The Travels of Harry Newell

In Later English Broadside Ballads, edited by John Holloway & Joan Black (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975), appears the following song text (No 88 in the collection):

A New Song, Called Harry Newell

When I came to this town,
They called me Harry Newell,
Now they've changed my name,
And they call me the raking Jewel.
Fal lal, etc.

They put me to bed,
Thinking I was weary:
Sleep I could get none,
For thinking of my deary.

All the night awake,
All the day am weary:
Sleep I can get none,
When I think of my deary.

Her cheeks are ruby-red,
Her lips are like a cherry;
Her eyes as black as a sloe,
And her hair as brown as a berry.

She is a lovely lass,
She has my heart in keeping:
When I go to bed,
She hinders me from sleeping.

I'll send my love a letter,
And I will entreat her:
In Belfast-town with speed,
I will be sure to meet her.

Down by the Ropery,
All thro' mud and mire;
Down by Hampster-Place,
There liv'd my heart's desire.

She was a beauty bright,
There's no one can excell her;
She was my heart's delight,
I know not what befel her.

In their notes to the song, Holloway & Black say:

Northern Irish.
OED first records rake in this sense (see stanza 1) for 1700.
ropery, a rope-walk.
A very fine ballad.

There is no tune to go with the song, nor any indication of what tune should be used for it. We don't know anything about Harry Newell, whether he was or was based upon a real person. Nor do we know whether this version, currently part of the Madden Collection at Cambridge University, was the earliest version of the song. But the song, or verses from it, appears to have travelled widely.

Verses 2&3, brought to mind for me a Northumbrian song: The Hexhamshire Lass, still a folk club favourite, which appears in several 19th century collections, including Bruce and Stokoe's Northumbrian Minstrelsy (1882):

The Hexhamshire Lass

Hey for the buff and the blue,
Hey for the cap and the feather,
Hey for the bonny lass true,
That lives in Hexhamshire.

Through by the Saiby Syke,
And over the moss and the mire,
I'll go to see my lass,
Who lives in Hexhamshire.

Her father loved her well,
Her mother loved her better,
I love the lass mysel',
But, alas! I cannot get her.
Through by, &c.

O, this love, this love,
Of this love I'm weary,
Sleep I can get none,
For thinking on my deary.
Through by, &c.

My heart is like to break,
My bosom is on fire,
So well I love the lass,
That lives in Hexhamshire.
Through by, &c.

Her petticoat is silk,
And plated round with siller,
Her shoes are tied with tape;
She'll wait till I go till her.
Through by, &c.

Were I where I would be,
I would be beside her;
But here a while I must be, Whatever may betide her.
Through by, &c.

Hey for the thick and the thin,
Hey for the mud and the mire,
And hey for the bonny lass,
That lives in Hexhamshire.
Through by, &c.

In this song, the opening and final verses clearly relate to v7 of Harry Newell, and v3 relates to v3 of Harry Newell. Whereas v3 is something of a 'floating verse' (see below), the reference to 'the mud and the mire' is more unusual and may point to a greater link between the two songs.

A stronger verbal connection can be seen with a song from the other side of the Atlantic - Katy Cruel, published in the Penguin Book of American Folk Songs.

Katy Cruel

When first I came to town, They called me the roving jewel
Now they've changed their tune, They call me Katy Cruel.
O diddle-olly-aye, O a little ly-o-day.

O that I was where I would be, Then would I be where I am not
Here I am where I must be, Go where I would I cannot.

I know who I love, And I know who does love me,
I know where I'll go, And I know who'll go with me.

Through the woods I'll go, And through the boggy mire,
Straightway on the road, Till I come to my heart's desire.
(Chorus, then repeat stanza two.)

The tone of this song is a bit different - the editors say it 'flames with intense and bitter passion', but there is still a reference to mire (v4) while v2 above bears some similarity to Hexhamshire Lass v6. Katy Cruel is said to have been a camp follower of the American Revolutionary army.

A slightly different version of the song can be found in John Anthony Scott: The Ballad of America.

When first I came to town, They called me the roving jewel;
Now they've changed their tune, And call me Katy Cruel,
O little lolly day O the little li-o day.

O that I were where I would be, Then would I be where I am not,
But I am where I must be, Where I would be I cannot,
O little lolly day, O the little li-o day.

I know who I love, And I know who does love me;
I know where I'll go, And I know who'll go with me.

Through the woods I'll go, And through the bogs and mire,
Straightway down the road, Till I come to my heart's desire,

Eyes as bright as coal, Lips as red as cherry,
And 'tis her delight, To make the young folks merry.

This last verse (not in the first version) takes us back to Harry Newell, v4.

Scott's notes to this song read:

Katie Cruel originated in New England in colonial times, and has been sung there continuously from the eighteenth century until today. Colonial militiamen used it as a marching song; children sang it as a jingle and speeded the tempo to a skipping pace; for women it was either a lullaby or a lament that captured well the dreaming loneliness and pain of love. Peggy Seeger sings a children's version which is reproduced in the Young Folk Song Book (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963) as one of her most requested songs. Bill Bonyun and I have been singing the more serious version to audiences at Old Sturbridge Village for a number of years; it seems to have an instant and universal appeal.

The song appears in Eloise Hubbard Linscott: Folk Songs of Old New England (Archon Books, 1962)

Verse 2 of Katy Cruel leads us to another song:

I know where I’m going, And I know who’s going with me
I know who I love, But the dear knows who I’ll marry.

Going back to Harry Newell, verses 2 & 3, together with v3 of Hexhamshire Lass, take us to Scotland and Robert Burns's Ay Waukin' O:

When I sleep I dream, When I wauk I'm irie;
Sleep can I get nane , For thinking on my Dearie.
Ay waukin, Oh, Waukin still and weary:
Sleep I can get nane, For thinking on my Dearie.

And the group Jock Tamson's Bairns include other verses which have echoes of the other songs and which may belong to earlier versions of Ay Waukin O, as Burns probably adapted the song for publication, but which tie the song more closely to both Hexhamshire Lass & Katy Cruel.

When first she cam' tae oor toon, They ca'd er Grace McFarlane
Noo she's changed her name, They ca' her a' fowk's darlin'


Her faither lo'es her weel, Her mither lo'es her better,
And I lo'e the lass mysel', Wae's me, I canna get her.

There are probably more connections to be made, but these are good examples of oral tradition at work.