Mudcat Café message #1091836 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #65990   Message #1091836
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
13-Jan-04 - 11:19 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Billy Boy
Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
I should think that Eliza had that from her dad. He recorded a set using tune and one verse (the final one above) from Marina Russell of Upwey in Dorset (Journal of the Folk Song Society, VIII (34) 1930 210-11), most of the rest of the words coming from Mrs Lizzie Welch, Hambridge, 1904 (James Reeves, Idiom of the People, 1958, 75). I don't know where the common "school" set that everybody over a certain age in the UK remembers came from; it was just there. Normally I'd think Sharp, but perhaps not on this occasion.

In notes to Mrs Russell's set (Journal of the Folk Song Society, VIII (34) 1930 211) Anne Gilchrist refers to Hector MacNeill's re-write, and quotes from G. F. Graham a verse of the "despised original" on which MacNeill based his My Boy Tammy:

Is she fit to soop the house,
My boy Tammy?
She's just as fit to soop the house,
As the cat to catch the mouse,
And yet she's but a young thing,
New come frae her mammy.

The final verse ("Twice six, twice seven...") turns out to be quite common. It was the only verse Mrs Russell remembered, and Miss Gilchrist also quotes a form of it from Herd's MS:

I am to court a wife
And I'll love her as my life
But she is a young thing
And new come frae her Minnie
She's twice six, etc.

There are two examples of MacNeill's Tammy at Levy, with music; neither mention him, however. Another look through Roud suggests that there is scarcely a part of Britain or America where the song hasn't turned up in one form or another. It was also transmitted through print, of course.