Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard

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Title - Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard
Contributors - Jeannie Robertson
Reporters - Hamish Henderson

Summary - People come to the churchyard to hear the Gospel. Lord [Donal's?] wife is there and spies Mattie Groves. She pleads with him to come home with her that night but he refuses, saying he has noticed from the rings on her fingers that she is Lord Donal's wife. She says that Lord Donal is out in the fields and is not at home. The page overhears the conversation and resolves to let Lord Donal know. Lord Donal wonders why the page is in such a hurry, asking if his castle has caught fire or his Lady has given birth to a child. The page reveals that Mattie Groves is sleeping with the Lady that night. The Lord says he will reward the page with gold if he is right. Lord Donal gathers his men and sounds his horn, which Mattie Groves hears. He wants to leave but the Lady tells him it is only her father's shepherd and to go back to sleep.

When Mattie wakes, Lord Donal is standing before him. Lord Donal tells him to get up and get dressed, so that he is not accused of killing a naked man. Mattie refuses, saying he has not even a knife with which to defend himself against Lord Donal's broadswords. Lord Donal gives Mattie the best sword and takes the worst himself. They fight; Mattie wounds Donal, but then Donal kills him. Lord Donal asks his wife whom she likes best, him or Mattie. She says she would rather have a kiss from dead Mattie's lips than the Lord even if he was dressed in his finest attire. Lord Donal kills his wife, pinning her to the wall with his sword. He calls for a grave to be dug, with instructions to bury his Lady on the upper side as she came from better kin. The Lady is buried in the churchyard, and Mattie in the aisle, and eventually a rose and a briar grow up the church steeple from the two graves and intertwine in a lovers' knot.

Track Duration (h:m:s) - 00:07:42
Date Recorded - 1960.09
Language - English
Genre - Song
Collection - School of Scottish Studies

Track ID - 76755
Original Tape ID - SA1960.203
Original Track ID - SA1960.203.B10
Audio Quality - Fair
Audio Format - R2R

Classification - C81; R52;

Item Notes - 28 verses. Also appears on tape SA1962.26. Jeannie Robertson's version here is called 'Lord Donal' or 'Lord Danal', possibly a contraction of 'Lord Daniel', which appears in some North American versions. It could also be interpreted as 'Arnol[d]' which appears in some versions. Peculiarly, in verse 6 Jeannie sings "Lord Donal ain't at home," which is unusual for Jeannie's vocabulary and more typical of versions collected in the USA that also appear in Bronson. This, along with the fact the song is sung almost exclusively in English, (while not particularly exceptional for Jeannie's repertoire), is probably owing to Jeannie having learned the song from Johnnie Wells and Sandy Paton, the latter being an American singer, folksong collector and founder of Folk Legacy Records.
See Bronson, 'The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads' (vol. IV, Appendix to vol. II, Loomis House reprint, 2009, pp. 474-476) for a transcription of Jeannie's version similar to that sung here but with 3 further verses.
The ballad itself was printed on broadsides at least as early as the 1660s, with copies at the Bodleian Library Broadsides collection, 'A lamentable ballad of the little Musgrove and the lady Barnet' (printed in London for F. Coles, T. Vere and J. Wright between 1663 and 1674, shelfmark: Douce Ballads 1(115b)).

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