Lord Randal

2014
08.27

Child Ballad #12 of which Jon says, “Poor old dogs. Can’t say I ever feel terribly sympathetic towards Lord Randal, however – I’m not sure why but I always have a nagging suspicion that he may have deserved it…” This seems to be a widely used storyline although I’ve picked up that the earliest printed version of the ballad is in 1787 in The Scots Musical Museum. There it is titled Lord Ronald, my Son. It may have had its roots in an Italian ballad of the 1600s, which this Wiki link expands on. It has numerous alternate titles, including  Lord Randall, Jimmy Randal, Jimmy Randolph, Jimmy Ransome, The Croodlin Doo, King Henry, My Son and Tiranti, my love. It’s known throughout the British Isles, North America and widely across Europe. Sir Walter Scott associated the ballad with the death of Thomas Randolph (Randal), Earl of Murray – (or Moray), Robert the Bruce’s nephew. Randolph died at Musselburgh in 1332 and some suggested because the death was so untimely for Scotland, it could have been caused by poison. According to Burl Ives the tune came to America with followers of Bonnie Prince Charlie who settled in North Carolina after his defeat. In The Journal of Folk Song Society (Vol.ii., No. 6 and Vol. iii., No. 10) Miss Gilchrist suggests the identity of Lord Randal is the sixth Earl of Chester, who died in 1232. The said Earl was poisoned by his wife. There is a German version Grossmutter-Schlangenkoechin, where the death is due to poisonous snakes. The song’s theme has also been found in Italy, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary and Iceland. Jon picked this up from Peter Bellamy and Mainly Norfolk has bags of excellent detail about that and other versions with quotes from various sleeve notes. Usurprisingly, there are lots of threads on Mudcat  with this post following Jon’s lyrics the closest. You’ll spot some other variants at the bottom, but if you search it by Child #12, you’ll find other stuff. A quick note as well on “spickit and sparkit,” which apparently means speckled and blotched.

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

 

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14 Responses to “Lord Randal”

  1. Carole Garland says:

    I do like this ballad and the tune runs fairly close to the one I knew as a girl. However it got a little diverted by The Elliots of Birtley – it was such a delight when they sang out “What colour were those eels?” and everyone bawled out “Greeeen! dear Mother!” etc. It’s still a good party piece.

  2. Roberto says:

    I see with great pleasure that it is growing within this beautiful collection a number of big ballads, I hope we’ll have many more as the project goes on. Lord Randall a party peace? I know this ballad has had many parodies, still I think of it as a dramatic ballad. Peter Bellamy and Jon Boden sing it with pathos.

  3. Ellie May says:

    We used to sing a version of this at Brownies when I was a child, we called it ‘Green and Yella’ . I’m sure this partially contributed to my love of folk music/songs!

  4. Jane Ramsden says:

    I’ve eaten eel – not spickit & sparkit – and it was rather nice. I feel sorry for the dogs and, though Lord Randal may not have a kind word for his girlfriend, his mother’s sounding a bit suspect with her monetary interest… though the girlfriend was a wrong ‘un if she killed the dogs as well! So the question is, ‘Who packed his sandwiches?’ I love the not knowing of some of these songs! Which is strange, because I absolutely hate that in books and films. You sang it beautifully. Jon, and another strong contender for the August vote.

  5. Jane Ramsden says:

    I’ve eaten eel – not spickit & sparkit – and it was rather nice. I feel sorry for the dogs and, though Lord Randal may not have a kind word for his girlfriend, his mother’s sounding a bit suspect with her monetary interest… though the girlfriend was a wrong ‘un if she killed the dogs as well! So the question is, ‘Who packed his sandwiches?’ I love the not knowing of some of these songs! Which is strange, because I absolutely hate that in books and films. You sang it beautifully, Jon, and another strong contender for the August vote.

  6. Jane Ramsden says:

    Now why am I here 2x? I was only trying to change a mistaken full stop to a comma and must have pressed the submission button twice. Got to be very careful with spelling, grammar and punctuation on here!

  7. David says:

    Great version. Not the tune I am used to, but it works. I also remember singing “Green and Yeller” when younger – NOT in the Brownies, I have to add! It was always treated as a semi-comic singalong until one was old enough to analyse the words.

  8. Dave Rogers says:

    I used to sing “Green & Yeller” as an encore and always believed it to be a Cockney musichall version of “Lord Randal”.

    I’m not so sure now, having just Googled it:

    http://sniff.numachi.com/pages/tiEELHENRY;ttEELHENRY.html

  9. blooger says:

    I’m one of those people who find this finger-in-the-ear singing style extremely mannered and tuneless. I’d like to hear the song sung naturally, without sounding like, I dunno, he’s spent forty years learning how to do it that way. Lucubratious, in a word.

  10. admin says:

    Feel free to send us your version Blooger.

  11. Jo Breeze says:

    More about Lord Randal from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society.
    There are 149 records of Lord Randal in the Library, many collected by Cecil Sharp in Somerset and Cambridgeshire, but also found in Ireland, Scotland, the USA and Canada, and with many versions collected by Sharp as part of his work in the Appalachians.
    http://tinyurl.com/randal1
    We used the Roud number to cross reference against different titles for the song. When searched on Roud No. 10, this rises to an impressive 580 records, including titles such as ‘The Cup of Cold Poison’, ‘Dirandel’, ‘Henry My Son’, ‘Jimmy Ransome’, ‘John Randolph’ and more.
    http://tinyurl.com/randal2
    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 Lord Randal in the Take 6 collection, but 11 records of the song under different names.
    To find these go to http://library.efdss.org/archives/cgi-bin/search.cgi enter 10 into the first empty field, select ‘Roud number’ from the drop down menu ‘all fields’ and press ‘submit search’.
    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 http://www.efdss.org/front/access-the-library-online/access-the-library-online/115
    If you need any help accessing the library online or have any questions, please contact the VWML on 020 7485 2206 or library@efdss.org.

  12. Jane Ramsden says:

    Still love this one, spicket and sparkit an’ all!

    Mention of Cecil Sharp collecting versions of this song prompt a reminder that Steve Knightley can still be heard in interview on Mike Harding’s last show through BBC iPlayer for another 4 days. talking about his involvement in the recent Cecil Sharp Project:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b013dtfk#synopsis

    Some of the new songs from the project participants can also be heard in the programme, & a CD is now available. I’ve yet to listen to it myself, but I note from the programme information that there is also a Bellowhead live performance of ‘ Cold Blows The Wind’ as well!

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

    From the Mainly Norfolk Link…
    I loved the Tony Rose comment that he dedicated the song to all the “Crisp eaters” in the audience……I wonder if he heightened the effect by saying that “One packet has been poisened to add to the atmosphere!”

  14. Diana says:

    Such a sad tale and so many different versions all culminating in the death of poor Lord Randal.

    Muzza caught up with you elsewhere yesterday – still connected with folk music I must add.

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