Little Musgrave And Lady Barnard


One of the epics and even Jon admits “I hadn’t quite realised how long this was until I tried to record it – which is some testament to Martin Carthy’s delivery from whence I came by it. I love the fact that she claims to have loved him for ‘long and many’s the day’ rather than year – no pretence that this isn’t just simple infatuation and I think all the more believable because of it.”

Many will know this as Matty Groves, but Jon follows Carthy’s version as titled above here. This is #81 in the Child collection and it’s interesting to note from this Wiki entry that the first recording are all American. Indeed the first is on John Jacob Niles Sings American Folk Songs with Jean Ritchie following up with the perhaps more accurate British Traditional Ballads In The Southern Mountains. It seems to have been in broadside print in the early C17th and the version that Child collected can be dated to the middle of that century. There is every chance of course that it’s somewhat older, but with all the variations of the names, I suspect  trying to nail this to any real event will prove impossible. Still, check Mainly Norfolk for the words to Martin Carthy and Jon’s versions with all 29 verses. You may also want to compare it to the somewhat shorter Matty Groves as well. If that hasn’t satisfied you I’d recommend this thorough investigation of the ballad and all of its variations. It’s a little hard on the eyes after a while, but it’s still fairly entertaining and worth the effort. There are one or two variations of the ending, which may well appeal to the singers amongst you, perhaps for getting one-up on the audience.


39 Responses to “Little Musgrave And Lady Barnard”

  1. Helene says:

    He cut off her what?! I smirked.

  2. Simon Dewsbury says:

    A standard, sung unaccompanied and still bringing something new to the interpretation, brilliant singing. I know what’s going to happen and it’s still tense.
    And is this the longest AFSAD so far? – don’t think any of the others have clocked in at over 10 minutes

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

    I think this is a great song especially poingnant as I have had my “Little Musgrave moment” in the far distant past………… but to recount my misdoings using modern parlance doesn’t sound so romantic:-……’ll get my drift….

    And unexpectedly, early home from the long nightshift, in his trusty Vauxhall car
    Came Lord Barnard and his stalwart friends,and they had travelled far

    Away away then Little Musgrave, I can hear the key in the lock
    Away through the window went little Musgrave, a-wearing one wool sock

    He leaped down to the hard stone wall, his shins all grazed and sore
    Scrabbling frenziedly into his clothes-he vowed to sin no more.

    Phew..that WAS close!!!!!!!!

  4. jonathan says:

    simply stunning

  5. Phil says:

    Excellent stuff. I sing a faster version of this, based on Nic Jones’s but with a different tune – I always thought he cheated a bit by switching to a slightly different tune to emphasise the more dramatic bits. Mine works out at 27 verses, I think, but no bleeding hooves or silver keys – might try and put them in another time. (Not so sure about the impromptu mastectomy – I’d rather he just ran her through, old school.)

    muzza – I guess we know what your name is short for now!

  6. Jane Ramsden says:

    Lovely! ‘Matty Groves’ long been one of my favourites, so this song much appreciated.

    @ Muzza: You want to know where McDooley got the brick – I want to know what happened to the other sock… HAHAHAHAHA!

    PS I think I can find out where McDooley got the brick, but it entails contacting the Library of Congress in Ameriky to access the Leo Feist Song Collection – I know it’s in Vol 10 of the full 26!

  7. Jane Ramsden says:

    According to pagan Irish lore, cutting off a royal descendant’s nipples made him ineligible for kingship. Not as subtle as poison, but undeniable evidence of his unsuitability for a kingly role. No nips, game over! So perhaps there is a significance to what Lord Barnard did? His Lady was no longer worthy to bear that title nor, perhaps, his offspring?

    This is just a hypothesis! Barnard is not an Irish name (nor Musgrave) but there is a connection. It was first found in Westmorland, where they had been granted lands by King William for their assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Sir Theophilus, a Norman knight, who assisted William the Conqueror in the conquest of England was succeeded by his son, Sir Dorbard, who took the surname Bernard/Barnard. Sir Dorbard’s descendants settled at Acornbank in the county of Westmorland, but stayed in good favour with the royalty. In 1172, King Henry II took Robert Fitz Bernard with him to Ireland, in the invasion of Ireland, and entrusted to his care the counties of Wexford and Waterford.

  8. Sol says:

    Absolutely terrific.

  9. Phil says:

    Jane – poor old Lady Barnard is dead a verse and a half later, so I don’t think nipples are being severed with surgical precision here. The concluding lines about how they should bury her with her lover, but make sure she’s nearer the surface than that little toerag Musgrave (I paraphrase), doesn’t really fit with that idea either.

  10. Jane Ramsden says:

    Phil – that is true. You mean he hacked the poor woman abaht a bit! I suppose he did say he was a bit mad and why didn’t someone stop him? I am not sure which is worse, him hacking her, or having a ‘proper’ symbolic reason for slicing her nips off. (Symbolic since she won’t be around to bear any title or offspring.) Neither sounds very pleasant anyway. I have always thought the ‘pinning against the wall’ version a cleaner kill & more dramatic.

    T’is true Lord Barnard buried his lady above toe-rag Musgrave… but she’s still 6 feet under! I take that as a small concession to her birthright… but I get the feeling she has still gone down in his estimation… and he has gone down in mine in this version. I can better picture him as the noble injured party in ‘Matty Groves’ and Matty as the naive brave enticed. Lady Barnard is a bit silly reckless wayward in both versions & sadly pays the price.

    Of course, I don’t know how true the ‘no-nips, no crown’ Irish pagan lore is either!

  11. SRD says:

    I thought that Musgrave was buried first to prevent it being said that he was ‘lying on top of’ Lady Barnard.

  12. Jane Ramsden says:

    In ‘Matty Groves’, Lord Donald says, ‘Bury my Lady at the top, for she was of noble kin.’ But you may well have a valid point there, SRD!

  13. Judy says:

    Furrealz? That’s marvlouesly good to know.

  14. Phil says:

    My own version, in five minutes flat. (The length, that is, not the singing.)

  15. LittleToeragM(LowerBunk7'deep) says:

    @Phil………..excellent version Phil……… sworded nips cutting…..and a plausible end with all three of us departing………but in the verse where the page gives the news to Lord Barnard… I detect a ‘smile’ in your voice……was somebody walking in with a cup of tea or pulling faces through the window?….you nearly lost it for some reason!
    One last thing…..there I was …innocently ogling the birds at the church (as was my wont every sunday) when I was LEAD ASTRAY by that wicked Lady Barnard…..and even when I got the horn warning….she stopped me from going (mind you…that would have ruined the song).
    I can only say that me and my friend Matty are just a couple of loveable rogues and all these blooming folk singers are not helping by keep singing up wot is long past!

  16. Diana says:

    Another great song. Pity there was a tattle-tale otherwise the outcome would have been different.

    Hope you had a good hol Muzza you certainly changed the weather for the better.

  17. Jane Ramsden says:

    Still wonderful, Jon.

    @Little Musgrave, where are you now? Have you lost your remaining sock in the sea off the Cornish coast? You have ladies-in-waiting here! Hahahahahahaha!

  18. Jane Ramsden says:

    Oh, you’re back! Didn’t notice you there, hiding in Lady Diana’s bower… it is a very low bower… but 7′ deep might be overstating the mark a bit… he he he he he! (Sorry, her, her, her, her, her!)

  19. Diana says:

    @ Jane, it is funny but he really can’t fool us can he? I spotted his handiwork straight away. It is those dots for starters followed by his ridiculous non-de-plumes.
    I think it should be he her he her he her (you know for the equality of the sexes (is there such a thing?)

  20. Simon says:

    Right apologies due to Jane as the spam filter gobbled up her post on Babylon a couple of days ago with some YouTube links for you all. I’ve been so busy that I only got around to fixing it in the last half an hour, whilst simultaneously shredding some spam that got through. So you might want to rewind a couple of days and check it out. I have mostly been too busy to keep up daily, but amuse myself with your banter every few days when I get the chance.

    Delving off topic, I’d just like to add that we didn’t do anything to commemorate Levon Helm’s death on the other site, a bit of an oversight really. You probably all know this by now, but he was the only American in The Band, despite their image as American roots-rock pioneers. They were always identified with the southern US, but the rest of the band were Canadian. They made a massive impression on George Harrison at the end of the 60s and he in turn enthused Eric Clapton, which further fuelled his dabblings with Delaney & Bonnie and Duane Allman in becoming Derek.

    Back to folk folks, I’m glad some of you are digging Orfeo and can only hope your enthusiasm rubs off on anyone else tuned in, as it is superb. A more musically talented band is hard to imagine in any genre, but Fay sure has the voice to justify their attention. The launch gig is tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it.

  21. Jane Ramsden says:

    Thank you Skyman. I understand from Pierre Walsh that my Wiki-link to Mac McNally doesn’t work correctly anyway, so I going back to correct this now! Glad I mentioned Levon Helm then tho, but that is really thanks to Phil Beer at his recent Otley Courthouse gig.

    So pleased also that you mentioned Bonnie Bramlett/Delaney on here. I recently saw a programme on BBC4 with her in it – a revelation to me, wot still don’t know much! – as I hadn’t realised she sang with Tina Turner as an Ikette & what a voice! More about her here:

    Her official web site can be found at:

  22. Jane Ramsden says:

    Bonnie’s still singing pwerfully, as this clip shows. The song ‘Strongest Weakness’ was part-written by her daughter, Bekka Bramlett, also a singer:

  23. Jane Ramsden says:

    Ooops, should read ‘powerfully singing’ – the JaJoDi bug strikes again!

    And Little (Obvious) Musgrave, there are sock-related messages for you under ‘Lillibulero!’ Hahahahahahaha!

  24. Phil says:

    While I was reading these comments my iPlayer (set on random shuffle) kicked off James Yorkston’s version of… Little Musgrave. What are the chances of that eh?

    Thanks to everyone who’s listened to my effort, particularly the two people who listened to it all the way through (I can tell you know). Not sure about the page/Lord B verse – I was probably just enjoying the song.

    Other folk songs are available. (Now with added concertina!)

  25. Linda says:

    Epic, really enjoyed this one,

  26. Muzza (N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Lindaaaaaaaa……at least one of you good ladies is out there alive and well.
    I wonder if I said…SOCKS, SOCKS, SOCKS,VEST…would Diana and Jane pop up?

  27. Diana says:

    Yes we would, also for vests as well.

    Still like this song.

  28. Linda says:

    Still enjoy this one.
    @Muzza are you going to try the magic words again.
    Saw Spiers and Boden last concert at Cheltenham on Saturday as usual they were brilliant and will be missed , will wait for the come back tour!!!

  29. John Bryson says:

    Superb version here by Jon, the full version.

    As well as ‘Matty Groves’, which I confess I have got up and belted out at singers nights at Stortfolk in Bishop’s Stortford, there is also a shorter version of this on Youtube. Particular one of note is the one at the proms by Martin Simpson entitled ‘Little Musgrave’.

    Incidentally my wife Jane has her own titles for various folk songs relating to lust, infidelity and whatever else floats your boat!

  30. OldMuzza (N.W Surrey-UK) says:

    My goodness…all my misdemeanours being raked up yet again!……..
    No Linda……….socks and vests don’t rally the gals any more….I think they have moved on to Marmite and vick vapour rubs. Envy you seeing S&B.
    Hey Old John B…….you are such a tease… we all want to know your Jane’s alternative Folk song names…… ex-wife used to have me in stitches with things like ….semi-SKILLED milk

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

    Perhaps Matty Groves is a Mondegreen?

  32. Old Muzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Called it a day on the lost sock…..going out to buy a new pair today

  33. old Muzza (NW Surrey) says:

    Cor……thank goodness we can relive old misdemeanours via our memories….
    bit scary….now where did I leave my new socks!

  34. Mike New says:

    A mysterious ballad which leaves you guessing at the end. Does Lady Barnard do it all again (Nic Jones version)?
    This is a classic performance Jon. Like it.

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

    OK…..little Musgrave had his problems all those years ago…..and what about us
    we have ours with Brexit and awaiting the election a new PM.
    I wonder if Mickey Mouse and his friends would consider popping over and sorting us out!

  36. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    What Larks master Pip…what Larks!

  37. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Oh to be young again and capable of sock losing capers!…….well it was in 1968! (where did those 54 years go!)

  38. OldMuzza(NWSurreyUK) says:

    Socks….I learned a lesson from this song…..and that’s why I gave up going to church

  39. LittleMuzza(NWSurreyUK) says:

    That little Musgrave was a cheeky fella …..teasing Lord Barnard
    and it’s right up to date as he wishes he had £3,000 and was on yonder plane…and I thought this was from way back…long before before aviation!
    (oh dear-drop the dead donkey!)

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