Brown Adam


We’re upping the mystical ante again with “Another blacksmith song and interestingly, Brown Adam has been exiled from his family and from civilisation – a feature common with Volundr who lived in the woods, forging magical rings to try and bring back his swan-maiden sweetheart.” This is Child ballad #98 and is, therefore, Scottish as most of the lyric sets available on line, such as this one on Mudcat, make clear from the dialect used. As Jon picked this one up from Martin Carthy it has been Anglicised and Martin also wrote his own tune for it. Given the Nordic influence over Scotland, it’s also quite possible that the saga has made it’s way through the years and either been integrated with other elements or more simply made to fit the storytellers requirements. Mainly Norfolk has the reference to Martin Carthy’s version, originally released on his Landfall album in 1971,the year that he quit Steeleye Span and still available on the CD of the same record.

You can buy the August digital album now from all good download stores:



26 Responses to “Brown Adam”

  1. Simon Dewsbury says:

    ….and this one appeared on itunes mid evening last night! I hadn’t realised Martin Carthy wrote the tune, which is wonderful. Also, the sudden gory ending. You don’t get major amputations at the finish of too many songs.

  2. Anna says:

    This is one of my favourite songs, and has everything I think a folk song ought to contain: exile, true love, a false knight, danger and rescue, a bit of gore, it’s got the lot! I hadn’t known Martin Carty wrote the tune, either. Excellent stuff.

  3. JOhn D says:

    Lovely — but what a pity you didn’t choose “Brigg Fair” for the day, simply because of its opening lines: “It was on the fifth of August, the weather hot and fine …”

  4. Jane Ramsden says:

    The Works! Cracking!

  5. Jo Breeze says:

    More about Brown Adam from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

    There are 7 records of Brown Adam in the Library, all from Scotland.

    We used the Roud number to cross reference against different titles for the song. When searched on Roud No. 482, there are 13 records in total, again all from Scotland, and we can see the song is also known as ‘Brown Edom’.

    If you wish to see more detail on each record, change the ‘output’ to ‘record’ and press ‘submit query’.

    There are no records of the song in the Take 6 archive.

    We use the Roud index and the Take 6 online collections in the search for information on Jon’s selections.

    For more information, or to carry out your own search for songs, please visit
    If you need any help accessing the library online or have any questions, please contact the VWML on 020 7485 2206 or

  6. Diana says:

    I have played this song so many times by Spiers and Boden, and each time I wonder why Brown Adam was banished. Am I missing something? Still Jon sings it well and it is a really good tale.

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

    I am completely transmogradised……………what was the outcome of this story……did the knight clear off and leave them to it or did he shear of Brown Adam’s fingers…and why would he do that?…….
    a lot of ‘gay’ stuff went on in those days it seems.

  8. Diana says:

    For anyone who likes “Reynardine” I have picked up a Podcast on iTunes. It has slightly different words and a completely different tune. It is sung by Comyn’s Bardic Closet. Quite a good version.

    Muzza my goodness what a long word you used there, nearly as long as “smiles”. No Brown Adam sheared off 4 fingers of the false knight’s hand. Serves him right too. Gay in those days had quite an different meaning.

  9. Diana says:

    Muzza sent you a message but you may have to wait for it – it is being moderated.

  10. Diana says:

    @Simon: Enjoyed reading your editorial in the latest Properganda magazine and also the rest of same. A lot of interesting articles..

  11. Reinhard says:

    Thank you Diana for pointing us to that issue; it has a lot of interesting articles, including Simon’s editorial. Colin Irwin’s article on Fay Hield is well enough written too, but why has he to begin it with the trite sexist stereotype “As the mother of two young children” (and in large capital lettters too!) which is totally irrelevant to her music? I have yet to see an article on Jon Boden that starts with “As the father of two young children” or that even mentions them in passing …

  12. Diana says:

    Quite right Reinhard, it is totally irrelevant and almost suggests that if she had four young children she would sig-ng twice as well, which is really silly. Thanks for your support on the equality of the sexes.

  13. Diana says:

    I really do wish there was an edit button on here then one could correct all the typing mistakes.

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

    In defence of Colin Irwin,I note that it is Properganda magazine’s style to emphasise the opening phrase to every article and I’m sure Colin was only illustrating that Fay is a very busy lady…nothing to do with sexism.

  15. Diana says:

    Muzza perhaps sexism was not impugned but there is no correlation between Fay’s music and the fact she has two young children, and as Reinhard said it is never referred to that Jon has two young children so why was the remark necessary?

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

    JON BODEN………..FATHER OF TWO YOUNG CHILDREN has done a great job in bringing AFSAD to the plebs……….with the aid of a technical team with goodness knows how many children.

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

    @Diana……just pulling your little Lancashire leg!…don’t take it seriously.

  18. Diana says:

    @ Muzza: You cheeky rapscallion you. Hands orf!! One cannot really take you too seriously with the pranks you get up to, if true you would surely be locked up somewhere. Now who is pulling whose leg? 🙂

  19. Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    @Diana…….got it …..Your Moderated message was the one (Aug 5th 10:47am.)
    That’s the sort of Clue/reference I need to seek it out!
    Perhaps this is a good opportunity for me to come out of Comyn’s Bardic Closet.

    (I have posted this on Two pretty boys 10Aug in case you don’t scroll back to here!)

  20. Diana says:

    Got it Muzza – like I said I often go back several songs cos of the late rsponses sometimes. Now you know whose fingers were cut off – he should have finished th job and got rid of the rascally knight. Bloodthirsty ain’t I?

  21. Diana says:

    Crunbs I have not finished or typed correctly a couple of words there. My finegers flew over the keys much too fast I reckon and missed some.

  22. Linda says:

    Can recommend this link available until Friday I think!!… #worldon3 @BBCthequay start at about 1 hour 25 mins…….

  23. Linda says:

    Can t get the above link to work but your looking for World on 3 on Friday 1st August at 11 o clock on Radio 3 . I think Jane would have posted this better…..

  24. Linda says:

    August 5th Radio 4 08.24 Paul Sartin talking about The Last Post project ….So many interesting projects that members of Bellowhead are involved with …….. another one is Songs for

  25. OldMuza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Ha…..looking back…..I did seem to have quite a lot with That Dainer!!!

  26. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Ha….looking back (yet again!) to Dainers comment 2012…
    how the heck has it taken me 11 years to spot ‘finegers’!!!!
    (old blokes-I ask yer!)

Your Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /customers/a/0/f/ on line 121