Willy O’ Winsbury


Childs Ballad
100A: Willie o Winesberry

100A.1 THE king he hath been a prisoner,
A prisoner lang in Spain, O
And Willie o the Winsbury
Has lain lang wi his daughter at hame. O

100A.2 ‘What aileth thee, my daughter Janet,
Ye look so pale and wan?
Have ye had any sore sickness,
Or have ye been lying wi a man?
Or is it for me, your father dear,
And biding sae lang in Spain?’

100A.3 ‘I have not had any sore sickness,
Nor yet been lying wi a man;
But it is for you, my father dear,
In biding sae lang in Spain.’

100A.4 ‘Cast ye off your berry-brown gown,
Stand straight upon the stone,
That I may ken ye by yere shape,
Whether ye be a maiden or none.’

100A.5 She’s coosten off her berry-brown gown,
Stooden straight upo yon stone;
Her apron was short, and her haunches were round,
Her face it was pale and wan.

100A.6 ‘Is it to a man o might, Janet?
Or is it to a man of fame?
Or is it to any of the rank robbers
That’s lately come out o Spain?’

100A.7 ‘It is not to a man of might,’ she said,
‘Nor is it to a man of fame;
But it is to William of Winsburry;
I could lye nae langer my lane.’

100A.8 The king’s called on his merry men all,
By thirty and by three:
‘Go fetch me William of Winsbury,
For hanged he shall be.’

100A.9 But when he cam the king before,
He was clad o the red silk;
His hair was like to threeds o gold.
And his skin was as white as milk.

100A.10 ‘It is nae wonder,’ said the king,
‘That my daughter’s love ye did win;
Had I been a woman, as I am a man,
My bedfellow ye should hae been.

100A.11 ‘Will ye marry my daughter Janet,
By the truth of thy right hand?
I’ll gie ye gold, I’ll gie ye money,
And I’ll gie ye an earldom o land.’

100A.12 ‘Yes, I’ll marry yere daughter Janet,
By the truth of my right hand;
But I’ll hae nane o yer gold, I’ll hae nane o yer money,
Nor I winna hae an earldom o land.

100A.13 ‘For I hae eighteen corn-mills,
Runs all in water clear,
And there’s as much corn in each o them
As they can grind in a year.’

Traditional arranged by Andy Irvine

This song was first recorded by Sweeney’s Men on their eponymous debut album in 1968, sung by Andy Irvine accompanying himself on guitar. At the time, Johnny Moynihan stated on the sleeve notes: “A ballad for which Andy is renowned. He got the text from Child’s ‘English And Scottish Ballads’; looking up the tune he got his numbers confused and emerged with the wrong air. By chance it suited the song very well”. In 2010, Irvine re-recorded the song with a fuller arrangement of the same tune on his album Abocurragh, adding: “This is Child 100. I collected the words from different versions and as the story goes, on looking up the tune, I lighted on the tune to number 101. I’m not sure if this is true but it’s a good story”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s