Oxford Ramble

Speed the Plough



A Taste of Ale

Six for Gold

Knock at the Knocker, Ring at the Bell

The Robber Bird

Three Quarter Time

The 25th



Travel the Country Round

The Robber Bird track 6

Jon found this song in Lucy Broadwood’s English Traditional Songs & Carols, and it took his fancy, not least because it’s one of very few songs to mention his home town of Reading. The song came from the vast repertoire of Henry Burstow of Horsham – shoemaker, bell-ringer, atheist and, unusually for a traditional singer, author of a ghost-written autobiography.

It would appear that Burstow was the only traditional singer from whom the song was ever collected. From a search of the Roud Folksong Index you can see that a number of printed sources are known: for instance this example from the Bodleian Library, printed by J. Harkness of Preston, between 1840 and 1866. Notice that this version doesn't mention either Oxford or Reading. Clearly singers would change the places named to suit their own local audience.

Ballad from the Bodleian Library collection