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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

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Book TitleAuthorDateNotes
Song TitleDown Ratcliffe Highway
Roud No.598
Collected FromHarvey, Henry [Wassail]
Collected ByWilliams, Alfred
Alternative Title
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 4 - Wiltshire: Williams, A: MS collection No Wt 353
Source SecondaryWilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 29th April, 1916,p 3, Part 29, No. 3
Song Lyrics
Verse 1

As I was walking one noon,
Down Ratcliffe Highway I did stray;
I chanced to call at an alehouse,
To spend the whole night and next day.

Verse 2

There was a young lass who sat by me,
She asked if I'd money to sport;
I called for some wine, changed one guinea,
And she quickly replied, "That's the sort!"

Verse 3

The bottle was put on the table,
And glasses for everyone;
I asked for the change of my guinea,
And she tipped me the verse of a song.

Verse 4

"If that is your fashion to rob me,
Such fashion I never could abide;
But tip me the change of my guinea,
Or else I will fire a broadside."

Verse 5

The bottle and glass I seized,
And soon at their heads I let fly -
To see how they instantly scattered,
Crying, "Murder. Oh Lord, I shall die."

Verse 6

Then the night being dark in my favour,
Up Ratcliffe Highway I did trip;
I got in a boat bound for Deptford,
And was soon safe aboard of my ship.
Print Song Lyrics
Williams, Alfred: Ms / WGS: 'This old piece I also obtained of the late Wassail Harvey of Cricklade. He died recently in his ninetieth year. I was a long time securing any of his songs; he appeared to have forgotten them and was very infirm. Happening to look in upon him in his tiny cottage one wet night in mid winter, I found him possessed of a very severe cold, and gasping for breath. Thereupon I went to the inn, fetched a little rum and insisted upon his taking a glass hot immediately. The result was magical. After expressing gratitude he commenced to sing in a wonderfully deep tone of voice, that surprised me and quite startled his wife: she said he had not sung like it for fifty years. After that I saw the old man frequently till the time of his death, and we had many musical afternoons and evenings together. He was also possessed of much quaint lore and useful knowledge.'

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2010.



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