Bonny Bunch Of Roses


Jon calls this “One of my favourite songs and it seems appropriate for the anniversary of the death of Napoleon, even though it’s primarily about his son. This version is learnt from Barry Dransfield’s brilliant album Be Your Own Man – now available on iTunes!”

I must say I really like this one and Jon’s fiddle is a great accompaniment to what is a pretty fetching melody. I’ll refer you to Mudact here as a starter, which suggests the florid language points to a broadside. I think I’d have to agree that it has the feel of a composition in the complexity of the words and you need to have your wits about you to follow it through the first couple of times. Mainly Norfolk has the notes of Bert Lloyd and Nic Jones to explore a little further. Bert’s suggestion of Irish origin, is really based on the ‘my enemies enemy’ principal and quite how far spread the idea of Napoleon as a potential saviour spread is not something I know enough about. There is a certain appeal to the notion and the republican in me rises to the idea, but Bonaparte was flawed and his critics would have him as a tyrannical dictator. The counter is that Napoleon was attacked by those who sought to unpick the effects of the French Revolution before it spread. As usual I have a large hole in the walls of the knowledge bank and empty shelves where all this stuff should be. Best I offer a Wiki link to Napoleon with a note to self to read it all properly over the week off. If any of you feel inclined to prompt my studies further, however, please chip in as this has ‘another project’ written all over it. Still as I said I really like this one and though I still have April as my favourite month of the whole thing, May could eclipse it yet.



22 Responses to “Bonny Bunch Of Roses”

  1. StephenH says:

    Great song, and well sung. The fiddle accompaniment is perfect, supporting ,not overwhelming, the vocal. Here’s a link to an article by Vic Gammon on the Musical Traditions website, called “The Grand Conversation:
    Napoleon and British Popular Balladry”

  2. the_otter says:

    That was great! Definitely the best version of ABBoR that I’ve heard. Loved the fiddle accompaniment.

  3. Dick Ansell says:

    Like StephenH, I was also reminded of “Grand Conversation” which I learned from the singing of Barry Dransfield on “Unruly”, which is a wonderful miscellany of songs and fiddle tunes.

  4. Rosie says:

    Lovely version of this. (To be honest though, the fiddle always sounds pretty amazing.)
    Barry Dransfields version on “Unruly” does take some beating though.
    Like many others I’m wondering what will happen to this site when the end comes.
    It’s been brilliant and I would really miss it! There must be lots of ideas out there….

  5. Matthew Edwards says:

    A lovely song, and very nice to hear Jon singing it. But please also listen to the magnificent version sung by Phil Tanner, “The Gower Nightingale”.

    Well done for remembering the anniversary of Napoleon’s death. I enjoyed Jon’s earlier performance of ‘The Dream of Napoleon’, and I think Simon may be right about the admiration of Napoleon among some British radicals – probably more after he was safely dead, but it is a topic that needs a lot more research.


  6. Stephen Jeffreys says:

    Fascinating song and great performance. Like Matthew Edwards I’m impressed that (as so often) a song resonates with a particular day.

    There was a strong pro-Napoleon faction in Britain throughout his career. Lord Byron was an admirer but he changed his mind once Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor. He had hoped that Napoleon would lead the charge against tyranny and, at that moment, became disillusioned. When HMS Bellerephon, with Bonaparte aboard as a prisoner, came within view of Plymouth, hundreds of local people cheered him when he appeared on deck. And, further afield, Beethoven is said to have dedicated the Eroica symphony to Napoleon, but tore up the dedication, again when NB made himself Emperor.

  7. Dave Eyre says:

    Joe Heaney explained the Irish love of ballads about Napoleon by saying that the Irish were looking for a liberator, and saw Napoleon as a liberator. (He went on to say “And they still are looking for a liberator”).

    This was about 1963 though!

  8. Jan says:

    I’ve mentioned this before, but the Chieftains’ album/CD Bonaparte’s Retreat consists of tunes and songs connected to Napoleon and is one of my favourites.

    Bonny Bunch of Roses is on my ‘to learn’ list, has been for some time but I haven’t got to grips with it yet. Thanks Jon for your lovely version.

  9. Diana says:

    Enjoyed this one very much – have always had a sneaking regard for Napoleon. Had he tackled Moscow in the summer history may well have been re-written.

  10. Phil says:

    I had a Napoleon period at 52 Folk Songs last November. You can hear my take on this and a few other Napoleon-related songs over here.

  11. Muzza (N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Enjoyed this and enjoyed watching it on Mainly Norfolk vid even more.

  12. Diana says:

    Two for the price of one Muzza. Mainly Norfolk often gives us an extra go doesn’t it?
    What have you been up to recently – you have been very quiet re: your women.

  13. Jane Ramsden says:

    Beautiful fiddle, beautifully delivered. Really liked this one, and I’m not a big Bonaparte song fan.

  14. Jane Ramsden says:

    Excellent short web entry about Joe Heaney here:

  15. Jonathan says:

    In Bert Lloyd’s notes, he refers to street singers, again suggesting that it was probably a broadside.

  16. Diana says:

    Just watching a programme on Fleetwood Mac on iPlayer – I suppose they qualify as Folk Musicians – althougb they seemed to cover many facets of musiic. Whether I am right I don’t know but hope someone will tell me.

  17. Reynard says:

    Oh dear, don’t open the can of worms of what is folk music… Just stick to the golden rule of US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: “I know it when I see it” (yes, that was coined on another topic, but fits equally well here).

  18. Diana says:

    Ta for your honest opinion – I could not decide at all, although part of me thought they qualified as Folk with the words and music being written by them – but as some of the songs seemed strange to my ears I was not too sure, Consider the can of worms closed Reynard and I will take the advice of you and Justice Stewart.

  19. Peter Hawkey says:

    This is one of my favourite songs, I’ve been singing it for years. I heard Fiddler’s Dram sing this many moons ago then found the words in an old copy of the Oxford Book of Light Verse where it is subtitled “a County Tyrone ballad of Napoleon and his Mother”

  20. Diana says:

    Still enjoy listening to this one!

  21. Diana says:

    Another one I like very much.

  22. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Ref Jon’s video on Mainly Norfolk…………
    who says fellas can’t multitask…
    in Bonnie Bunch of roses….he sings whilst tuning guitar despite distracting drone from a barrage of concertinas-what a pro!
    Oh Lordy………I’ve listened to this song a day early!

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