FolkWorld #78 07/2022
© Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Child Ballads

The Child Ballads in times of war: The Unquiet Grave! Lord Baker! Or Bateman, or Beichan, or whatever the name he currently goes by...

The Unquiet Grave

Anna Tam
Debut solo album from folk singer and multi-instrumentalist Anna Tam, Anchoress comprises 13 traditional songs and 2 original tunes. Anna creates a unique sound through her clear, bright voice and the many instruments she plays – nyckelharpa, hurdy gurdy, viola da gamba, cello and percussion feature on the album. Her approach to the folk tradition is centred in the stories the songs tell and the people who lived them. Many of the songs were developed on Anna’s ‘Folk from the Boat’ youtube series that has been her connection to the folk world during lockdown. “In a year of isolation I’ve felt so fortunate to be able to reach out from my boat through folk music – like an Anchoress through the window of her cell. These are some of the songs and tunes – many of them exploring isolation in its different forms – abandonment, loss etc – that have kept me company, shared my sorrows, inspired a lot of fun and connected me with a wonderful community.”
Artist Video
Anna Tam @ FROG

"The Unquiet Grave" is an English folk song in which a young man mourns his dead love too hard and prevents her from obtaining peace. It is thought to date from 1400 and was collected in 1868 by Francis James Child, as Child Ballad number 78. One of the more common tunes used for the ballad is the same as that used for the English ballad "Dives and Lazarus" and the Irish pub favorite "Star of the County Down".


A man mourns his true love for "a twelve month and a day". At the end of that time, the dead woman complains that his weeping is keeping her from peaceful rest. He begs a kiss. She tells him it would kill him. When he persists, wanting to join her in death, she explains that once they were both dead their hearts would simply decay, and that he should enjoy life while he has it.


The version noted by Cecil Sharp ends with "When will we meet again? / When the autumn leaves that fall from the trees / Are green and spring up again."

Many verses in this ballad have parallels in other ballads: Bonny Bee Hom, Sweet William's Ghost and some variants of The Twa Brothers.

The motif that excessive grief can disturb the dead is found also in German and Scandinavian ballads, as well as Greek and Roman traditions.

Painted Sky

Painted Sky have only recently emerged onto the UK folk scene, but they have already made a lasting impression with their progressive acoustic sound. Original material thoughtfully balances the duo’s roots in traditional English music. They seamlessly blend tunes from further afield too, from the complex rhythms of Eastern Europe to the stomping fiddle tunes of Quebec, to create a distinct and borderless synthesis of contemporary folk. Siblings George Brandon (guitar/vocal) and Holly Brandon (fiddle/vocal) have been playing together for as long as they can remember. Recently both have worked on independent projects, with George performing solo and Holly, perhaps best known for being one quarter of transatlantic folk band, The Magpies. But the siblings are always drawn back to each other’s playing and their lifelong musical history is reflected in tight-knit instrumentals and harmonies. Their songs are characterised by honest vocals and timeless storytelling, underpinned by driving rhythms. Whilst their exquisite instrumentals weave delicate finger-picking guitar and soaring fiddle with a dynamic energy. The duo have played live shows around the UK, with festival highlights including performances at Towersey Festival, Edlefest,Thame Town Music Festival and New Mills Festival. Painted Sky released their debut EP, Dawn, in 2020; a well-received showcase of their live act and progressive blend of traditional and original material.

Artist Video

Ween plays a version featuring a woman weeping for a dead man, on their 1997 album The Mollusk entitled "Cold Blows the Wind". The liner notes of the album misattributes the song as a traditional Chinese spiritual.


Hedy West

Hedy West sang another American version of The Unquiet Grave in 1967 on her Topic album Ballads. Her (or A.L. Lloyd's) sleeve notes commented: "There's widespread and ancient belief that excessive grieving over the dead disturbs their rest. The Greeks and Romans thought so, and the idea is as common in the Far East as in Western Europe. In Ireland as in Romania it was thought that inordinate tears would burn a hole in the corpse, and in several ballads the dead complain that they cannot sleep because the tears of the living have wet their winding sheet. This ballad, of a restless ghost who confronts and reproaches the mourner, is probably a fragment broken off some longer, more complicated narrative. Though it's been relatively common in England till recent times, it seems very rare in America, and has turned up only in a scattered handful of versions from Newfoundland, Virginia and North Carolina (which is where the present version comes from, collected by the indefatigable Frank C. Brown)."

Artist Video
Hedy West @ FROG

The Unqiet Grave

 Watch  The Unqiet Grave  from:
       The Askew Sisters, Bellowhead, Sam Kelly, LAU, Siobhan Miller, Painted Sky, 
       Kate Rusby, Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage, Anna Tam, Trobar de Morte
 The Unquiet Grave / Cold Blows the Wind © Mainly Norfolk

Young Beichan

Maryam, Bijan & Keyvan CHEMIRANI & Sylvain BAROU

The talented Chemirani family - Keyvan, Bijan and Maryam - have recorded an album called Hâl (pronounced ‘Hol’), which explores the intersection of Iranian, Indian and Irish music. Subtitled ‘Love ballads’, it features love poems with texts sung in English or Persian. The ‘hâl’ corresponds to the moment when one lets oneself go, that ecstatic state between awakening and self-forgetfulness… Keyvan, a zarb and percussion virtuoso, and Bijan, an expert on the saz lute and also a percussionist, are known from the highly regarded Trio Chemirani, formed with their father. This album introduces their sister Maryam, a singer but also a nurse, who followed in the footsteps of Mother Teresa in India, then worked in the Alpes de Haute Provence. Keyvan devised this programme especially for her, inspired both by her voice which is ‘warm and deeply generous’ and her compassionate spirit which imbues her performance with added emotion. The incredible flute player Sylvain Barou, their brother in music, completes the ensemble.
SYLVAIN BAROU flutes, bansuri, duduk, zurna, pipes, neyanban
KEYVAN CHEMIRANI zarb, drums, daf, santur, konokol
Artist Video

Sylvain Barou

Sylvain Barou @ FROG

"Young Beichan", also known as "Lord Bateman", "Lord Bakeman", "Lord Baker", "Young Bicham" and "Young Bekie", is a traditional folk ballad categorised as Child ballad 53 and Roud 40. The earliest versions date from the late 18th century, but it is probably older, with clear parallels in ballads and folktales across Europe. The song was popular as a broadside ballad in the nineteenth century, and survived well into the twentieth century in the oral tradition in rural areas of most English speaking parts of the world, particularly in England, Scotland and Appalachia.


Beichan, who is often born in London, travels to far lands. He is taken prisoner, with different captors appearing in different variations, usually being a Moor or a Turk, though sometimes the king of France after Beichan fell in love with his daughter. Lamenting his fate, Beichan promises to be a son to any married woman who will rescue him, or a husband to an unmarried one. The daughter of his captor rescues him, and he leaves, promising to marry her.

He does not return. She sets out after him—in some variants, because warned by a household spirit, Belly Blin, that he is about to marry—and arrives as he is marrying another. In some variants, he is constrained to marry; often he is fickle. His porter tells him of a woman at his gate, and he instantly realizes it is the woman who rescued him. He sends his new bride home and marries her.


Nic Jones

Nic Jones recorded Lord Bateman in 1971 for his eponymous second album on the Trailer label, Nic Jones. He commented in the album notes: "A number of singers have said to me at different times that in their opinion the story of Bateman is a drag. I have always viewed the ballad as a kind of epitomised Errol Flynn film, possessing great sweep and colour, in spite of a degree of predictability, and as such it deserves to stand as a classic!"

Artist Video Nic Jones @ FROG

This ballad is also known in Norse, Spanish, and Italian variants. In a Scandinavian variant, "Harra Pætur og Elinborg" (CCF 158, TSB D 72), the hero set out on a pilgrimage, after asking the heroine, his betrothed, how long she would wait for him; she says, eight years. After the eight years, she sets out and the rest of the ballad is the same, except that Paetur has a reason for his fickleness: he was magically made to forget.

The motif of a hero magically made to forget his love and remembering her on her appearance is common; it may even have been dropped from "Young Beichan", as the hero always returns to the heroine with a promptness of an enchantment breaking. This motif is known as The Forgotten Fiancé and appears as a final episode of tales classified in the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index as type ATU 313, "The Magic Flight: Girl helps the hero flee". Other folktales with this motif include "Jean, the Soldier, and Eulalie, the Devil's Daughter" (France); "The Two Kings' Children", "The True Bride" and "Sweetheart Roland" (Germany); "The Master Maid" (Norway), "Anthousa, Xanthousa, Chrisomalousa" (Greece) and "Snow-White-Fire-Red" (Sicily).

Another British-derived folk song, "The Turkish Lady" (Roud 8124), appears to be somewhat related; it didn't diverge recently, being noted as early as 1768.

Gilbert Beckett

According to the folklorist Frank Kidson, it has been "asserted, with every appearance of truth" that the protagonist is in fact Gilbert Becket, the father of Saint Thomas Becket, who was supposedly captured in the Crusades as in the ballad, released, and followed to London by a lady he met there. Kidson claimed that "Bateman", "Baker" and "Beichie" were all corruptions of "Beckett". Francis James Child said "That our ballad has been affected by the legend of Gilbert Beket is altogether likely”, suggesting that the two similar stories may have influenced each other.


The ballad was very popular in print in the 1800s, with most broadsides descending from one printed in England around 1815, beginning "Lord Bateman was a noble lord..." (see texts below). Most of the versions that ended up in America were derived from popular broadside versions, however some versions, such as one known to the Hicks-Harmon family of Watuaga County, North Carolina, seemed to have been passed on from an older British oral tradition.

Traditional Recordings

In 1908 Percy Grainger made several wax cylinder recordings of traditional singers singing the ballad. Several of these were recorded in Lincolnshire (including one version by Joseph Taylor) and one in Gloucestershire; all of the recordings are available courtesy of the British Library Sound Archive. Dozens of other traditional versions were recorded across England later in the twentieth century. Several of these, some of which are fragments, can be heard on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, including a version the Dorset traveller Caroline Hughes sang to Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger in the 1960s, a 1967 performance by a Frank Smith of Edenbridge, Kent, and a 1960 version sung by Tom Willet of Ashford, Surrey.

The Scottish traditional singer Jeannie Robertson sang a version to Peter Kennedy in 1958, whilst Bella Higgins sang another to Hamish Henderson in 1955. Several other Scottish recordings were made, including some recorded by James Madison Carpenter which are also available on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.

The influential Appalachian folk singer Jean Ritchie had her family version of the ballad recorded several times, including on her album Ballads from her Appalachian Family Tradition (1961). Her fellow Appalachian Nimrod Workman sang his own traditional version on different occasions, including on a YouTube video uploaded by the official Alan Lomax archive channel. Other noted Appalachian musicians, such as Aunt Molly Jackson (1935), Eliza Pace (1937), Virgil Sturgill (1958) and Buna Hicks (1961) had traditional versions recorded.

The folklorist Helen Hartness Flanders recorded many versions in her native New England, and Canadian collectors including Helen Creighton and Kenneth Peacock recorded several versions in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.


Classic English and Scottish Ballads

Lord Bateman (Child No. 53)

The New Lost City Ramblers: Mike Seeger, vocal and mandolin; Tracy Schwarz, vocal and guitar

(Roud 4; also known as "Young Beichan," "Lord Baker," "The Turkish Lady"; from FW 31035, 1973; recorded by Peter Bartok, August 1966)

"Lord Bateman" is a Child Ballad where a love triangle has a reasonable happy ending. In the original Scottish ballad Bateman is Beichan. He travels to Turkey, where he is imprisoned, then falls in love and is freed by the beautiful daughter of his captor. He flees back to Northumberland stating he will stay true to her and after seven years they will wed. After the appointed seven years apart, she comes to England seeking him to find it's his wedding day. He pays off his other bride, and the Turkish woman and he are married.
Child mentions that the ballad "agrees in the general outline, and also in some details, with a well-known legend about Gilbert Beket, father of St. Thomas". Beket is said to have traveled to the Holy land with his manservant and been captured. Kenneth Goldstein points out that this theory on the origin of the ballad has been "largely discarded, but there is no doubt the balald has been affected by the legend".
The New Los City Ramblers came together in New York in mid-1958 during the beginnings of teh great folk music boom. Many young musicians were turning to American folk music, and the Ramblers were dedicated to preserving and performing important old-tiem American music that all three members had grown to love: Mike Seeger (1934-2009), John Cohen (b. 1932), and Tom Paley (b. 1928). Influenced by Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, the members of the Ramblers began to actively seek older recordings. Hundreds of urban folk groups were forming and searching for older songs to fill out set lists. Songs were appropriated by groups and singers who often claimed to be the author or arranger, but the Ramblers made a point of including rich discographical information in their notes on the source of their songs, giving full credit and helping educate their fans about their musical forefathers. Paley left the group in 1962 and was replaced by Tracy Schwarz (b. 1938). They learned this song from the singing of Pleaz Mobley of Manchester, Kentucky.

Artist Audio
"Classic English and Scottish Ballads from Smithsonian Folkways (from The Francis James Child Collection)", Smithsonian Folkways, 2017

The New Lost City Ramblers

Artist Video

The first four verses of the oldest version of the ballad, 'Young Bicham', Child's Version A, from 1783: (The second verse describes Bicham's captor boring a hole through his shoulder to harness him for use as a draft animal)

In London city was Bicham born,

He longd strange countries for to see,

But he was taen by a savage Moor,

Who handld him right cruely.

For thro his shoulder he put a bore,

An thro the bore has pitten a tree,

An he's gard him draw the carts o wine,

Where horse and oxen had wont to be.

He's casten [him] in a dungeon deep,

Where he coud neither hear nor see;

He's shut him up in a prison strong,

An he's handld him right cruely.

O this Moor he had but ae daughter,

I wot her name was Shusy Pye;

She's doen her to the prison-house,

And she's calld Young Bicham one word by.

In 1839, the illustrator George Cruikshank published an illustrated book called "The Loving Ballad of Lord Bateman", which tells the story of the ballad. This version was close to the popular broadside ballads of the nineteenth century and most of the versions which survived in the oral tradition until the twentieth century. The first four verses of this version (below) can be compared to the older "Young Bicham" version (above).

Lord Bateman was a noble lord,

A noble lord of high degree;

He shipped himself all aboard of a ship,

Some foreign country for to see.

He sailed east, he sailed west,

Until he came to famed Turkey,

Where he was taken and put to prison,

Until his life was quite weary.

All in this prison there grew a tree,

O there it grew so stout and strong!

Where he was chained all by the middle,

Until his life was almost gone.

This Turk he had one only daughter,

The fairest my two eyes eer see;

She steel the keys of her father's prison,

And swore Lord Bateman she would let go free.

Popular Recordings

Lord Bateman

 Watch  Young Beichan / Lord Baker / Lord Bateman  from:
       Maryam Chemirani, Ewan MacColl, Jim Moray,
       Sinéad O'Connor, Jean Ritchie, Simply English

 Lord Bateman / Young Beichan © Mainly Norfolk

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [The_Unquiet_Grave, Young_Beichan]. Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

Date: June 2022.

Photo Credits: (1) Anna Tam, (2) Painted Sky, (3) Hedy West, (4) 'The Unquiet Grave', (5) Maryam, Bijan & Keyvan Chemirani, (6) Nic Jones, (7) Sylvain Barou, (9) 'Classic English and Scottish Ballads from Smithsonian Folkways (from The Francis James Child Collection)', (10) The New Lost City Ramblers, (11) 'Young Beichan' (unknown/website); (8) The Loving Ballad of Lord Bateman, by Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray, Illustrated by George Cruikshank (by The Project Gutenberg).

FolkWorld Homepage German Content English Content Editorial & Commentary News & Gossip Letters to the Editors CD & DVD Reviews Book Reviews Folk for Kidz Folk & Roots Online Guide - Archives & External Links Search FolkWorld About Contact Privacy Policy

FolkWorld - Home of European Music
FolkWorld Homepage
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld