Jon attributes this “As sung by Ian Giles at the Half Moon. I’m not sure where he got it from but I’m using a mixture of words remembered from him and words from Dick Gaughan, which seem pretty close to Ian’s version. As to the story, good riddance I say (to him, not the sisters.)”
Some of you may be familiar with Nic Jones’ version which you’ll find at Mainly Norfolk. This is another of the Child Ballads #14 in this case and very much of the senseless murder variety although not realising it’s your own sisters you’re slaying, as some of the versions including Jon’s have it, is very careless indeed. In the some of the variants the third sister is saved by a brother. It’s interesting to note that this is another of the epics that seem to be widespread across Europe, although I wonder which is the more common storyline. It’s also appeared across the Atlantic and it’s interesting to see Nic’s version transcribed at Mainly Norfolk concluding with the baddy being fed to the rattlesnakes, which immediately identifies that as from the USA. I ran across a Mudcat thread that debated the ‘wee pen knife’ that seems to be a common enough weapon of choice for the murderously minded. I must admit it seems a curious description for the fatal implement, but realistically appears too often to be any sort of mis-translation. Wiki here to see the variations as collected by Child.