7 - Claudy Banks (Roud 266)

I recorded a home demo of this in 2013 for an online project the BBC were doing to commemorate Cecil Sharp, it ended up being played on the Simon Mayo drive time show on Radio 2 – I think it was my first ever national radio play. I’d never played it since or performed it live so I figured after all these years it probably deserved to make it to an album. The character of “Johnny” often has quite a hard time in folk songs, regularly being killed off. Personally, if my lover treated me the way Johnny acted in this song – dressing in disguise and watching me weep - I think he’d have suffered an even worse fate than usual!

As I walked out one morning all in the month of May
Down through some flower gardens I carelessly did stray
I overheard a damsel in sorrow to complain
All for her absent lover who ploughs the raging main

I stepped up to my lover, put her in surprise,
I know she didn’t know me, I being dressed in disguise
Said “Ay, my lovely maiden, my joy my hearts delight,
How far are you to wander this dark and dreary night?”

“All the way kind sir to Claudy, if you will please to show,
Pity a poor girl distracted it’s their I have to go
I’m in search of the faithless young man Johnny is his name,
and on the banks of Claudy I’m told he does remain

If my young Johnny were here this night he’d keep me from all harm  
but he’s in the field of battle All in his uniform
He’s in the field of battle, his foes he will destroy
Like a roving king of honour he’s fought on the banks of Troy”

“It’s been six months and better since your Johnny left the shore
he’s cruising the wild ocean where foaming billows roar
he’s cruising the wild ocean for honour and gain
the ships been wrecked as I am told all on the coast of Spain”

As soon as she heard him say so she fell into deep despair
By the wringing of her milk white hands, the tearing of her hair
“If Johnny he be drownded, no man on Earth I’ll take
But through lonesome groves and villages I’ll wander for his sake”

As soon as he heard her say so he could no longer stand
He fell into her arms saying “Bessy, I’m your man!
I am that faithless young man whom you had thought was slain
And since we’ve met on the Claudy banks we’ll never part again”

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