Francis J Child

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The Child Ballads

The main thrust of this section of Folkopedia is to engender long overdue dialogue on what for the last century and more have come to be known as Child Ballads, i.e, the compilation, analysis and publication of ‘The English and Scottish Popular Ballads’ by Professor F J Child between the years 1882 and 1898. I am convinced in publishing this work he intended it to be a guide for students, and to open a debate on the ballads. Unfortunately what followed was that it rapidly became revered and was given biblical status amongst scholars, particularly in the United States, almost as if it was set in stone, despite the fact that Child himself had serious misgivings about the veracity of many of the ballads. In Britain where most of the ballads originated they continued to be treated like any other ballads, i.e., British collectors post Child published these ballads randomly amongst the many broadside ballads they were finding without giving them any special status. However when Cecil Sharp started collecting songs in America the results were published in 1917 with the Child ballads given prominence at the beginning of the collection and for the next half century this set the standard for most American ballad anthologies, the eventual format which evolved being in 3 sections, Child ballads, British broadside ballads and native American ballads.


Child was well aware that a large slice of what he published had at best been interfered with by literary hands, and at worst some, he had suspicions, were blatant forgeries. He strove to minimize this by, where possible, going back to manuscripts rather than published versions, but even then he was aware that even some of the manuscripts were also suspect, some of them being little more than prepared proofs prior to publication.


Therefore what we propose here is a separate online discussion document on each ballad where scarce, early and seminal versions can be posted, where interested parties can enter into dialogue giving fact and opinion on the veracity of individual ballads and indeed individual versions. Obviously much information unavailable to or missed by Child has come to light in the last century and new discoveries are being made even today. For instance Child never got to see the Peter Buchan manuscripts now housed at Harvard which arrived there shortly after his death. Had he seen them it would have probably hardened his views against these versions as all the extensive manuscripts consist of is the hand-written proof ready for publication plus those ballads and songs deemed unsuitable for final publication in Ancient Ballads of the North. In fact nothing resembling any field collection notes of any sort, if they ever existed, have survived from Buchan’s prestigious output.


Apart from separate pages for each ballad we propose to include sections where debate can take place on the interference of the collectors/antiquarians and other issues as they arise on the ballads in general. For instance there have often been other ballads suggested, such as ‘Craigieston’ (The Trees They Do Grow High) that Child might have included had he been aware of them, and these can be debated here.


It has also been proposed that we include space to examine more modern interpretations of the ballads. During what is known in Britain as the Second Revival (1950s onwards) there have been many interesting attempts to re-interpret and adapt the Child Ballads, notably by Ewan MacColl and Bert Lloyd. I here suggest separate pages for these discussions as the two issues of literary intervention and modern interpretation are separate issues and it could be confusing to debate these at the same time.


To get things off the ground, and with so many ballads to go at, I am suggesting we look at a number of ballads with which there are more obvious interesting and contentious issues such as 20 The Cruel Mother, 264 The White Fisher, 293 John of Hazelgreen and 295 The Brown Girl. A useful starting point for debate on many of the ballads is Child’s own comments and at the earliest opportunity I will enter these.


Steve Gardham


Volume I: 1-53

  • 1: Riddles Wisely Expounded
  • 2: The Elfin Knight
  • 3: The Fause Knight on the Road
  • 4: Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight
  • 5: Gil Brenton
  • 6: Willie's Lady
  • 7: Earl Brand**Editorial
  • 8: Erlinton**Editorial
  • 9: The Fair Flower of Northumberland
  • 10: The Twa Sisters
  • 11: The Cruel Brother
  • 12: Lord Rendal
  • 13: Edward
  • 14: Babylon or The Bonnie Banks o Fordie
  • 15: Leesom Brand ** Editorial
  • 16: Sheath and Knife ** Editorial
  • 17: Hind Horn
  • 18: Sir Lionel
  • 19: King Orfeo
  • The Cruel Mother ** Editorial
  • 21: The Maid and the Palmer
  • 22: St. Stephen and Herod
  • 23: Judas
  • 24: Bonnie Annie
  • 25: Willie's Lyke-Wake
  • 26: The Three Ravens
  • 27: The Whummil Bore
  • 28: Burd Ellen and Young Tamlane
  • 29: The Boy and the Mantle
  • 30: King Arthur and King Cornwall
  • 31: The Marriage of Sir Gawain
  • 32: King Henry
  • 33: Kempy Kay
  • 34: Kemp Owyne
  • 35: Allison Gross
  • 36: The Laily Worm and the Machrel of the Sea
  • 37: Thomas Rymer
  • 39: Tam Lin
  • 40: The Queen of Elfan's Nourice
  • 41: Hind Etin
  • 42: Clerk Colvill
  • 43: The Broomfield Hill
  • 44: The Two Magicians
  • 45: King John and the Bishop
  • 46: Captain Wedderburn's Courtship
  • 47: Proud Lady Margaret
  • 48: Young Andrew
  • 49: The Twa Brothers
  • 50: The Bonny Hind
  • 51: Lizie Wan
  • 52: The King's Dochter Lady Jean
  • 53: Young Beichan

Volume II: 54-113

  • 54: The Cherry-Tree Carol
  • 55: The Carnal and the Crane
  • 56: Dives and Lazarus
  • 57: Brown Robyn's Confession
  • 58: Sir Patrick Spens
  • 59: Sir Aldingar
  • 60: King Estmere
  • 61: Sir Cawline
  • 62: Fair Annie
  • 63: Child Waters
  • 64: Fair Janet
  • 65: Lady Maisry
  • 66: Lord Ingram and Chiel Wyet
  • 67: Glasgerion
  • 68: Young Hunting
  • 69: Clerk Sanders
  • 70: Willie and Lady Maisry
  • 71: The Bent Sae Brown
  • 72: The Clerk's Twa Sons o Owensford
  • 73: Lord Thomas and Annet
  • 74: Fair Margaret and Sweet William
  • 75: Lord Lovel
  • 76: The Lass of Roch Royal
  • 77: Sweet William's Ghost
  • 78: The Unquiet Grave
  • 79: The Wife of Usher's Well
  • 80: Old Robin of Portingale
  • 81: Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard
  • 82: The Bonny Birdy
  • 83: Child Maurice
  • 84: Bonny Barbara Allen
  • 85: Lady Alice
  • 86: Young Benjie
  • 87: Prince Robert
  • 88: Young Johnstone
  • 89: Fause Foodrage
  • 90: Jellon Grame
  • 91: Fair Mary of Wallington
  • 92: Bonny Bee Hom
  • 93: Lamkin
  • 94: Young Waters
  • 95: The Maid Freed From the Gallows
  • 96: The Gay Goshawk
  • 97: Brown Robin
  • 98: Brown Adam
  • 99: Johnie Scott
  • 100: Willie o Winesberry
  • 101: Willie o Couglas Dale
  • 102: Willie and Earl Richard's Daughter
  • 103: Rose the Red and White LIly
  • 104: Prince Heathen
  • 105: The Bailiff's Daughter of Islington
  • 106: The Famous Flower of Serving Men
  • 107: Will Steward and John
  • 108: Christopher White
  • 109: Tom Potts
  • 110: The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter
  • 111: Crow and Pie
  • 112: Blow Away the Morning Dew
  • 113: The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry


Volume III: 114-188

  • 114: Johnie Cock
  • 115: Robyn and Gandeleyn
  • 116: Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough and William of Cloudesly

Introduction to the Robin Hood Ballads


  • 155: Sir Hugh, or the Jew's Daughter
  • 156: Queen Eleanor's Confession
  • 157: Gude Wallace
  • 158: High Spencer's Feats in France
  • 159: Durham Field
  • 160: The Knight of Liddesdale
  • 161: The Battle of Otterburn
  • 162: The Hunting of the Cheviot
  • 163: The Battle of Harlaw
  • 164: King Henry Fifth's Conquest of France
  • 165: Sir John Butler
  • 166: The Rose of England
  • 167: Andrew Bartin
  • 168: Flodden Field
  • 169: Johnie Armstrong
  • 170: The Death of Queen Jane
  • 171: Thomas Cromwell
  • 172: Musselburgh Field
  • 173: Mary Hamilton
  • 174: Earl Bothwell
  • 175: The Rising in the North
  • 176: Northumberland Betrayed by Douglas
  • 177: The Earl of Westmoreland
  • 178: Captain Car, or, Edom o Gordon
  • 179: Rookhope Ryde
  • 180: King James and Brown
  • 181: The Bonnie Earl o' Moray
  • 182: The Laird o Logie
  • 183: Willie Macintosh
  • 184: The Lads of Wamphray
  • 185: Dick o the Cow
  • 186: Kinmont Willie
  • 187: Jock o the Side
  • 188: Archie o Cawfield

Volume IV: 189-265

  • 189: Hobie Noble
  • 190: Jamie Telfer of the Fair Dodhead
  • 191: Hughie Graham
  • 192: The Lochmaben Harper
  • 193: The Death of Parcy Reed
  • 194: The Laird of Wariston
  • 195: Lord Maxwell's Last Goodnight
  • 196: The Fire of Frendraught
  • 197: James Grant
  • 198: Bonny John Seton
  • 199: Bonnie House o' Airlie
  • 200: The Gypsy Laddie
  • 201: Bessy Bell and Mary Gray
  • 202: The Battle of Philiphaugh
  • 203: The Baron of Brackley
  • 204: Jamie Douglas
  • 205: Loudon Hill, or Dromclog
  • 206: Bothwell Bridge
  • 207: Lord Delamere
  • 208: Lord Dernwentwater
  • 209: Geordie**Editorial
  • 210: Bonnie James Campbell
  • 211: Bewick and Graham
  • 212: The Duke of Athole's Nurse
  • 213: Sir James the Rose
  • 214: The Braes o Yarrow
  • 215: Rare Willie Drowned in Yarrow, or, The Water o Gamrie
  • 216: The Mother's Malison, or, Clyde's Water
  • 217: The Broom of Cowdenknows
  • 218: The False Lover Won Back
  • 219: The Gardener
  • 220: The Bonny Lass of Anglesey
  • 221: Katherine Jafray
  • 222: Bonny Baby Livingston
  • 223: Epie Morrie
  • 224: The Lady of Arngosk
  • 225: Rob Roy
  • 226: Lizie Lindsay
  • 227: Bonny Lizie Baillie
  • 228: Glasgow Peggie
  • 229: Earl Crawford
  • 230: The Slaughter of the Laird of Mellerstain
  • 231: The Earl of Errol
  • 232: Richie Story
  • 233: Andrew Lammie
  • 234: Charlie MacPherson
  • 235: The Earl of Aboyne
  • 236: The Laird o Drum
  • 237: The Duke of Gordon's Daughter
  • 238: Glenlogie or Jean o Bethalnie
  • 239: Lord Saltoun and Auchanachie
  • 240: The Rantin Laddie
  • 241: The Baron o Leys
  • 242: The Coble o Cargin
  • 243: James Harris, (The Daemon Lover)
  • 244: James Hatley
  • 245: Young Allan
  • 246: Redesdale and Wise William
  • 247: Lady Elspat
  • 248: The Grey Cock, or, Saw You My Father
  • 249: Auld Matrons
  • 250: Henry Martyn
  • 251: Lang Johnny More
  • 252: The Kitchie-Boy
  • 253: Thomas o Yonderdale
  • 254: Lord William, or Lord Lundy
  • 255: Willie's Fatal Visit
  • 256: Alison and Willie
  • 257: Burd Isabel and Earl Patrick
  • 258: Broughty Wa's
  • 259: Lord Thomas Stuart
  • 260: Lord Thomas and Lady Margaret
  • 261: Lady Isabel
  • 262: Lord Livingston
  • 263: The New-Slain Knight
  • 264: The White Fisher
  • 265: The Knight's Ghost


Volume V: 266-305

  • 266: John Thomson and the Turk
  • 267: The Heir of Linne
  • 268: The Twa Knights
  • 269: Lady Diamond
  • 270: The Earl of Mar's Daughter
  • 271: The Lord of Lorn and the False Steward
  • 272: The Suffolk Miracle
  • 273: King Edward the Fourth and a Tanner of Tamworth
  • 274: Our Goodman
  • 275: Get Up and Bar the Door
  • 276: TheFriar in the Well
  • 277: The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin
  • 278: The Farmer's Curst Wife
  • 279: The Jolly Beggar
  • 280: The Beggar-Laddie
  • 281: The Keach I the Creel
  • 282: Jock the Leg and the Merry Merchant
  • 283: The Crafty Farmer
  • 284: John Dory
  • 285: The George Aloe and the Sweepstake
  • 286: The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)
  • 287: Captain Ward and the Rainbow
  • 288: The Young Earl of Essex's Victory Over the Emperor of Germany
  • 289: The Mermaid
  • 290: The Wylie Wife of the Hie Toun Hie
  • 291: Child Owlet
  • 292: The West-Country Damosel's Complaint
  • 293: John of Hazelgreen**Editorial
  • 294: Dugal Quin
  • 295: The Brown Girl**Editorial
  • 296: Walter Lesly
  • 297: Earl Rothes
  • 298: Young Peggy
  • 299: Trooper and Maid
  • 300: Blancheflour and Jellyflorice
  • 301: The Queen of Scotland
  • 302: Young Bearwell
  • 303: The Holy Nunnery
  • 304: Young Ronald
  • 305: The Outlaw Murray
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