Monday, March 06, 2006

South East London Folk Songs

I have been collecting folk songs/ballads that refer to South East London locations. So far I have come up with the following:

- Georgie - Martin Carthy's version of this poaching ballad mentions Shooters Hill;
- Wapping Old Stairs - mentions stepping out with 'Susan from Deptford';
- Buxom Joan of Deptford - a song in Willliam Congreve's play Love for Love (1695);
- Wings of a Gull - whalers' song where the singer longs to be 'snug in a Deptford pub';
- Ratcliff Highway - not SE London I know, but at the end the hapless sailor returns to his ship at Deptford;
- Sweet Thames Flow Softly - Ewan McColl's song starts 'I met my girl at Woolwich Pier'. McColl and his partner Peggy Seeger lived at 35 Stanley Avenue, Beckenham from the early 60s until his death in 1989;
- Lady from Lee - I think McColl and Seeger did a version of this.
- Fair Betsy of Deptford - a song from the 1830s about a sailor called William returning from sea to marry the aforementioned Betsy;
- Stormy Weather - a Thames barge song (no relation to the Billie Holiday song) that mentions Surrey Dock, Greenwich Beach and other places along the River. It was recorded by Bob Roberts.

Some of these I only have titles for, others just lyrics. Any guidance on tunes, or any other suggestions, let me know.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I realise this is a reaally old post, but I am researching folk songs in South East London -namely Lewisham(we have to learn a folk song from where we were born). I was wondering if you knew any, or know the lyrics to any on this list? Thank you!

Paul Cowdell said...

In 1981 the Kent duo Tundra recorded an album called Songs From Greenwich. Some of the songs were collected in the area by Cecil Sharp (I'm Going to Leave Her Shallow Brown, So Handy), others mentioned the place. Sussex traditional singer Bob Lewis has a song Pretty Maids of Greenwich.

There was also a broadsheet published sometime in the 1860s entitled Farewell to the World of Richard Bishop: Who now lies under sentence of Death in Maidstone Gaol For the Murder of Alfred Cartwright. They both lived in and around Sydenham/Forest Hill.


. said...

Thanks Paul - and I think I'm right in saying that Cecil Sharp grew up in Camberwell.

Leanne said...


I need to find a folk song from Bexley to sing infrount of my class so far the songs you have posted is the closest I can find. Do you know of any from Bexley or Dartford. If not thats fine.