Abe Carman


Jon identifies that “Bellamy was asked to re-write this for a revival of The Transports and I for one prefer this version. I think Bellamy always stuck by the Bert Lloyd version, although he did perform this one live. The “Carmen / alarming” is pushing it a bit, but the rest of the song makes up for it I think.”

Mainly Norfolk covers the rewrite with Bellamy’s note that the original version with Bert Lloyd cast as Abe Carman, but simply called The Robbers Song, was “deemed too lighthearted by the producers” for a production of The Transports at the Queen Elizabeth Hall In 83. He therefore rewrote it to give it more edge, which is the version that Jon performs here. Having listened to the original, Bert seems to inject Abe with a certain roughish jollity, which acts as a counterpoint to the solemn outcome of his crime and capture. But then Abe is undoubtedly a desperate man and a bully bragging about both his exploits and the weapons that are the tools of his trade. I think the rewrite is actually fairly subtle, it’s the performance that is so very different. As the sleeve notes on the expanded version or ‘silver edition’ suggest, “In the new version he’s transformed from a rogue with a twinkle in his eye to a really mean bastard with a chip on his shoulder.” If you are unfamiliar with The Transports, then you should have a look at this, there’s plenty of information to work through including contemporary newspaper reports of the real events that inspired Bellamy’s ballad opera, but there is no substitute for hearing it.  I’ll confess that at the start of this project I’d have struggled with The Transports, but with the benefit of Jon’s guidance through the world of folk songs and singers, I now find it an absolute delight.



26 Responses to “Abe Carman”

  1. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Great little song………….Mainly Norfolk shows the two versions……….one a Highwayman commited to the thrill and enjoying his trade; compared to the “second wind/Jon’s” version which gives the feel that he is forced to live this life…given the options.

  2. Jim Moray says:

    Curious timing with this – I’m currently frantically writing new arrangements for a new production of The Transports directed by Jude Kelly (director of The South Bank) and with a cast including Eliza and Martin Carthy, Jackie Oates, Damien Barber, Jim Causley, Gavin Davenport and myself, as well as a band led by Paul Sartin and Sam Sweeney. This will be debuted at Sidmouth Folk Week on Aug 4th, followed by more performances in the autumn. (plug over…)

    I’m quite fond of the lightheartedness of the original, finding the rewrite a bit too reflective. We’re looking at ways of making a composite of lyrics to the original tune though, so I hope theres a balance to be found.

  3. Shelley says:

    Hoping to get to that Jim (stewarding duties permitting)

  4. Peter Little says:

    So wonderful to know that Peter’s work continues to entertain. RIP

  5. Jane Ramsden says:

    I like the Fagin-esque feel to the more light-hearted version. A very appropriate song for me today, as just been listening to the wondefully well put together and performed ‘Oak, Ash & Thorn.’ Also a very appropriate plug by Mr Moray mentioning Jackie Oates as I’ve also been listening to her ‘Violet Hour’ featuring Jim Causley. Nice when experiences chime together.

  6. Simon says:

    Jim I sincerely hope that goes well, it’s such a brilliant bit of writing…

  7. Nick Passmore says:

    A mighty version of a great song. I’m really looking forward to that new production at Sidmouth!

  8. Muzza(NW-Surrey, UK) says:

    Just read the “have a look at this” link…and intrigued to see that “The Transports” was performed in Bracknell on 10th Juy 1980(10 miles from my home)…
    it brought back memories.
    At the time,I had been out of work for 6months and soooo desperate for money that I can see how easy it is to take the next step to survive. Fortunately,I found work on 14th and that has delayed my appointment on Castle Hill……..phew

  9. Muzza(NW-Surrey, UK) says:

    @twilight Jewellery……we are fine…nice to have your post posted.
    Hello everybody…just came across this which you might like

  10. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: David Gibb and Elly Lucas absolutely excellent! Apparently they played BAAFest this year – BAAFest?! Hahahahaha! (Bellingham All Acoustic…)

  11. Diana says:

    Liked this one very much – it sounds like such a good occupation being a highwayman until you got caught and hung.

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

    THe good thing about the good old AFSAD site is that you can revisit things…..we all need lists and AFSAD is just such a thing to remind us…..
    I revisited and re-enjoyed the highly entertaining collection of little songs of David Gibb and Ellie Lucas….I would have lost the memory had it not been for AFSAD

  13. Linda says:

    Went to look for The Transporter version of this on Youtube and got distracted by Peter Bellamy’s version of The Land…
    @Muzza remember this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edMelEtV0bo
    Always enjoy Jon’s selection for June…

  14. Old Muzza (NW Surrey) says:

    Well Lindy Lou…………I’ve saved that Transporter Play for when I can settle down for One and half hours to enjoy it again….good to be reminded of it again
    and also enjoy again Elly Lucas and David Gibb

  15. Linda says:

    Muzza time to dust of the Transporter play and have a while with the feet up…..

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

    Hi Lindy Lou….going to a singing pub with my old morris friends on 11 th June…..might launch into the ‘Plymouth mail’ song…..Taking some half cocoa nut shells to add the Flying hoof effect

  17. Linda says:

    Muzza wish I lived nearer !!

  18. Old Muzza (NW Surrey UK) says:

    Ref my comment from 2019….the Plymouth Mail song when down well with several members of the audience joining in with sets of cocoa nut shells to simulate the horses hooves at the nod of my head…and me in tricorn hat and cracking me whip!
    One suspects that there are hidden traits of Thespian in my soul (no kiddin’ Sherlock…one could never tell by looking at your Youtube Channel!)

  19. Jane Ramsden says:

    @Young Muzza: I didn’t know you were a Thespian!
    That’s my girlish hopes dashed again… ‘Poor Jane!’
    I have posted your link to that song by Richard Digance under Jon’s recent ‘After the Ball.’ Aside from the role reversal, all the parts fit! Hahahaha!

  20. OldMuzza(NW SurreyUK) says:

    My yearly reminder and dose of Elly and David…..yeeeeessssss!

  21. Mick McAuley says:

    Hi there folks. Thanks for all the great info in this fantastic thread.
    I’ve have just recorded a version of this song for an album with John Doyle. Could anyone here let me know the correct publishing info for it. Thanks in advance for your help.

  22. Jane (Maryland) says:

    I never would have known about The Transports if not for this site. One of many, many things for which I am grateful to Jon and to all the contributors.

    Speaking of which, the David Gibb & Elly Lucas video is no longer available, but I found another video of the song on YouTube. It’s missing all the fun with the hats, but it includes a charming interview with Bright Young Folk.

  23. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Jane, Jane, Maryland Jane…thanks for posting the replacement video from Elly and David.
    Great little interview and hey…it was back in 2012 and so they are 10years older .
    Strangely, I Can’t find much on where they both are now!

  24. Jane Ramsden says:

    @Muzza & Jane from Maryland:

    After 4 years collaboration, Elly Lucas & David Gibb decided to call it a day with their last ever gig at Derby Folk Fest in October 2014.

    Thank you, Jane from Maryland, for your replacement video interview, highlighting David’s interest in childrens’ poems & songs. This is what he has gone on to do… make children’s & family music. Check his stuff out on YouTube. My fave is ‘Teddy at the Disco’… no surprise there! Lol.


    Glasgow-based Elly Lucas is, of course, now well known for her photographic work, esp album covers for musical associates. Think she’s done Jon, certainly Gigspanner, & a wonderful Scottish singer you might enjoy called Helen Rarity.

    As a bright young thing herself, Hannah won the Young Trad Award 2018 & continues to blossom. This is the final track, I think, from the album Elly Lucas did the cover photo for:


    Truly lovely but, if your mascara can stand it, listen to her rendition of Land o’ the Leal. Heartbreaking lyrics & other info contained in people’s comments: 


    Exit stage left, blubbing…

  25. Jane (Maryland) says:

    It’s good to know Original Jane is still out there and adding information to this site!

    You weren’t kidding about Land o’ the Leal. I’m going off now to sob quietly for a while.

  26. OldMuzza(NWSurreyUK) says:

    Ooooooer….Jane(Maryland)…..loved looking at the Elly &David video yet again….and they had cocoa nuts in their song…whey hey….every song and session should have a cocoa nut session.
    Hope you keeping well

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