....Just Another Tune

Songs & Their History



"Bob Dylan's Dream" & "Lady Franklin's Lament"



It is well-known that Bob Dylan often has borrowed melodies and sometimes also ideas for the lyrics from so

More Song Histories

-called "old Folk songs". A typical example is "Bob Dylan's Dream". But in this case the story of the song that had served as the model is even more  interesting and illuminating because it shows in detail how fragmentary relics of a half-forgotten broadside ballad from the 19th century can start a new life as a respected "old Folk song".

"Bob Dylan's Dream" was recorded on 24 April 1963 and released on Freewheelin' (27 May 1963, see the lyrics at BobDylan.com). An early unreleased version is from a session at Gerde's Folk City, New York, 8 February 1963 and it also appears on the Witmark Studio demos from April 1963 (now released on The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos 1962-1964). The first concert performance was probably at Town Hall, New York City, 12 April 1963. According to HisBobness.Info 50 live performances are documented: 4 in 1963 and 46 in 1991.

"Bob Dylan's Dream" is another of his songs which was transported for a time in his mind before being written down. It was initially set off after all-night conversation between Dylan and Oscar Brown, Jr., in Greenwich Village[...] The song slumbered, however, until Dylan went to England in the winter of 1962. There he heard a singer (whose name he recalls as Martin Carthy) perform "Lord Franklin," and that old melody found a new adapted home in "Bob Dylan's Dream." The song is a fond looking back at the easy camaraderie and idealism of the young when they are young. There is also in the "Dream" a wry but sad requiem for the friendships that have evaporated as different routes, geographical and otherwise, are taken" (Nat Hentoff, Liner Notes to The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan)

Lady Franklin's Lament
(Martin Carthy's version)

We were homeward bound one night on the deep
Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep
I dreamed a dream and I thought it true
Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew

With 100 seamen he sailed away
To the frozen ocean in the month of May
To seek a passage around the pole
Where we poor seamen do sometimes roll

Through cruel misfortune they vainly strove
Their ships on mountains of ice was drove
Where the Eskimo with his skin canoe
Was the only one that could ever come through

In Baffin's Bay where the whale fish blow
The fate of Franklin no man may know
The fate of Franklin no tongue can tell
Lord Franklin among his seamen do dwell

And now my burden it gives me pain
For my long lost Franklin I would cross the main
Ten thousand pounds I would freely give
To know that on earth my Franklin do live


Martin Carthy later remembered that Dylan "would always ask me to sing ["Scarborough Fair"] and Lord Franklin" (Interview with Dave Brazier, Telegraph, Vol. 42, 1992, p. 94/5). "Girl of the North Country" (see this text for more about this song) is only very loosely based on "Scarborough Fair" but "'Bob Dylan's Dream' continued what was by January 1963 a well-established compositional pattern. He took an existing traditional song [...] and wrote original lyrics based on the song's central themes" (Harvey, p. 18). Dylan borrowed the tune as well as some ideas for the lyrics, especially in the first verse where he  "fell asleep" and then "dreamed a dream" and in the last verse the "ten thousand" dollars instead of pounds.

"Lord Franklin" or "Lady Franklin's Lament" -  Carthy later recorded this song for his Second Album, Fontana STL 5362, 1966  -  is a truncated version of an old broadside ballad from the 1850s originally called "Lady Franklin's Lament For Her Husband" (see for example 2806 c.13(212) at the Bodleian's broadside collection and Mu23-y.1, 48, David Murray Collection, University of Glasgow). The song was well known among Folk revivalists and a couple of recordings - the first one by Canadian singer Wade Hemsworth in 1955 - were already available. They all use the same melody but have a different number of verses.

  • Wade Hemsworth, Folk Songs Of The Canadian North Woods, Folkways FW06821, 1955
  • Alan Mills, O' Canada. A History In Song, Folkways FW03001, 1956
  • Paul Clayton, Whaling & Sailing Songs from the Days of Moby Dick, Tradition TLP 1005, 1956; at the moment available at YouTube and for me it's the most beautiful version of this song)
  • A. L. Lloyd, The Singing Sailor, Topic TRL3, ca. 1956 (now available on VA, Sailors' Songs And Sea Shanties, Highpoint Recordings HPO6007, 2004, see amazon.co.uk)



In May 1845 Rear Admiral Sir John Franklin with the two ships Erebus and Terror  set out from England to find the northwest passage. Nothing was heard from him for some years and from 1848 on search expeditions were sent out. The British government offered a reward of  £ 20000 for any conclusive information about the fate of Franklin and his ships.

"In the year 1850 no less than eight expeditions were fitted out" (The Living Age 1860, p. 823), some of them organized and financed by Sir Franklin's wife, Lady Jane Franklin who also offered a reward of £ 2000. Her vigor and insistence over many years really touched the people and "won for her the admiration of the world" (dto.).  I don't want to tell the whole story once again because a great number of books and articles about Franklin's lost expedition are available. Instead I only refer to two interesting contemporary accounts in American magazines:1. From: Lady Jane Franklin, in: The Living Age, No. 852, Boston, 29. 9. 1860, p. 823

  • The Arctic Expeditions, in: Littell's Living Age, No. 248, 17.2.1849, p. 289 - 297  
  • Lady Jane Franklin, in: The Living Age, No. 852, Boston, 29. 9. 1860, p. 823/4 

In 1859  Captain McClintock's expedition - also instigated and funded by Lady Franklin - found out what had happened to Franklin and later he wrote a book that is still worth reading:

  • Francis L. McClintock, The Voyage Of The 'Fox' In The Arctic Seas In Search Of Franklin And His Companions, Third Edition, Revised And Enlarged, London 1869 (available at The Internet Archive)

An early biography of Sir John Franklin includes a lot of information about all of his expeditions:

For more information and links please check out Russell B. Potter's site The Fate of Franklin , especially Franklin in the Public Eye: 1815 - 1859  and Sir John Franklin Links



Lady Franklin's Lament For Her Husband
(Broadside, Edinburgh, ca. 1852)

You  seaman bold, that have long withstood
Wild storms of Neptune's briny flood.
Attend to these few lines which I now will gain.
Will put you in mind of a sailor's dream.

As homeward bound one night on the deep
Swang in my hammock I fell asleep,
I dreamt a dream, which I thought was true
Concerning Franklin and his brave crew.

I thought as we neared to the Humber shore,
I heard a female that did deplore,
She wept aloud and seemed to say,
Alas! my Franklin is long away.

Her mind it seemed in sad distress,
She cried aloud I can take no rest,
Ten thousand pounds I would freely give,
To say on earth that my husband lives.

Long time it is since two ships of fame
Did bear my husband across the main,
With one hundred seamen with courage stout,
To find a north western passage out

With one hundred seamen with hearts so bold,
I fear have perished in frost and cold,
Alas, she cried, all my life I'll mourn,
Since Franklin seems never to return.

For since that time seven years are past,
And many a keen and bitter blast,
Blows o'er the grave where poor seamen fell,
Their dreadful sufferings no tongue can tell.

To find a passage by the North Pole
Where tempests wave and wild thunders roll,,
Is more than any mortal man can do,
With hearts undaunted and courage true.

There's Captain Austen of Scaboro town,
Brave Granville and Penny of much renown
With Captain Ross and so many more,
Have long been searching the Arctic shore.

They sailed east and they sailed west,
To Greenland's coast they knew best,
In hardships they have vainly strove,
On mountains of ice where their ships were drove.

In Baffin's Bay where the whale fish blows
The fate of Franklin nobody knows,
There's many a wife and child to mourn,
In griefeous sorrow for their return.

These sad forebodings they give me pain,
For the long lost Franklin across the main,
Likewise the fate of so many before,
Who have left their homes to return no more


It seems the first literary treatment of this topic was the "Ballad of Sir John Franklin" by George H. Boker, published in Sartain's Magazine in May 1850 (pp. 323-3, at Google Books; also available on Russel Potter's site).  It's no wonder the anonymous writers of street ballads also tried their hand at this topic. Interestingly there were two other broadsides. One was also called "Lady Franklin's Lament" (Firth c.12(81), date unknown). Another one with the title "Lament On The Fate Of Sir Franklin And His Crews" (see  for example Harding B11 (4292)) was most likely published in 1860 ("[...] fifteen years since they first set sail") and deals in the last verses - in a somehow tasteless way, to say at least -  with the alleged cannibalism of the expedition's participants.

"At length, oh horrid, for want of meat
Their dying comrades they had to eat"

But these two broadsides sank without any trace and only "Lady Franklin's Lament For Her Husband" has survived. As usual we we don't know who has written this song. Only for some of the surviving broadside sheets the place where they were printed is known. One is from Glasgow, one from Carlisle (Roud id S181267) and another one from Edinburgh (Firth c.12(83), the one on the right). 

Thankfully one line in the sixth verse - "since that time seven years are past" -  allows at least the conclusion that the ballad was written in 1852.  This dating is supported by the fact that all the Captains mentioned in the ninth verse had all been taking part in the early expeditions: James Clark Ross in 1848, his uncle John RossHoratio Austin and William Penny in 1850. I couldn't identify "Granville" but maybe this name refers to the American businessman and philanthropist Henry Grinnell who also funded a search operation in 1850.   

Not at least in 1852 another expedition sponsored by Lady Franklin was in the making. In the end she bought the steamship Isabel but it only made a short trip to Greenland that year. It is not unreasonable to assume that the public interest for this endeavor was one of the reasons for the publication of the ballad.



From here on it's possible and also illuminating to follow the 2. From the magazine Once In A Week, London 1868, p. 93scattered traces the song has left in the course of one century.  In August 1868 an article about shanties in the magazine Once In A Week quoted two verses and noted that "Lady Franklin's Lament" was at that time one of the "stock pieces that are common on all ships" (p. 93). In 1878  Joseph P. Faulkner included a version of this song in his book Eighteen Months On A Greenland Whaler (pp. 73-4): 

"We were now in a region where Arctic explorations may be supposed to commence, and it is consonant that I should give here a little bit of genuine Arctic literature, having its origin among the hardy class of men who there venture. It may be taken as an echo from those latitudes, like an old Runic lay, at once giving a specimen of their minds, and affording a reminiscence - a souvenir of their lives. It has a ring of its own and is entitled 'The Sailor's Dream'"

Seven of the nine verses are very similar to those on the broadside, except that. the names o3. From: Joseph P. Faulkner, Eighteen Months On A Greenland Whaler, 1878, p. 53/4f Captains are changed. Instead of Austin, Penny and Granville we now hear of Osborne (i. e. Sherard Osborn) , Parry (i. e. William Edward Parry) and Winslow. But the last two verse hadn't been part of the original text. These variations suggest that different versions of the song were circulating.

At the end of the century "Lady Franklin's Lament" was for some reason reprinted on American song sheets (see Doerflinger, p. 342, Wehman, Alphabetic Catalogue, p. 6): 

  • Delaney's Songbook No. 23 
  • Wehman's Collection of Songs, No. 10 (text available at traditionalmusic.co.uk)

During the first decade of the 20th century Folklorists in Britain encountered the song a couple of times. Cecil Sharp collected in 1905 in Somerset a fragmentary version of five verses from one Captain Vickery (see CJS2/9/647 & CJS2/10/571 at The Full English Digital Archive). Frank Kidson reported in 1906 that he had heard  a "ballad on Sir John Franklin" in the East Riding of Yorkshire (JFSS II/4, p. 292). In fact a fragment consisting of a tune and one single verse can be found in his manuscripts. Kidson had collected this piece in 1892 from Charles Lolley, one of his major informants (FK/2/54 at The Full English Digital Archive, see Gregory 2010, pp. 439/40). In 1908 Ralph Vaughan Williams also wrote down  a tune with one verse in Derbyshire (see RVW2/6/5 at The Full English Digital Archive;  Palmer, No. 14, "Franklin's Crew", p. 23-5, 187) .

From Scotland we also know a melody with single verse as well as two fragmentary texts that were collected 1908 - 1910 by Gavin Greig and James Duncan. Interestingly the informant who supplied them with the tune - the cooper James Angus from Peterhead - had actually been to Greenland on a ship (Greig-Duncan Vol. 1, No. 16, p. 34/5, 502; Vol. 8, p. 550). It's important to note that the tunes found by Sharp, Vaughan Williams and Greig are very different from the one used today with this song. Only Kidson has collected a related melody. 

This is all we have from the British Isles except one lone Irish version from Sam Henry's Songs of the People (1939, "Franklin The Brave", in Huntington, p. 103/4, text available at the Digital Tradition Database). But since the

The Franklin Expedition
(Newfoundland 1929)

I Dreamed a dream and I thought it true
Concerning Frankelin and his jovial crew,
That from old England we sailed away.
To the frozen ocean in the month of May,

About a hundred seamen so brisk and stout,
To find the Northwest Passage out,
The Northwest Passage around the Pole,
Where we poor seamen do ofttimes roll.

In Baffin's Bay where the whale-fish blow,
The death of Frankelin no one do know,
Or the fate of Frankelin no tongue can tell;
Lord Frankelin with his sailors do dwell.

[Greenleaf/Mansfield 1933, version A, p. 308]

1920s a few remains of this song were also unearthed in North America. Apparently Robert Gordon recorded a version in the 20s in California (Roud id S241746) but it has never been published.

Much more important were Elizabeth Greenleaf and Grace Mansfield who went out to collect songs in Newfoundland in 1929: "It was a great surprise to us to come across fragments of this song (of which we never did get a complete version)". Their book Ballads And Sea-Songs Of Newfoundland (1933) included - besides one variant  with nine mostly incomplete verses - a version "sung by Joe Cooke, Fortune Harbour, 1929. Words [three verses] from James Day, Fortune Harbour, 1929" (pp. 308-310). It's notable that they obviously couldn't even get a decent variant from one singer but instead had to combine text and melody from two different informants.

This was the very first time time this song was published in a collection of Folk songs and it was also the first time a melody for "Lady Franklin's Lament" was printed. In fact this is exactly the tune that was used with this song in all Folk Revival recordings since the 50s: 

4. The melody of "Franklin's Expedition" as published in Greenleaf/Mansfield, Ballads And Sea-Songs Of Newfoundland, 1933, p. 308.

In 1938 Joanna C.  Colcord published her Songs Of The American Sailormen. She also included a version of this song, here called "Franklin's Crew". The melody is exactly the same as the one in Greenleaf's

Franklin's Crew
(North America, 1930s?)

While homeward bound across the deep,
Snug in my hammock  I fell asleep.I Dreampt these lines, which are think are true,
Concerning Frankin and his brave crew.

And as we neared old England's shore 
I saw a lady in deep deplore, 
She wept aloud and she seemed to say, 
Alas, my Franklin is long away.

It's a long time now since those ships of fame 
Bore my long-lost husband across the main
And an hundred seamen with courage stout
To find the Northwestern passage out.

To find a passage by the North Pole
Where storms do rage and wild waters roll,
'Tis more than mortal man can do, 
With heart undaunted and courage true.

They sailed east and they sailed west,
Along Greenland's coast which they knew the best,
Against hardships and dangers they vainly strove,
Against mountains of ice their ships were drove.

Oh, Captain Osborne of Scarbury town
Granville and Perry of great renown, 
And Captain ROSS and many more 
Have since been cruising on the Arctic shore

In Baffin's Bay where the right whale blows 
The fate of Franklin no one knows, 
Which causes many to weep and mourn 
While praying for their safe return.

[Colcord 1938, p. 158/9]

and Mansfield's book but she managed to find seven of the twelve original verses. Annoyingly she doesn't tell us her source so it's not possible to know if this was a genuine variant or just another version collated from different sources.

James Doerflinger apparently only found fragments and not even a tune. The text published in 1951 in his book Shantymen and Shantyboys: Songs of the Sailors and Lumbermen (p. 145 & 342) was reconstructed from  three different sources: 

"Stanzas 1,5,6 recited by John Apt, Greenland, Annapolis County; 3, 4, 7 recited by Captain Fred Haines, Freeport Nova Scotia, 2 from Delaney's Songbook, No. 23, p. 26". 

This text was then combined with the tune from Greenleaf's & Mansfield's Ballads And Sea-Songs Of Newfoundland. But additionally he also reprinted "The Sailor's Dream" from Joseph P. Faulkner's Eighteen Months On A Greenland Whaler (1878).  

These are the first three books that included versions of "Lady Franklin's Lament". It should be noted that they all use the same tune. At least in case of Doerflinger we know that it was taken from Greenleaf & Mansfield. At this time no other melody for this song had been published.

In the early 50s Folklorists added some field-recorded variants. MacEdward Leach found one in Newfoundland in 1950/51 (available online here, released in 1966 on Folkways FW0475). This one has the most complete text so far with ten verses. Helen Creighton also managed to record three versions. Two are from Newfoundland, one from 1949 with 10 verses and one from 1950 with only four verses. The third is a fragment of one verse from Southern New Brunswick. (Creighton 1962, p. 145/6; Creighton 1971, p. 200). The tunes collected by MacLeach and Creighton are all different from the one published by Greenleaf and Mansfield.  

That's all there is and by all accounts "Lady Franklin's Lament" wasn't exactly a great hit. It should be noted that it can't be found in any of the great collections of American Folk songs - Cox, Randolph, Lomax etc - but instead it was mostly confined to a certain geographical area - Scotland, the North of England and the Northeast of North America - and to certain occupational groups: sailors and those who came in touch with them.

There is not a single complete version, instead all collected texts were fragments and the singers often barely remembered the original words. Nearly every collector found a different tune in use with that song so it seems that there was not always a stable connection between melody and words. It's not unreasonable to assume that the collectors' informants have learned it in most cases from printed sources, either the ancient British broadside or a an American song sheet.   



Since the mid-50s Folk revivalists recorded versions of "Lady Franklin's Lament". The first four were Wade5. From the liner notes  of Wade Hemsworth,  Folk Songs Of The Canadian North Woods, Folkways FW06821, 1955 Hemsworth, Alan Mills, Paul Clayton and A. L. Lloyd in 1955 and 1956. As already noted they all use the same tune, the one first published by Greenleaf and Mansfield.  

Canadian singer Wade Hemsworth only speculates in the liner notes (p. 3) that "this fragment was carried into Newfoundland, perhaps by the searching parties themselves" but otherwise names no source for his variant. In fact it was taken straight out of Greenleaf's and Mansfield's book. The first and the last verse are from their version A while the second and third were borrowed from the version B (5, 7, 8; by Mrs. Minnie Payne, Green Point, 1929; p. 309). He has even inserted the correct names of the Captains as mentioned in the footnotes.

6. From the liner notes of Alan Mills, O' Canada. A History In Song, Folkways FW03001, 1956Alan Mills has also taken his version from Greenleaf and Mansfield (liner notes, p. 11)  but has added one and a half verse from another variant. Paul Clayton sings the text originally published in Faulkner's Eighteen Months and also acknowledges his source. But - as noted above - this variant had been reprinted by Doerflinger in 1951 and I have no doubt that Clayton has also taken the tune from this particular collection although I wouldn't be surprised if he had also known Greenleaf's and Mansfield's book.   

A. L. Lloyd sings six verses and according to one source he had

Lord Franklin
(A. L. Lloyd, 1956)

I was homeward bound one night on the deep, 
Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep, 
I dreamed a dream and I thought it true 
Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew.

I dreamed we neared the English shore, 
I heard a lady weep and deplore, 
She wept aloud and she seemed to say: 
Alas, that my husband is so long away.

With a hundred seamen he sailed away 
To the frozen ocean in the month of May, 
To seek the passage around the Pole, 
Where we poor seamen do sometimes roll.

Through cruel hardships they vainly strove, 
Their ship on mountains of ice was drove, 
Where the Eskimo in his skin canoe 
Was the only ones that ever came through.

Now my sad burden it gives me pain, 
For my long-lost Franklin I'd cross the main. 
Ten thousand pounds I would freely give 
To say on earth that my Franklin do live.

In Baffin's Bay where the whalefish blow, 
The fate of Franklin no man may know,   
The tale of Franklin no tongue can tell, 
Lord Franklin along with his sailors do dwell

[source: Stan Kelly's site]

learned this variant from - believe it or not - "Edward Harper, a whale-factory blacksmith of Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands". But it is easy to see that his version has also been for the greatest part cribbed from Greenleaf and Mansfield. Some of the lines from Lloyd's text are only known from the versions A + B in that book and the one about the "Eskimo in his skin canoe" has surely been borrowed from their version C (p. 310) which is - by the way - not a variant of "Lady Franklin" but a completely different song:

And the Huskimaw in his skin canoe,
That was the only living soul.

In fact the Eskimo - who had never been mentioned in the original text nor in any other field-recorded variants - was introduced into this song by  Lloyd in 1956. The rest could have easily been taken from other books, either Doerflinger's or Colcord's. I don't think this version ever came close to the Falkland Isles. Instead it surely has been created with the help of books from the local library.

Lloyd's recording must have also been the source for Martin Carthy who used five of his six verses including the one with the Eskimo. Carthy's version in turn was - as noted -  the model for "Bob Dylan's Dream". At that point the tune had crossed the Atlantic three times: at first from Britain to Newfoundland, then back to Britain when A. L. Lloyd borrowed it from Greenleaf's and Mansfield's book and then back to North America with Bob Dylan.

The tune and in most cases also the lyrics of all modern versions of "Lady Franklin" can be traced back to Greenleaf and Mansfield.  Hemsworth, Mills and Lloyd all have created their own fragments  from the fragments available in that particular collection and in turn Lloyd's version has been the source for most later recordings. Interestingly all the other field-recorded versions both from Britain - Sharp, Vaughan Williams, Greig & Duncan - and North America - MacLeach and Creighton -  had no influence on the further development of this song, not at least because they weren't as easily available as the variants published by Greenleaf and Mansfield and later Doerflinger. 



As we have seen all modern versions of "Lady Franklin" are sung to the melody collected by Elizabeth Greenleaf and Grace Mansfield in Newfoundland in 1929. It has occasionally been noted that this tune has also been used for the Irish rebel song "The Croppy Boy" (see The Croppy Boy(2) and The Croppie Boy(3) at the Digital Tradition Database). The problem is that there are not only two texts but also a multitude of melodies that have been associated with this particular song. One text is an anonymous "street ballad" that was printed regularly on broadsides during the 19th century (f. ex. Harding B 11(1486) and Harding B 15(73a); see also Sparling, pp. 46-7). The other one was written by Carroll Malone - most likely a pseudonym for William B. McBurney - in 1845 (see Brooke/Rollesto7. From the songbook A handful of pleasant delights, containing sundry new sonnets and delectable histories in divers kinds of metre, 1584, edition  published by Edward Arber, 1878, p. 33n, p. 139).

Among the tunes used for "The Croppy Boy" was "Cailin o cois tSiure me" which has been called the "oldest dateable Irish melody" (Nicholas Carolan quoted in a John McCormack discography). It was first mentioned as "Calen o Custure Me" in 1584 in the songbook A handful of pleasant delights, containing sundry new sonnets and delectable histories in divers kinds of metre  ("Sonet of a Louver in Praise of his Lady",  Arber 1878, p. 33).

8. "CallinoCasturame", from:  William H. Grattan Flood, The Story Of The Harp, London 1905, p. 81The melody appeared first in William Ballet's Lute Book from the 1590s and then in an arrangement by William Byrd in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (ca. 1610 - 1620) as "Callino Casturame" (see Chappell 1855, p. 793, Chappell 1893, p. 84/5, Flood, p. 81, Fiddler's CompanionCailin Og A Stuair Me; see Fuld, pp. 231-2 for the relationship to the French song "Malbrouk";  the tune in Playford's Musical Companion, 1673, p. 231 is a different one).

It seems that this melody was used with Malone's poem as in the versions of "The Croppy Boy" recorded b9. No. 605/6: "The Croppy Boy", from: George Petrie & Charles Villiers Stanford (ed), The Complete Collection of Irish Music, Vol. 2 London, 1902y John McCormack in 1906 and published by Colm O Lochlainn in his More Irish Street Ballads (1965, No. 41, pp. 82-3). It is easy to see and hear that this is not the tune adapted for "Lady Franklin". Andrew Kuntz's Fiddler's Companion lists three more (Croppy Boy [1], [3] and [4]: Petrie No.  605, O'Neill No. 198 and Petrie No. 606) but they are also all different as is the one published by Joyce in his Old Irish Folk Music And Songs  (No. 385, p. 193)

In fact it is still another one (thanks to Renwick, p. 154/5, notes 5 & 6 for the hint). It can be found in  Edward Bunting‘s Ancient Music of Ireland (1840) with the title "The Robber - Charley Reilly". He had collected it in Drogheda in 1803 (No. 65, p,. 48; p. xi):

10. "The Robber - Charles Reily", from: Edward Bunting, The Ancient Music of Ireland, Dublin 1840, No. 65, p. 48)

This tune was first published as "The Rambling Boy"  by Smollett Holden in his Collection of Old Established Irish Slow and Quick Tunes, Vol. 2 (ca. 1804-1806, SITM No. 4656) and also in his Collection of the Most Esteem'd Old Irish Melodies , Vol. 1 (ca. 1808, see Olson, Index; SITM No. 4727) as well as in one of his later publications, A Collection Of Favourite Irish Airs (1818, p. 35, available at Irish Music Collections Online ).

Other variants of this melody are  available in William Christie's Traditional Ballad Airs as "The Lion's Den" (Vol. 2, p. 126) and in  both Petrie's (No. 765, "Early, Early In The Spring") and O'Neill's (No. 528, "Charles O'Reilly", see abcnotation.com) great collections. The Fiddler's Companion (Croppy Boy [2]) lumps this tune  with both "Callino Casturame" and Joyce's version  but I think it is distinctively different from those two and should be listed separately.

This particular melody was well known on the British Isles. According to Lucy Broadwood (JFSS, p. 178) it was "a favourite air amongst country singers, and is met with in England and Scotland very often". It was used for many ballads, especially for the family of songs often called "Wild and Wicked Youth" or "Ramblin' Boy" (Roud # 490, see Renwick, pp. 154-5). Frank Kidson noted in 1906 that the tune was "generally appropriated to execution-song11. "The Highway Man", collected in Liverpool by Frank Kidson, in: JFSS 1906, p. 291s and tales of highway robbery" and published two examples called "James Waller The Poacher" and "The Highwayman" (JFSS, p. 291).

But it was also adapted  for other kind of ballads. "Spurn Point" is a song  about a ship disaster  in 1819 "off the mouth of the Humber" (see JFSS, p. 178 and Palmer, No. 55, p. 88). "Sailor Boy/Sweet William" (Roud # 273) is a  sad tale about a girl longing and searching for her boyfriend who "has just been drowned the other day" ("My Boy Willie"  in Colm O Lochlainn, Irish Street Ballads, No. 56, p. 112/3, see also two broadsides texts: Firth c.12(227)).

The Sailor Boy And His
Faithful Mary
(Broadside, Preston, between 1840 and 1866)

A sailor's life, it is a merry life,
He robs young women of their heart's delight,
Leaving them behind to sigh and mourn,
And never know when they will return.

Four-and-twenty sailors, all in a row,
And my sweet William cuts the brightest show,
He's proper, tall, genteel with all,
If I don't have him, I'll have none at all,

Father, bring me a little boat,
That  may on the ocean float,
And every Queen's ship as I passed by,
I may enquire for my sailor boy.

They had not sailed long on the deep,
When a Queen's ship she chanc'd to meet,
You sailors all, pray tell me true,
Does my sweet William sail among your crew?

O,no, fair lady, he is not here,
For he's been drowned, I greatly fear,
On yon green island as we pass by,
There we lost sight of your sailor boy.


Well, she wrung her hands, and tore her hair,
Just like a woman in great despair,
And her little boat against a rock did run,
Saying, how can I live now my William's gone.´

That leaves one question: is it in anyway possible that this tune was the one originally used for "Lady Franklin's Lament"? It was a very popular melody and it was obviously well known all over Britain. But on the other hand the factual evidence is very scarce. We only have this one version from Newfoundland and maybe one more from an unknown source if Colcord's variant is genuine.

The only available piece of information from Britain is Frank Kidson's remark that the tune of the "ballad on Sir John Franklin" he had heard in Yorkshire was "nearly identical" to the one of "The Highwayman" (JFSS II/4, 1906, p. 292). As already mentioned he had collected this fragmentary version in 1892 and it is in fact a related melody (FK/2/54 at The Full English Digital Archive; now published in Gregory 2010, p. 439). So at least we know that it was used with this song in England.  But as also noted above all the other field-recorded variants of "Lady Franklin" have different melodies.

Interestingly most of the songs associated with this tune are about death. The robber in "Wild And Wicked Youth" and the Irish rebel in "The Croppy Boy" are on the way to their execution. One line from "The Croppy Boy" was even adapted for "Lady Franklin's Lament":

One hundred guineas she would lay down
To see my brother through Wexford town.

has been turned into:

Ten thousand pounds I would freely give,
To say on earth that my husband lives.

The ship's crew in "Spurn Point" had to die because the Captain failed to accept the help of a lifeboat and  the "Sailor Boy" had also drowned. Not at least Lady Franklin  must have appeared like a an embodiment of the “faithful Mary” from that song. She in fact did hire not only a “little boat” but a couple of ships to search for her husband.

It is not unreasonable to assume that the anonymous writer of "Lady Franklin's Lament" really had these particular songs in mind. In this case it is not unlikely that he wrote his text to a tune associated with these ballads about protagonists who are bound to die. In 1852 - after seven years of waiting - it should have been clear to everybody that there was barely any chance that Franklin and his men had survived



    Many thanks to Stew in Scotland.


Images & Illustrations

  1. From: Lady Jane Franklin, in: The Living Age, No. 852, Boston, 29. 9. 1860, p. 823, source: Google Books
  2. From the magazine Once In A Week, London 1868, p. 93, source: Google Books
  3. From: Joseph P. Faulkner, Eighteen Months On A Greenland Whaler, 1878, p. 73/4, source: The Internet Archive
  4. The melody of "Franklin's Expedition" as published in Greenleaf/Mansfield, Ballads And Sea-Songs Of Newfoundland, 1933, p. 308; midi-file created with MCMusiceditor)
  5. From the liner notes  of Wade Hemsworth,  Folk Songs Of The Canadian North Woods, Folkways FW06821, 1955
  6. From the liner notes of Alan Mills, O' Canada. A History In Song, Folkways FW03001, 1956
  7. From the songbook A handful of pleasant delights, containing sundry new sonnets and delectable histories in divers kinds of metre, 1584, edition  published by Edward Arber, 1878, p. 33, source: The Internet Archive
  8. Callino Casturame", from: William H. Grattan Flood, The Story Of The Harp, London 1905, p. 81, source: The Internet Archive
  9. No. 605/6: "The Croppy Boy", from: George Petrie & Charles Villiers Stanford (ed), The Complete Collection of Irish Music, Vol. 2 London, 1902, source: pdf-file downloaded from IMSLP
  10. "The Robber - Charles Reily", from: Edward Bunting, The Ancient Music of Ireland, Dublin 1840, No. 65, p. 48, source: pdf-file downloaded from IMSLP, midi-file created with MC Musiceditor (a fine program that is available at mcmusiceditor.com)
  11. "The Highway Man", collected in Liverpool by Frank Kidson, in: JFSS 1906, p. 292, source: The Internet Archive


Literature & Online Resources

  • abcnotation.com
  • Broadside Ballads Online (Bodleian Library, Oxford)
  • Edward Arber (ed.),Clement Robinson and divers others, A Handful of Pleasant Delights, 1584  (available at The Internet Archive)
  • Stopford A. Brooke & T. W. Rolleston, A Treasury of Irish Poetry in the English Tongue, New York 1910  (available at the Internet Archive)
  • Edward Bunting, The Ancient Music of Ireland, Dublin 1840 (available at IMSLP)
  • Dave Brazier, Interview with Martin Carthy, Telegraph 42, 1992,  (also available at Manfred Helfert's site bobdylanroots.com)
  • William Chappell, The Ballad Literature And Popular Music Of The Olden Time, London 1855 (available at The Internet Archive)
  • William Chappell, Old English Popular Music, Vol. 1,  London & New York 1893 (available at The Internet Archive
  • William Christie, Traditional Ballad Airs, Vol. I, Edinburgh 1876 & Vol. II, Edinburgh 1881  (available for download as pdf-files at http://www.celtscot.ed.ac.uk/ballad.htm (University of Edinburgh, Celtic & Scottish Studies))
  • Joanna C. Colcord, Songs of the American Sailormen, New York 1938 (rev. edition of: Roll and Go, Songs of American Sailormen, 1924)
  • Copac National, Academic, and Specialist Library Catalogue
  • Helen Creighton, Maritime Folksongs,Toronto 1962
  • Helen Creighton & Kenneth Peacock (ed.), Folksongs From Southern New Brunswick, Ottawa 1971
  • Digital Tradition Database
  • James Doerflinger, Songs of the Sailors and Lumbermen, Glenwood 1990 (first published as: Shantymen and Shantyboys: Songs of the Sailors and Lumbermen, New York 1951)
  • Joseph P. Faulkner, Eighteen Months On A Greenland Whaler, New York 1878 (available at The Internet Archive)
  • The Fiddler's Companion. A Descriptive Index of North American,British Isles and Irish Music for  the Folk Violin and other Instruments, by Andrew Kuntz
  • William H. Grattan Flood, The Story Of The Harp, London 1905 (available at The Internet Archive
  • E. David Gregory. The Late Victorian Folksong Revival. The Persistence of English Melody, 1878-1903, Lanham, Toronto & Plymouth 2010
  • Aloys Fleischmann (ed.) , Sources Of Irish Traditional Music, C. 1600 - 1855, Vol. II, New York & London 1998 (= SITM)
  • James J. Fuld, The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular and Folk, Fifth Edition, Mineola 2000 (partly available at Google Books)
  • The Full English Digital Archive (Vaughan Williams Memorial Library)
  • Elizabeth Bristol Greenleaf & Grace Yarrow Mansfield, Ballads And Sea-Songs Of Newfoundland, Cambridge 1933 (partly available at Google Books)
  • Todd Harvey, The Formative Dylan. Transmissions And Stylistic Influences, 1961 - 1963, Lanham, Maryland & London 2001
  • Smollett Holden, A Collection of Favorite Irish Airs, Arranged for the Harp or Piano Forte, London 1818 (available at Irish Music Collections Online)
  • Gale Huntington & Lani Herrmann (ed.), Sam Henry's Songs Of The People, Athens, GA 1990 (partly available at Google Books)
  • Irish Music Collections Online
  • Journal of the Folk-Song Society, No. 8 (II/3), London 1906 (available at The Internet Archive)
  • Journal of the Folk-Song Society, No. 9 (II/4), London 1906 (available at The Internet Archive)
  • P. W. Joyce, Old Irish Folk Music And Songs. A Collection Of  842 Irish Airs And Songs, Hitherto Unpublished, Dublin 1909 (available at The Internet Archive, but not in good quality)
  • MacEdward Leach & The Songs Of Atlantic Canada (Canada's Digital Collections)
  • Calm O Lochlainn, Irish Street Ballads, Dublin 1993 (here quoted after The Complete Irish Street Ballads, London & Sydney 1984)
  • Francis O'Neill, O'Neill's Music of Ireland, 1903 (available at Freesheetmusic.net )
  • On Shanties, in: Once In A Week (1.8.1868), edited by E. S. Dallas, London, 1868, p. 92/93  (available at Google Books)
  • Bruce Olson, Early Irish Tune Title Index
  • Roy Palmer (ed.), Bushes And Briars. Folk Songs Collected By Ralph Vaughan Williams, Burnham-on-Sea 1999 (first published 1983) 
  • George Petrie & Charles Villiers Stanford (ed), The Complete Collection of Irish Music, Vol. 2 London, 1902 (available at IMSLP
  • Roger DeV Renwick, Recentering Anglo/American Folk Song: Sea Crabs And Wicked Youths, Jackson 2009 (partly available at Google Books)
  • Steven Roud, Folk Song Index, English Folk Dance And Song Society (Vaughn Williams Memorial Library)
  • Patrick Shuldham-Shaw & Emily B. Lyle (ed.), The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, Vol. 1, Aberdeen 1981
  • Patrick Shuldham-Shaw, Emily B. Lyle & Katherine Campbell (ed.), The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, Vol. 8, Aberdeen 2002
  • H. Halliday Sparling, Irish Minstrelsy: Being a Selection of Irish Songs, Lyrics and Ballads, New York & London n.d [1888] (available at The Internet Archive)
  • The Traditional Ballad Index. An Annotated Bibliography of the Folk Songs of the English-Speaking World
  • Henry J. Wehman, Publisher, Alphabetical Catalogue of Songs Contained in Wehman's 10-Cent Song Collections, Nos. 1 - 31 inclusive, New York, n. d. (available at The Internet Archive)

  • First posted on this website in November 2010.
    Comments: Please use my blog , send a mail to info[at]justanothertune.com


© Jürgen Kloss 2007/2010/2012/2013

[Home] [Articles] [Links] [Library] [About]