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The first that doth come in
Is ferly to be seen.
He conquered Giant Strong
Before he was sixteen.

The next that doth come in
He is my own dear brother,
For walking lasser by
You'll not find such another.

Alexander is the next
With his broad sword in hand.
He'll show you as good sword play
As any one in the land.

So Tommy, come thy way
All with the gallant spear,
For thou can act the part
As well as any one here.

Now we're here altogether
Think of us what ye will.
Fiddler, strike up and play
"Th' Auld Wife of Coverdill".

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Source: Journal of the English Folk Dance Society, 1928, Oxford University Press, London

This is one of a number of songs in an article 'Th' Owd Lass of Coverdill and other Sword-Dance fragments' written by Anne G Gilchrist in the 1928 edition of the English Folk Dance Journal. The song was taken from her landlord, Mr Dent, "in the old village of Orton, near Tebay, Westmorland."

The tune was noted by Rev. John Tinker, vicar of Caunton, Notts., and sent to Cecil Sharp in March 1926, through a mutual friend, with the following explanation:

'When I was vicar of Arkengarth-Dale near Richmond in NW. Yorkshire I was with my wife and children quietly passing the New Year's Eve of 1869. The quiet was broken by the maid coming to tell me that some young men at the back door wished me to see them. I had hardly entered the kitchen when a clown, dressed in a robe or cloak of dark crimson tatters, with a hood on his head of the same colour and having an appendage like a fox's tail, came in with a large broom, moving round as he swept, and singing in a monotone 'Room, room, brave gallants, room. Here we resort to show some sport and pastime, gentlemen and ladies, in the Christmas time.' As soon as this introductory- recitation was ended and the clown went on one side, there came in one by one five dancers, in morris costume, each with a long sword, and each in order singing a verse and dancing the while until a circle was formed, the dancing going on without intermission. Then ensued a remarkable performance of skilful and graceful dancing, in and out of their interlaced swords, forming figures of pentagon, &c. This was at length broken by the clown, who had been mocking their movements, rushing into the ring, when the dancers encircled his neck with interlaced swords, and he fell down as one dead. To recover him a doctor was called for, and one, from his own description renowned in his profession, made his appearance. The remainder of the performance was that of the Christmas mummer's play ending with the usual box being taken round for pecuniary offerings. I learned afterwards that these young men had been taught and trained by Christopher Reine, an old lead miner and the only surviving member of the old sword-dancers, during many previous months, and well their secret was kept until their visit came as a great surprise. One Henry Cholder acted as clown and was indeed the leading spirit of the revival. I asked Christopher Reine to come and spend an evening with me, and so was able to take down from his violin playing the melody of the verses sung and of the traditional dance tune as played on this occasion. I knew it as the familiar melody of 'Nancy Dawson'. so popular in the reign of Geo. II, and still sung in children's games as 'The Mulberry Bush'. On asking Christopher why the dancers did not move to 'Th' Auld Wife of Coverdill the reply was that they did not care for it, preferring the more lively ?Nancy Dawson'. Wishing to have the traditional tune I further asked him whether he could remember it and play it. He said "Yes. I can,? and at once began to play it. So I rescued the tune from being lost at his death. (This took place some years since.)


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