Mudcat Café message #986983 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #10796   Message #986983
Posted By: GUEST,Guest
20-Jul-03 - 10:43 AM
Thread Name: Country of origin of these songs please!
Subject: RE: Country of orgin of these songs please!
A song in 'The Scots Musical Museum', #89, sometimes called 'The Border Widow's Lament" contains verses very similar to those in Laurence Price's "The Famous Flower of Serving Men", 1656 (Child ballad #106). Prof. Child even gave 3 versions in his appendix to #106, in ESPB.

Commentators have suggested that Price's ballad was based on the Scots one. These commentators either overlooked or ignored that Robert Burns was told by Dr. Blacklock, in the 18th century, that the song was connected with the Glencoe massacre (1692). With that alone one might be skeptical, however, I found copy much earlier than any previously known in a Scots manuscript of c 1715 entitled "On the murder of Glencoe Febr 1692", so the latter borrowed from Price's ballad, not the other way around.

I think Price's ballad was probably based on an older song, or tale, but we know of none such. There is no evidence that traditional versions of "The Famous Flower of Serving Men" contain elements from any song earlier than Price's ballad. Consequently Price's ballad is the 'original' of the traditional versions.

["On the murder of Glencoe" is in the Scarce Songs 1 file and "The Famous Flower of Serving Men" is in the Laurence Price file at]

If you don't search out the 'originals' you're going to get a fouled up history. Is that the kind of history we want? Unfortunately many are satisfied with any 'history' that sounds reasonable, and there are too many commentators ready to supply such fictions.

The origins of "Barbara Allen" are discussed in the Scarce Songs 2 file at, where the earliest known text is given, as well as the texts of two earlier ballads which are quite similar in content.