Rambling Robin


Another Bellamy derived song of which Jon says, “This feels like it might be a true story – not enough happens to justify its existence if it isn’t.” I can sort of see what Jon means, but there are at least two deaths and a would-be prodigal son turning up too late. Then there’s Robin’s lingering grief and the clear implication that he too will die broken hearted… It’s the negative flip to that other famous rambler, Spencer, whose return is met by chattering children and all in all, a grim tale. A version of this of course appears on Spiers & Boden’s Vagabonds CD and I believe Christy Moore has also recorded it having learned it from Mike Harding. According to this Mainly Norfolk entry Bellamy was sent the words and gave it his own tune, whether this is the same one used across all versions I can’t say. As usual any further insights are welcome.

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13 Responses to “Rambling Robin”

  1. Nick Passmore says:

    Yes, Christy Moore recorded it on “Prosperous” in 1972, and credits “Mike Harding of Manchester” as his source. Bellamy’s reinvention of the tune is yet another confirmation of his genius imho

  2. Phil says:

    A really nice performance – cheers, Jon. As for where the song comes from, it’s in Mike Harding’s song book _Folk Songs of Lancashire_, but that doesn’t say much about its provenance – the next song in the index is _Rawtenstall Annual Fair_, which is a very fine song but certainly ain’t trad!

  3. Jon Boden says:

    Fay’s just found out that it would have been Bellamy’s 66th birthday today. Happy birthday Peter, wherever you are.

  4. Reinhard says:

    Yes, happy birthday Peter! And thanks for reminding us, Jon. I’ll have to listen so some more of his songs for the rest of the day now (just finished transcribing Back to the Army Again before I read your post).

    And Jon, on September 24 is the anniversary of Peter’s death. Will you have a suitable song for us, please? Maybe Death Is Not the End?

  5. Mike Harding says:

    I got it from a broadside printed by Swindells a Lancashire broadside printer. There were more broadside printers in the Shude Hill are of Manchester than anywhere else in the country except perhaps for London and they served the rising urban populations of the Northern cities (Swindells sheets for example were sold by agents in Leeds).

  6. Jane Ramsden says:

    This is a very strange little song with its ‘honour thy father and mother’ message afore it’s too late. Very appropriate for a broadsheet for the Northern urban population in its day, I would think, as a message many could relate to. Rather sad though…

    …So to cheer you all up, and as strange coincidence would have it, I’ve just been to see another Robin(s) at Otley Folk Club tonight, Karl Robins’ Blackwing, and very good they were too! He’s an excellent songwriter, supported on this occasion by singer Linda Stephenson (she did a wonderful rendition of Dylan’s ‘Man in the Long Black Coat’) and smooth violinist John Carey. Some speedy person has even already uploaded a video performance to YouTube from tonight (7th Sept) of ‘Bonnie Ship The Diamond’ as follows:


    Here’s another YouTube link to a song of Karl’s they sang called ‘The Soloman Tree,’ complete with a few birds!


    You can find more at their MySpace site:


    I think they’ve a new CD coming out called, appropriately, ‘Flights of Fancy!’

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

    As Jon noted above…Peter Bellamy would have been 67 today.
    Having looked at Mainly Norfolk and compared the period that Ramblin’ Rob was away..I suspect that “Sixty years” in the Peter Bellamy version was probably a mis-hear of 16years…….Blimey….I wouldn’t recognise my mum after 60yrs!

    Hey Jane…you do get about a bit…….amazing that last nights stuff went onto Youtube so quickly….but if it’s quantity you want, SIMM07TS loads about 10 folk/festival/gig videos a day!!!…..aaaaarrrrggghhhh

  8. Reinhard says:

    Good point and thank you, muzza. I changed the 60 years to 16 on my website.

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

    Good to know that you are still out there Reinhard

  10. Diana says:

    Such a sad tale – just goes to show you should keep in touch with family and friends you never know what it going to happen from day to day.

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

    I have never seen the point of rambling all over the place/world….it’s all very well until you fall ill or get too old…….and then what do you do…….oooer Matron….I’m such a stick-in-the-mud!

  12. OldMuzza(NWSurreyUK) says:

    Would you believe it…..the Covid lockdown did me a great service…..My widespread family discovered ZOOM and we started to have a weekly ‘Get together’ session…and this has continued to the present day. Covid kicks-started the communication.
    Sooooooooo…….. my herberts get to say hallo weekly, rather than every 16 years like poor old Ramblin’ Robin’s dear ole mum!

  13. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    and I still have weekly contact with my skype family…and old friends……thanks to the covid lockdown.
    Just what poor old Ramblin’ Robin could have done with!

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