Down The Moor


Jon has taken this one “From Peter Bellamy although I heard the June Tabor / Martin Simpson first, both version are fabulous. Also heard Carthy sing it recently, also brilliant, and he made the pertinent point that there aren’t many courtship ballads where the girl, having accepted the boy’s advances, then says ‘right, that’s me, best be off’.”

A nice notion that one. I’ll refer you straight to Mainly Norfolk on this one, but with an almost immediate diversion to Mudcat as well. With the latter, scroll down to Malcolm Douglas’ entry, which has some interesting links off. You’ll see from that that Eddie Butcher’s notes with Robert Burns attribution  is unlikely. There are probable fragments or lines imported from elsewhere and the suggestion of songs with similar plotlines out there. Still, whether Scottish or Irish this is a lovely song and another highlight of a cracking month.



36 Responses to “Down The Moor”

  1. Phil says:

    What an odd coincidence – I heard (and joined in) this song for the first time last Wednesday at the singaround I go to, although we took it a bit more briskly. There seems to be a cluster of these songs – Queen Among the Heather, Bonnie Lass Amongst the Heather & Skippin’ Barfit Through The Heather are all recognisably the ‘same’ song, but all different.

    Incidentally, I’d love to hear Jon do QATH –
    “Now I’ve been to balls and I’ve been to halls
    I’ve been to London and Balquhidder”

    There’s posh.

  2. John Biggs says:

    First time of hearing this song and exquisite is the first word that comes to mind.
    Beautifully sung too!

  3. Peter Walsh says:

    I’ve only heard the ladies sing this one before, both taking it at a fair lick, as Phil alludes to having done; Ruth Notman did it splendidly live a couple of years ago at a Southport Folk Festival (I forget the name of the girl she was duetting with though) and it is of course on her Threads album. The other version I know is on June Tabor’s Anthology, kindly provided by Jane R; thanks Ted!!! Jon’s slower treatment is excellent and gets my May vote so far.

  4. johnone says:

    Loved it. Soaring voice and emotion. Very much to my taste and what a polite comment I make!

  5. Jane Ramsden says:

    Absolutely beautifully sung, Jon. Probably in my top ten of the whole year. So wonderful, it should satisfy any Aesthete!

  6. Diana says:

    Very lovely and emotional singing too.

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

    I liked the words to this song…the tune kept reminding me of “Shoals of Herring”.
    The chorus is unique, bizarre and wayward……..but gives the song its identity.
    At times, I did get the feeling that the needle had got stuck on ‘heather’ and ‘Moor’ but it’s a belter of a join -in chorus song (with harmonies!)
    Stated in the Mainly Norfolk notes..
    Robert Burns said ” Jean Glover was a whore and a thief….I took the song down from her singing as she was strolling through the country with a sleight-of-hand blackguard”
    Surely, if you were about your business and some fellow was stalking you with vellum and quill…noting everything you said……….you’d tell him to b****r off.

  8. Diana says:

    Muzza I also noted a word on Mainly Norfolk that I have never enountered before “unveracity” – lying I presume. I shall repair to the dictionary now to see if it is still in existence. Strange how these folk songs evolve and the stories behind them. Right not in Collins but in a much older dictionary Cassells revised edition 1953. One can learn something new every day. It means untruthful according to the definition.

  9. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    A year on and still one of my favourites. However, there is a degree of unveracity about the time of year in which this amorous dalliance took place. The first verse sets the month as May, but the second verse refers to the blooming heather. Now the heather native to the the hills and mountains of Britain does not come into bloom until late July or August. (Right, who said picky b****r ?)

    Diana, my Oxford dictionary does not have unveracity either, and my spell check does not like it , but I think it is far preferable to ‘economic with the truth’ which seems to be in vogue at the moment.
    Ah, the things you find to amuse yourself with, when the rain drives you in from the garden !

  10. Reynard says:

    I’ll ckeck tonight if I have mis-typed the liner notes with this unveracity word.

    My usual online dictionary doesn’t list it either but, in the forum, offers a citation from Jack London’s “Burning Daylight”:

    ” With the arrival of the first stampeders, Bonanza Creek woke up, and thereupon began a long-distance race between unveracity and truth, wherein, lie no matter how fast, men were continually overtaken and passed by truth “

  11. Diana says:

    John I was surprised that the OED does not carry the word, but knew that my old Cassells would come into its own sometime. I use it often as it does contain words that my newer dictionary doesn’t and vice versa. It has rather a lot of words with an “un” prefix which Collins doesn’t have.

    Reynard I do not think you have typed the wrong word seeing as I have found it in Cassells revised 1953 dictionary.

  12. Reynard says:

    Strange as it is, my New Shorter OED of 1993 does define unveracity, not surprisingly as “lack of veracity”.

  13. Diana says:

    Yipee – we have liftoff. Good new OED. Still if one did not know the meaning of veracity in the first place “lack of veracity” would not help much would it? Still Reynard thanks for clarifying the issue.

  14. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ John B (Welsh Marches): It depends on the heather! Calluna is sometimes referred to as ‘Summer (or Autumn) Heather’ to distinguish it from Erica, which is ‘Winter (or Spring) Heather.’

  15. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Diana, Reinhard et al: I use Cassell’s Dictionary all the time. In the absence of the massive full English Oxford, I find it is absolutely the best and very under-rated source of all sorts of folky-type & less common word meanings.

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    PS Chambers Dictionary is excellent as well!

  17. Diana says:

    @Jane, something else we have in common then. It is a really old Cassells, a reprint from 1919 when first published. It does seems to have a lot of words that others have not got. Very pleased to find “unveracity” there – a completely new word to moi. I just can’t think of anyway to use it – pity!

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

    My Collins book of ’86
    Throws veracity in the mix
    Truthful, honest and precise
    Someone with it is quite nice
    But I must inform,with great audacity
    I’ve reached capacity
    On unveracity……………and that’s the truth!

  19. Peter Walsh says:

    I must give my dictionaries the ‘Unveracity Challenge’ when I get home form work! I’ve got a few old ‘uns.

  20. Peter Walsh says:

    Form was meant to be ‘from’!

  21. Diana says:

    My I have opened a can of worms – quite unintentionally too. I love finding new words and this one jumped out at me on Mainly Norfolk. Out come all these dicationaries but as John B (W.M) wrote it passed some time for him when the rains came. I do like Pewter’s “Unveracity Challenge” very clever! Your poem is not be sneezed at either Muzza. Thanks to all concerned for looking it up anyway. We live and learn.

  22. Diana says:

    Gosh it is coming to something when I can’t even spell “dictionary” correctly – I must be slipping. I also missed “to” out at the sneezing bit. Never mind – I am sure you all understood.

  23. Reynard says:

    Strange how one suddenly notices words that one never knew before… I got Dave Arthur’s brand new A.L. Lloyd biography two day ago and, while reading it in the tube this morning, found this quote:

    “Born in 1920, [Meredith] was only a decade or so younger that Lloyd, so it would be the same Australia they were talking about, and he didn’t recognise veracity in Lloyd’s description of Australia.”

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

    I have just dumped all my dictionaries……
    ‘So what if I can’t spell Armageddon…….it’s not the end of the world!’

  25. Diana says:

    It is certainly a red letter day when I come across a “new” word. It does not happen very often, but when irt does it is straight to the dictionaries and then a new word is in my vocabulary. Surprisingly enough once met you find the word does pop upo again very soon after. Peculiar isn’t it?

  26. Diana says:

    Muzza you spelt it correctly and you have also been in the knife box I see. Good I cannot find any mistakes with my typing there. That’s a pleasant change.

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

    @Diana…every English dictionary has one word spelled ‘wrong’….Ta Daaaa

  28. Diana says:

    How write you are Muzza.

  29. Jane Ramsden says:

    He he he he he he!

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

    @Jane……….ref equality of the sexes..that you gals are so keen on…
    please amend comment above to ‘he, he, he ,he,he,he, …her,her,her,her,her’

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

    My goodness… reading the comments yet again…..what larks we got up to in the good old days……..even had old Reynard joining in with our meaningless and trivial mutterings.

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

    but then I perhaps lack a smidgen of veracity

  33. John Bryson says:

    Sitting in our garden in Leicestershire on a lovely Spring day, reading all the previous entries, which after a period of time look fresh – I hope that sounds OK?
    Anyway, this is a lovely song, great to hear it again.

  34. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Whoa John….your garden session sounds idyllic….with the lovely sunshine we are having.
    Lets hope we will be around to look back on these comments again NEXT year….some of us have age and viruses to combat
    Hey… you brother Bill still writing books

  35. John Bryson says:

    Hello Muzza,
    I’m often asked about being a relative to the famous writer – can’t claim any fame there, although I do have a cousin Bill in Dorset.
    I trust you are keeping the virus away – we are, touch wood, but a lovely Spring day last week has now turned into windy and damn well freezing!

  36. oldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Shame about the non famous relative connection John…..I have one of the famous fellow’s books and will think of you whenever I dust it!
    Hang in there!

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