This is based on a Preston Chronicle newspaper clipping from August 1881. Annie Ratcliffe was the young daughter of a publican in Preston who started dating an older lad. Annie’s father, recognising John Aspinall Simpson for the wastrel he was, banned them from seeing each other. However, he couldn’t prevent the tragic spiral of events that then unfolded. The song title refers to the poignant plea on Annie’s memorial card.
2 Dark Inishowen
A beautiful song from north Donegal - I learned this from the singing of Mary Dillon. When I sang this at the Inishowen Singing Festival, they were delighted that it had made it out of the area! It’s a place name-dropper, centring on a young man searching for love.
3 Green Bushes
My sister gave me a collection of Australian folk songs a few years ago. This was one of the first that caught my eye on account of its tune, also used by Vaughan Williams, Grainger and Butterworth. When the new man asks her to forsake her true love and only be true to him, I can’t help but feel it’s never going to end well…
4 The Only Life Gloria Knows
Anthony John Clarke
This song is about a homeless girl in Belfast. It was one of the first I heard from AJ and has always been a favourite of mine.
5 Ice on the Water
This tune came from the teaching of Julian Taylor when I was a part of the Lancashire-based Palatine Fiddlers. This is, however, an American waltz by Reynolds, who used to play in The Rhythm Method String Band in Boston. It has undergone a sea change in my playing.
6 The Flower of Finae
A fascinating song I learned from Karen Casey whilst studying for a semester at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick. Written by Thomas Davis in the 1840s (a founding member of the Young Irelanders) its setting is the Battle of Ramillies in 1706, when the exiled Irish, the ‘Wild Geese’ led by Lord Clare, fought alongside the French against the British and Dutch armies. Seen through a love story, it reprises themes of Irish courage and resistance, with the intention of inspiring a new generation.
7 I’m a Fading Day by Day
Trad./ Mrs Elizabeth Smith
Elizabeth Smith was a gypsy from Elsecar, South Yorkshire. It is thought she created these lyrics by plundering One Monday Morning or The White Cockade hence some familiar lines. Sam Henry’s ‘Songs of the People’ also has a version called Pining Day by Day and in some versions there’s even a happy ending! I gained this version from Paul and Liz Davenport’s collection ‘Down Yorkshire Lanes’. Interestingly, it has no Roud number!
8 Roll you Sweet Rain
I first saw Kate at Sidmouth Folk Week on one of her rare visits to the UK. Taken from her first album, ‘Diamond Wheel’, this is a thoughtful song about setting out on life’s journey.
9 Creggan White Hare
Another song learnt from Karen Casey - Tyrone ‘sportsmen’ go down to help Barney Conway hunt the legendary white hare. It turns out to be a little unsuccessful.
10 Bill’s Missed the Last Boat Back
A song for my grandad, Bill Boadle, who was an RAF wireless operator in WW2 in the Far East. All the events in this song are true – at least that’s how he told it! No ducks were harmed in the re-telling of Bill’s tale.
11 Boys of Mullaghbawn
Squire Jackson of the Forkhill Estate in County Armagh was respected as an unusually fair landlord, but when he died in 1787 his successor reverted to type, treating the estate workers harshly and then sending a group of local men for transportation for being involved in the United Irishmen. The level of outrage in the song suggests that these ‘heroes’ were betrayed to the authorities.
12 Red Dust Road
Visiting my sister Roisín in Australia, we travelled around New South Wales, driving for many hours each day and camping at night. This memorable trip inspired this song.
13 Maid on the Shore
A lovely young lady is walking along the shore when the captain of a passing ship spots her. Eventually, she is enticed aboard and offers to sing. Maybe she’s a siren? Maybe they’re pirates? Anyway, there’s definitely robbery on the high seas in this song!