:

    Another favourite, and it’s on that ever-growing “to learn” list.

    A much freer interpretation than Eliza’s or Rachael’s, but I enjoyed it, even though I do like a bit of harmony singing.

  4. Sol says:

    Here’s Newfoundland’s The Once doing Maid on the Shore. I think it’s just a straight cover of the Solas version, but I like The Once.

  5. Jane Ramsden says:

    All versions excellent!

    Perhaps the girl in question only took the sailors’ wares in retribution for their impure intentions. A song of comeuppence!

  6. Georgigirl says:

    I’m with Mark – there are few enough folk songs about heroines that make their own fate and score a happy ending! I love the melody of this, for all it’s ups and downs. For those looking for other renditions, there’s also a pacy version on Niamh Parsons’ ‘Blackbirds and Thrushes’ without accompaniment.

  7. Diana says:

    Hoorah for the maiden. The captain and the crew got their comeuppance – what a rotten lot of sailors they were, and what a fate lay in store for the poor girl had she not be so clever.

  8. Diana says:

    Reynard I have clicked on your suggested link for “KitchenSongs” but am I missing something? How does one access it – it doesn’t appear to be on the radio. Does one read it? I am probably in my stupid mode today but I have returned to said link several times and still don’t get it. By the way Easter is around the corner. Is this an occasion for your red and green socks. Back to my silly sense of humour so may not get a response.

  9. Reynard says:

    Diana, until now it’s just an announcement. The first content is supposed to be there on April 5, see the orange (and not red and green) note on the top right.

  10. Diana says:

    Thanks again – I read the orange banner but still did not connect it – ah well, like I said I am not very bright today. I still would have preferred the red and green to the orange though, much nicer colours. I must day I agree with old Omar Khayyam (is this spelt correctly) with his “the moving finger writes etc” cos I wish I could have cancelled half a line or so from previous message.

  11. Diana says:

    @Jane I have put a message for you on the previous song – it was supposed to be here.

  12. Muzza (N.W.Surrey-UK) says:

    @Diana….Ref Reinhards link to Kichen songs on yesterday’s AFSAD….the site is up and running and well worth a visit….lots of interviews with folk legends and performances;-)

  13. Phil says:

    Here’s my Maid on the Shore (from the Red album), learned from Carthy & Swarb.

    Quoting myself: My original plan was to accompany myself ‘live’ on the concertina; my original plan didn’t survive my first attempt to play the tune.

  14. Linda says:

    love the Eliza and the Ratcatchers version,
    see yesterdays comments for programnes to catch up with on i player

  15. Old Muzza (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Oh woe is me……………I thought we’d be back to lil ol’ UK today but Noooooo…..bally politicians playing havoc.

  16. OldMuzza (NWSurrey UK) says:

    Wondered what the heck I was on about on my last year’s comment and then realised it was Brexit!………oh… I wish it was Brexit now and not all this REAL worrying time.

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