Author Topic: Add: Elsie Marley


Posted - 18 Oct 02 - 03:46 pm

Elsie Marley

Di ye ken Elsie Marley, hinny?
The wife that sells the barley, hinny?
She lost her pocket and all of her money
A back o' the bush i' the garden, hinny.

Elsie Marley's grown so fine
She won't get up to serve the swine,
But lies in bed till eight or nine,
Di ye ken Elsie Marley, hinny?

Elsie Marley is so neat,
It's hard for one to walk the street
But every lad and lass ye meet,
Cries "Di ye ken Elsie Marley, hinny?"

Elsie Marley wore a straw hat
But now she's gotten a velvet cap,
The Lambton lads mun pay for that.
Di ye ken Elsie Marley, hinny?

Source: North Countrie Folk Songs for Schools, Ed Whittaker, Pub Curwen, 1921


The tune is very common as an instrumental, but the words are rather less frequently encountered, especially the later verses.
I have preserved the 'Geordie' representation of the lyrics, except that I have changed 'honey' to 'hinny' throughout, which is rather more likely in my view!

Database entry is here

Edited By dmcg - 10/18/2002 3:49:04 PM


Posted - 18 Oct 02 - 03:51 pm

Dave, I don't know this song very well - for years all I knew was that it's mentioned in Byker Hill, but listening to the tune and reading the words at the same time - is the second line of each verse correct? I'm guessing - or perhaps dredging up some long forgotten hearing - that there could be another "hinny" there.


Posted - 18 Oct 02 - 03:57 pm

I did leave a 'hinny' off the second line of the chorus which I have now corrected but I think the verses are correct.

A handicap I have doing these in otherwise idle moments at work is that my work PC does not have a sound card - I will check the whole thing out this evening or tomorrow.

Edited By dmcg - 10/18/2002 3:58:53 PM


Posted - 18 Oct 02 - 03:59 pm

Your idle moments seem pretty productive to me Dave!

Jon Freeman

Posted - 18 Oct 02 - 04:06 pm

Dave, the tune varies in a couple of notes to how I know it. That's to be expected but there is one note, the f on "ye" that sounds wrong to my ear. Perhaps you can check that out when you have sound.



Posted - 18 Oct 02 - 04:11 pm

Jon - do you mean in the first bar or the last?

Got it - you mean at the end, I think?

Edited By dmcg - 10/18/2002 4:12:42 PM

Jon Freeman

Posted - 18 Oct 02 - 04:13 pm

Sorry Dave, the last bar. I may be wrong of course - it's just one of those things that does not sound pleasing to my ear.


Posted - 18 Oct 02 - 04:17 pm

It should have been an E - now fixed!

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 18 Oct 02 - 05:57 pm

Roud 3065. Another song taken from Northumbrian Minstrelsy, where a much longer text is given (likely deriving from Bell's Rhymes of the Northern Bards); with honey throughout. The first verse ends And surely she does take her time. The additional verses are:

Elsie keeps rum, gin, and ale
In her house below the dale,
Where every tradesman, up and down,
Does call and spend his half-a-crown.

The farmers, as they come that way,
They drink with Elsie every day,
And call the fiddler for to play,
The tune of "Elsie Marley", honey.

The pitmen and the keelmen trim,
They drink bumbo made from gin,
And for to dance they do begin
To the tune of "Elsie Marley", honey.

The sailors they do call for flip
As soon as they come from the ship,
And then begin to dance and skip
To the tune of "Elsie Marley", honey.

Those gentlemen that go so fine,
They'll treat her with a bottle of wine,
And freely they'll sit down and dine
Along with Elsie Marley, honey.

So to conclude, these lines I've penned,
Hoping there's none I do offend,
And thus my merry joke doth end,
Concerning Elsie Marley, honey.

Bruce and Stokoe add some interesting notes, but I'll quote instead from Iona and Peter Opie's Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1951), as they go into more detail.

"Alice Marley was a lady much fêted in the North Country, and the song is still popular there today, especially on Tyneside. Judging from further verses about her, however, which were current while she was still alive, it is evident that the way she served her ale was not the entire cause of her fame, and a contemporary writer confirms that she enjoyed a certain reputation. It is possible from one source and another to learn a considerable amount about her, and she is, in fact, one of the best documented of the nursery rhyme characters.

"Alice Marley, known to her friends as Ailcie or Elsie, was born Alice Harrison about 1715. She was the first wife of Ralph Marley, and the attractive proprietress of The Swan at Picktree. A writer in the Newcastle Magazine met her in her later days, and describes her as 'a tall, slender, genteel-looking woman', who successfully kept him and his party of horsemen amused with her badinage while she served them. She had a son, Harrison Marley, whose son Ralph also left an account of her. According to him the story of his grandmother's lethargy was poetic licence. 'Elsie was an active manager, and the household affairs were entrusted to her sole control.' In illustration, he says that the 'lost pocket' incident in the chorus arose on an occasion when Elsie was going to Newcastle, with twenty guineas sewn into her pocket, to pay the brewer's bill. On Sandhill someone jostled her, and clapping her hand to her side, she exclaimed aloud, 'O honney, honney, I've lost my pocket and all my money'. According to Sir Cuthbert Sharp (Bishoprick Garland, 1834) she had already given her name to a spirited and lively tune often called for as a dance at country fairs; and he adds that the 'Lambton Lads' were five brothers, 'all bachelors to a certain period', and all Elsie's admirers.

"A happy temperament and a wide circle of friends did not, however, save Elsie from a melancholy end. In Sykes's Local Records under the date 5th August 1768, the death is recorded of ;the well-known Alice Marley', and it is stated that, being in a fever, she 'got out of her house and went into a field where there was an old coal-pit full of water, which she fell into and was drowned'. This date is confirmed by the Chester-le-Street Parish Register, her burial being 7th August. According to Sharp, her husband married again.

"Sharp further records that at the time of the '45 rebellion, Dutch troops marching northwards used the signboard of The Swan as a shooting target. It is not improbable that these troops, or their like, heard the song and turned it to their own purposes, for Chambers, in Scotland, thought it was a Scottish song, and only knew it in an anti-Jacobite vein:

Saw ye Elsie Marley, honey,
The woman that sells the barley, honey?
She's lost her pocket and a' her cmoney,
Wi' following Jacobite Charlie, honey.

"Burns knew, under the name Elsie Marley, what is probably an alternative chorus:

O little wats thou o' thy daddie, hiney,
An' little wats thou o' thy daddie, hiney;
For lairds and lords hae kiss'd thy minnie,
An' little wats thou o' thy daddie, hiney."

Jon Freeman

Posted - 30 Oct 02 - 01:49 pm

Just been reading "The tune is very common as an instrumental, but the words are rather less frequently encountered".

I think it's a great tune, one that really does stand up in its own rights. Was it an existing tune to which the words were set? And does it turn up elsewhere?



Posted - 30 Jan 04 - 04:58 pm

Here is the entry from the Folk Archive Resource North East site, giving a version from 1770

Browse Titles: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z