Fred Gosbee | John Earthy's Tavern

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John Earthy's Tavern

by Fred Gosbee

Historic Songs of Maine - Being a Choice and Well-Selected Collection of Sentimental, Patriotic, Naval and Comic Songs
Genre: Folk: Traditional Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Ballad of the Popham Colony
4:21 $0.99
2. Thomas Morton's Maypole Songe
2:26 $0.99
3. Morton's Return
3:44 $0.99
4. New England's Annoyances
4:01 $0.99
5. John Earthy's Tavern
2:44 $0.99
6. The Escape of Old John Webb
4:20 $0.99
7. The Complaint
2:05 $0.99
8. Isabel's Rescue
4:27 $0.99
9. Promised Land
3:58 $0.99
10. If I Were a Blackbird
5:26 $0.99
11. The Wild 'prentice Boy
2:11 $0.99
12. The Capture of the Crown
3:58 $0.99
13. Ballad of the Widow Stone
10:08 $0.99
14. Maine Battle Song
2:19 $0.99
15. The Wreck of the Edjuardo
4:38 $0.99
16. 'tiil It Is Clear Day
2:24 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The idea for the John Earthy’s Tavern CD grew from the realisation that I had learnt or written many songs about historical events in Maine spanning almost three centuries. Few people know or appreciate how important Maine was in the early years of European colonisation. We don’t know exactly when European fishermen started visiting our shores and establishing seasonal fishing camps; it is likely to have been in the mid-1500s or even earlier. We do have documentation and archaeological evidence for the Popham Colony, established in 1607, the same year as Jamestown, Virginia. We don’t know when Pemaquid became a year-round settlement, but by 1620 it was well established and able to offer help to the Pilgrims.

As the project grew, Julia Lane suggested several songs to include and round out the program. Indeed, there are several fine and interesting songs that we want to include on a future project.

Most of the songs in this collection have Maine connections and I have tried to include those connections in the song notes. It is my hope that this musical journey through three centuries of Maine and New England history will entertain, inform, and perhaps inspire listeners to investigate the history of their own communities.
– Fred Gosbee
June 17, 2012

Year 1607

Ballad of the Popham Expedition © 2007 Fred Gosbee

James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603. He encouraged expeditions to establish settlements in Virginia, as the English then called North America. In 1607 two colonies were begun, Jamestown in Virginia and Popham in Maine. The northern expedition was undertaken by the Plymouth Company, financed by John Popham, then in his eighties, and led by his son, George, who was in his sixties. Raleigh Gilbert, at twenty three, was second in command.

Since much of the forest in Great Britain and Ireland had been cut, the Plymouth Company wanted to publicise the wealth of timber in New England. They brought with them a London shipwright, Digby, who laid the keel for the Virginia four days after the expedition landed. During the winter of 1607-08 Digby and about forty five men built the thirty ton pinnace. The Virginia is recorded as the first European ship to be built in North America. She crossed the Atlantic at least twice. She eventually sailed to Jamestown where she was used as a fishing boat.

While Jamestown had a mortality rate approaching 90% there were only two fatalities in Popham. One was George Popham and the mantle of leadership fell on young Gilbert. After spending the winter on the frozen coast of Maine and provoking the local natives to hostility they were no doubt relieved to see their supply ship arrive the next summer. With the news that not only their patron, the well-connected John Popham had died, but also Raleigh’s elder brother, John, their fort was torched to keep it from falling into French hands and Raleigh Gilbert sailed home to claim his inheritance.

The site of the Popham Colony was lost until 1994. There was extensive archaology done there over the course of fifteen years. Among the finds was a crystal beaded cartouch which is visible in a portrait of Raleigh Gilbert done before the Popham adventure.

The guitar used on this track is a 10-string baroque guitar I built in 2005 with way too much inlay, tied-on frets and a wedding cake rosette.

When King James wore the English crown
Two ships sailed forth from Plymouth town.
The Gift of God and Mary & John
To Virginia made their way.
George Popham was the leader then
And with him there went six-score men
To build a fort on the northern strand
And for the winter stay.

Using tools of the proper sort
They built a house and a sturdy fort
Their brave adventure to support
And a colony to begin.
Then Raleigh Gilbert looked, it seemed,
Up every river, brook and stream
The Northwest Passage was the dream
Would all their fortunes win.

And as they viewed the woods around
The oaks and pine there did abound
The like of which had not been found
In England for many a year.
There was among those hardy wights
One shipwright, Digby he was hight.
He laid a keel by the water bright
To build a pinnace there.

As autumn's days began to wane
Their two ships sailed back home again,
Leaving forty-five brave men
There by the ocean side.
Scarce one month or two was past
Before the winter's icy blast
Brought great hardship, cold and frost.
Twas then George Popham died.

The colonists were in great need
When young Gilbert took the lead;
Strong of will and rash of deed,
And whether 'twas right or wrong,
With haughty mien he sent his men
To fight the local Indians
For food and firewood ran out then
As winter lingered long

Yet doughty Digby labored on
The beams were hewed and planks were sawn.
The pinnace frame was raised anon,
A ship of thirty tuns.
The hull was fit, the seams were caulked,
The mast was set, spars rigged aloft.
The sails were bent when she was launched;
Virginia was done!

But they had barely rigged the clews
When a ship came there and brought sad news
John Popham had died; John Gilbert, too,
But Raleigh was his heir.
So Fort St. George was burnéd down
For fear by France it might be found.
To Compton Castle was Gilbert bound,
To friends and family there.

Two ships the North Atlantic crossed.
The Popham colony was lost.
The Plymouth Company bore the cost
But all was not in vain.
Virginia also made the trip,
The first of many wooden ships
Crafted and launched down the slips
All on the coast of Maine.

Year 1627

The Maypole Songe (Thomas Morton)

Thomas Morton was born in Devon, England, about 1578. Devon remained Anglican during the rising prominance of Protestantism and also was an area where many of the old customs were observed. When Morton studied the law in London he was exposed to Renassaince and libertine ideas.

He entered the service of Fernando Georges, a prominant colonial entrepeneur and in 1618 became Georges’s overseer for his properties in New England. Morton first voyaged to Plymouth (Massachusetts) in 1622 but was back in London in 1623, complaining about the intolerance of the Puritan settlements. He returned to New England in 1624 as a senior partner in a trading scheme with Captain Wollaston.

The partners established a trading post at Merrymount, now part of Quincey, and began a thriving trade with the local Algonquins. Morton admired their culture and by all accounts, treated them fairly in his dealings. When Morton discovered that Wollaston was selling the induntured men who had come with them, virtually as slaves, to Jamestown. Morton led them in a revolt against the captain, who fled to Jamestown, leaving Morton in charge of the community. He set out to integrate his settlers with the local tribe and to establish his own utopian colony, based on his Anglican and libertine ideals, much to the disgust of his Puritan neighbors, who described the residents of Merrymount as worthless idlers who spent their days in debauchery. Merrymount was the fastest growing community in New England with a thriving and agricultural and fur trade, so it would appear that econimic as well as religious factors were leading toward a confrontation. Morton erected a Maypole in 1627, much to the disgust of his Puriton neighbors.

In 1628 Morton erected an even bigger Maypole - eighty feet tall and topped with deer antlers. This was too much for the Plymouth community. The militia, led by Myles Standish, marched on Merrymount, cut down the Maypole, arrested Morton, and marooned him on the Isle of Shoals. Eventually he made it back to England. When he returned to Merrymount in 1629 he found that Plymouth has raided the plentiful supplies there during the winter, and the community had been scattered. Morton was arrested a second time and banished from the colony. The following year the Puritan colonists burned Merrymount to the ground.

He barely survived this second ordeal but by 1631, when he had regained his health, he brought suit against the Massachusetts Bay Company and succeeded in getting their charter revoked. In 1637 Morton published New English Canaan. In these three books he described the bountiful recources of New England, praised the native culture and denounced the Puritan of Massachusetts. His descriptions of the Plymouth colony are the basis of the popular view of the Puritans that exists to this day.

Morton fled the English Civil War in 1642, returning to Plymouth where he was arrested yet again. He was imprisoned while evidence was sought to try him for sedition as a royalist agitator . He spent the winter in prison, no evidence was forthcoming and as his health failed he was granted clemency. He came finally to Maine, where he spent his remaining days amidst planters from his beloved West Country. Thomas Morton died in 1647 at the age of 71.

The text for this song was published by Morton in New English Canaan. The melody, Staines Morris, was popular in the early 17th century.

Drinke and be merry, merry, merry boyes,
Let all your delight be in Hymens joyes,
Io to Hymen now the day is come,
About the merry Maypole take a Roome.

Make greene garlands, bring bottles out;
And fill sweet Nectar, freely about,
Uncover thy head, and feare no harm,
For hers good liquor to keepe it warme.

Nectar is a thing assign'd,
By the Deities owne minde,
To cure the hart opprest with grief,
And of good liquors is the chief,
Give to the Mellancolly man,
A cup or two of't now and than;
This physick' will soone revive his bloud,
And make him be of a merrier mood.

Give to the Nymphe thats free from scorne,
No Irish; stuff nor Scotch over worn,
Lasses in beaver coats come away,
Ye shall be welcome to us night and day.

Year 1628
Morton’s Return © James V. Ryan (used by permission)

The Merrymount incident influenced the cultural fabric of New England for centuries. Nathanial Hawthorn included his short story “The Maypole of Merrymount” in his book “Twice Told Tales” published in 1837. The poet Robert Lowell adapted this story into his play, “The Old Glory” in 1964.

While the Merrymount maypole of 1627 is usually thought to be the first in New England there is documentation of a maypole on Damariscove Island in 1622

Thomas Weston, a British merchant, in early 1622 sent from London seven passengers and some letters in his fishing ship, Sparrow, headed for the Plymouth Colony, founded just two years earlier. The Sparrow made landfall too far north, in the spring of 1622, at Damariscove Island (“wanting a pilot”). Phinehas Pratt, a member of the Sparrow’s crew, related the story of the lively Damariscove fishermen in May of 1622, in his own words and seventeenth-century spelling: “The men yt belong to ye ship, ther fishing, had newly set up a may pole and weare very mery.” – Chip Griffin

I’ll tarry no longer, to Merrymount I will go
I’ll drink whene’re I want to and dance around the pole
While women will attend me in the company of friends.
Tell ‘em old Tommy Morton’s come to Merrymount again

I first came to these shores my fortune to find
In the company of Wollaston and others so inclined.
But cruelly he deserted us. Bereft and all alone
In a strange and savage country we made Merrymount our home

Quite soon we were befriended by a host of Algonquin.
They could hunt and trap and fish, but they were not businessmen
Yet we treated them most squarley in all matters of our trade.
Sure as night follows day, it seemed our fortunes were made.

To celebrate our fortune a Maypole we did raise
And with our native brothers we danced and sang God’s praise
And with our native sisters we often did lie down
‘Till the laughter of our revels was heard in Plymouth town.

Soon word came back from Plymouth that a company of men
Was marching down to Merrymount our rowdiness to end.
We passed a jug among us for to fight them was our plan
But when they got up to Merrymount we were to drunk to stand.

They clapped me into irons and sent me out to sea
In a ship that sailed for England; heavy charges laid on me.
But no jury would convict me - they freed me from my chains
And I vowed that I would soon return to Merrymount again.

So we land in the morning. We’ll come in with the tide.
For my beloved Merrymount I’d cross the whole world wide.
It seems what I call pleasure other men mistake for vice
And what others call New England to me is Paradise.

Year 1643
New England Annoyances by Edward Johnson (?)
tune: Derry Down

In his book “New England Annoyances - America’s First Folk Song”, Leo Lemay identifies Edward Johnson as the probable author of the text and 1643 as the probable date. He also evaluates the oldest published versions (1758, 1774, 1791) to reconstruct a plausible original. With verses that are at times realistic, exaggerated, humourous and serious, this song describes some of the hardships faced by the Puritons in the early years of the settlements in Massachussets. Yet despite the litany of complaints the song concludes with the advice “forsake not the honey for fear of the sting”.

This song is emblematic of the New England character which has persisted to the present day, especially in the northern regions.

New England’s Annoyances, if you would know them
Just ponder these verses that quickly will show them.
The place where we live is a wilderness wood,
Where grass is much wanting that’s fruitful and good.

From the end of November till three months are gone,
The ground is all frozen as hard as a stone,
Our mountains and hills and valleys below
Are commonly covered with ice and with snow.

And when the north-wester with violence blows,
Then every man pulls his cap over his nose;
But if any’s so hardy and would it withstand,
He forfeits a finger, a foot, or a hand.

Our clothes we brought with us are apt to be torn,
They need to be mended before they are worn.
But wearing patched clothing, it troubles us nothing.
Double patches are warmer than single whole clothing!

When the ground opens we then take the hoe,
And make the ground ready to plant and to sow;
Our corn being planted and seed being sown,
The worms destroy much before it is grown.
While it is growing much spoil there is made,
By birds and by squirrels that pluck up the blade;
Even when it is grown to full corn in the ear,
Much spoil there is made by the racoon, and deer.

If flesh meat be wanting to fill up our dish,
We have pumpkins and turnips as much as we wish;
And when we have a mind for a delicate dish,
We repair to the clam banks, and there we catch fish.

For pottage and porridge and pudding and pies,
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies;
We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon;
If it was not for pumpkins we should be undone.

Now while some are going let others be coming,
For while liquor's boiling it must have a scumming;
But I will not blame them, for birds of a feather,
By seeking their fellows, are flocking together.

But you whom the Lord intends hither to bring,
Forsake not the honey for fear of the sting;
But bring both a quiet and contented mind,
And all needful blessings you surley will find.

Year 1673
John Earthy’s Tavern © Fred Gosbee 2011
tune: Larry O’Gaff

John Earthy kept a tavern in Pemaquid from sometime prior to 1673 until 1675. At that time Pemaquid was an economic rather than a military outpost; political and ecomonic decisions were made by local community leaders. From his letters we know that John Earthy was trying to avert hostilities in Maine during the early months of King Phillip’s War. He was successful for a while.

Subsequent to that war the five tribes in Acadia formed the Wabanaki Alliance, based in northern New England, to stop the expansion of the English colonies. From this base near their French allies in Canada, they conducted fought the five “French and Indian Wars” between 1689 and 1763. During this time European settlements in Maine were often abandoned. Pemaquid therefore has three settlement dates: circa 1608, 1692, and 1729.

A colonial tavern was the heart of the community (if not the soul). It was a place for social and official gatherings, a way stop for travelers, depot for mail delivery and in the very early days a trading post as well.

Whenever I'm weary and tired to the bone
From grubbing out stumps and digging out stones
There's one place I know will my spirit restore
That's John Earthy's tavern on the Pemaquid shore

There's all kind of people that you will find there
Released for moment from worry and care
From field and from forest and ocean they come
for some John Barleycorn or some kill-devil rum

In the short days of winter the evenings are long
For a pipe and a glass with a story or song
If a trav'ler stops in for a meal and some beer
He leaves as a friend - there are no strangers here

There's only one thing that we lack and we miss
That's a bonnie young wench for to hug and to kiss
For sooth in the settlement women are few
So lacking a young wench an old one will do

There are some in the village who think it's a sin
That we have no church for to worship God in
But there's one place I know will my spirit restore
John Earthy's Tavern by the Pemaquid shore.

Year 1737
The Escape of Old John Webb

I’ll attempt to untangle the history of this song. In Colonial Massachusetts paper money, the Old Tenor, was printed starting in 1690. This was the first paper currency in the Western World. (The Chinese had paper money as early as 970AD. The first U.S. paper money was printed in 1862) When it was first issued the Old Tenor was equivalent in value to specie, but by the 1730’s there was so much paper money in circulation that it the value had dropped to to about 25% of its face value. In 1737 the Commonwealth tried to revalue paper currency by issuing the “New Tenor”, which was legislated to have a value three times that of the Old Tenor. The issuance of the New Tenor was unpopular, and in 1742 with the issuance of a “new” new tenor confusion about the value of currency was rampant. While the legislature had an official version, in practice the merchants continued to conduct commerce in terms of “Old Tenor” even when the amount of Old Tenor in circulation was greatly reduced.

John Webb (or Webber) was a mintmaster in Salem who continued to print the Old Tenor after the New Tenor had been issued, thus technically becoming a counterfietor. He was jailed and may have been released by a mob or may have been released in the due course of time, accounts vary. In any case the Old Tenor and the predicament of John Webb became a cause celebré in New England and the old Scottish ballad, Archie O Cawfield, was reworked to make a song about the incident. In the following verses excerpted from Child #188B the ideas and phrases that are included in The Escape of Old John Webb are obvious. (The original ballad numbers some 30-45 verses, depending on the version)

‘There[’s] six of us will hold the horse,
And other five watchmen will be;
But who is the man among you a’
Will go to the Tolbooth door wi me?’

‘Be o good cheer now, Archie lad,
Be o good cheer now, dear billie;
Work thow within and I without,
And the morn thou’s dine at Cafield wi me.’

‘O work, O work, Archie?’ he cries,
‘O work, O work? ther’s na working for me;
For ther’s fifteen stane o Spanish iron,
And it lys fow sair on my body.’

O Jokie Hall stept to the door,
And he bended it back upon his knee,
And he made the bolts that the door hang on
Jump to the wa right wantonlie.

He took the prisoner on his back,
And down the Tollbooth stairs came he;
Out then spak Dickie and said,
Let some o the weight fa on me;
‘O shame a ma!’ co Jokie Ha,
‘For he’s no the weight of a poor flee.’
‘Lo yonder comes Liewtenant Gordon
And a hundred men in his company:’

O there was horsing, horsing in haste,
And there was marching upon the lee,
Untill they came to Annan side,
And it was flowing like the sea.

Now they did swim that wan water,
And O but they swam bonilie!
Untill they came to the other side,
And they wrang their cloathes right drunk[i]lie.

‘Come through, come through, Lieutenant Gordon!
Come through, and drink some wine wi me!
For ther’s a ale-house neer hard by,
And it shall not cost thee one penny.’

‘Throw me my irons, Dickie!’ he cries,
‘For I wat they cost me right dear;’
‘O shame a ma!’ cries Jokie Ha,
‘For they’ll be good shoon to my gray mare.’

Several versions of The Escape of Old John Webb were collected in the 1920s in and around Mt Desert, Maine by Fannie Hardie Eckstorm. One of the informants, Mrs. Thornton of Southwest Harbor, got it from her great-grandmother who came to the area from Byfield, Massachusetts, in 1800.

There were nine to watch the British rank and five to watch the town above
And one to stand at either hand and one to let the Old Tenor out.
He had eighty-weight of Spanish iron between his neck-bone and his knee
But Billie took Johnny up under his arm and carried him out right manfully

And Billie broke locks and Billie broke bolts
And Billie broke all that he came nigh
Until he came to the dungeon door
And that he broke right manfully
He stole them a horse and away they rode and who but they rode gallently
Until them came to the river bank, to the river running wild and free
The British were coming close on their heels and who but they stood fearfully
‘Till Billie took Johnny up on his back and carried him over it easily.

“Oh Billie, bold Billie”, the sheriff he cried, “You’re the damnedest rascall I ever did see.
“Come give me back the irons you stole and I will set your prisoner free.”
“Oh no, oh no”, bold Billie he cried, “Oh no, oh no that cannot be.
“The iron will do our horses to shoe, for the blacksmith rides in our company.

And when they come to the other side who but they stood shiveringly
Until they came unto an inn where they called for ale most cheerfully.
And then they called for a room to dance and who but they danced gallently?
And the very best dancer amongst them all was old John Webb who was just set free!

Songs from the Grand Design

Julia Lane spent five years resolving conflicting accounts of the 1741 wreck of Martha &?Eliza on Grand Mannan Island. She wrote a historical drama with music based on historical documents she found in Maine, New Brunswick, Northern Ireland, Boston, and Raleigh, NC, as well as collecting family stories from descendants of the survivors, both locally and through genealogical services. The first run of The Grand Design, produced by the Heartwood Theater Company, premiered in 2006, in Newcastle, Maine. It was exciting to find that many descendants came from several states and Canada to see the production. The Grand Design has been performed in New Brunswick, several theaters in Maine and in South Carolina. These two songs from the play encapsulate the story of The Grand Design in verse form.

Year 1741
The Complaint © 2005 Julia Lane

Two of the survivors, Alexander Campbell and William Lunnon, wrote a letter of complaint against Captain Matthew Rowan. The text of this song closely follows the contents of that letter.

In seventeen hundred and forty one we left old Ireland
Bound for Philadelphia in America’s happy land
But cruel winds destroyed our masts on the stormy passage o’er
And it was late October before we sighted shore

Our ship it being foundered on the bleak and rocky land
The captain bade us man the boats to take us to the strand
With comrades friends and family all scattered here and there
No shelter was provided us, no sustenance nor fare

He then sailed in the longboat some comfort for to find
The length of time that he was gone weighed heavy on our minds
As cold and deprivation began to take their toll
And many of our companions went to their final home

At length the captain and his crew returned with vessels two
And how our hearts did lighten as these ships came into view
But how our hopes were shattered when we came to know his mind
Was to take our goods from off the ship and leave us all behind

He finally was persuaded to render us some aid
For forty-eight convenient and with money for to pay
He stripped us of our clothing, all our goods, and all our gear
Then sold us into service thus advancing his career

A curse upon the captain, oh may he die in pain!
For never did he spare a thought for those who did remain
No pity for the victims of his cold and ruthless plan
He left them all to perish on the shores of Grand Manan.

Year 1742
Isabel’s Rescue © 2007 Julia Lane

Isabel Asbel Galloway is one of the principle characters in The Grand Design. Whilst her husband, Jack, and most of the other men did not survive on the island, Isabel, her baby Robert, and about eight other women survived the winter. They were discovered by Passamaquoddy Indians in the spring, who paddled over 120 miles to notify the settlers in Pemaquid and St George (now Warren, Maine) of their prediciment. We have no record that Archibald Gamble actually participated in the rescue; we do know that he wed Isabel in 1742 and they were married 38 years before his death. From the records of his military and civic service, we can deduce that he was the kind of man that would have gone on the voyage.

Archibald came from the north of Ireland about 1728. He resided in Pemaquid then in 1736 became one of the first settlers of the Upper Town of St. George's. He served in the military in 1749 and stayed in the fort at St. George during the 5th Indian war. In 1754 in stayed in the fort blockhouse during the 6th Indian War, then in 1755 was a ranger scout from June 19 - November 20. He died in 1779 in Warren, Maine while hauling hay across the river on the ice, broke through, and was drowned, near what has since been called Gamble's rock. He was buried in 1779 in the Old Settlers Cemetery in Warren, Maine.

It was early one evening in the spring of the year
That a strange looking vessel on our shores did appear
With red men from the forests, and though they were few
We were most apprehensive of what they might do

They hailed us most proudly, and held up their hands
And producing as letter, gave us to understand
That marooned on an island there were women in need
And that we should travel there with the greatest of speed

We hastily gathered a crew, strong and brave
For to make the long journey across the salt waves
We fared to the east’ard for many a long mile
Till the Indians did guide us to a desolate Isle

And there on the rocky shore, both hungry and cold
Were the women of Ireland as the letter had told
And one with an infant just barely alive
We were filled with amazement that they had survived

For it seems they had suffered the whole winter through
Abandoned by the captain of a ship and his crew
In favor of the cargo and the goods they had brought
He ruthlessly sailed away and left them with naught

And so we did tenderly help them on board
And carried them back to our home in St.George
With great thanks to the Indians so gallant and strong.
Here’s a health to their families and may they live long.

There was one of these ladies who soon caught my eye
She was fair, sweet and handsome, that none can deny
Our love it did blossom as her health it did grow
And I married my dear Isabel before the next snow.

Year 1752
Promised Land words © 2003 Geordie McIntyre
tune: trad- Tae Pad the Road Wi’ Me
Used by Permission
Samual Waldo was just one of several colonial land barons of the 18th century. He issued printed circulars inviting emigrants to settle upon his lands on the great River St Georges in the province of Massachusetts Bay in the colony of New England. These lands he described as being fifty leagues northeast of Boston in the latitude of 43°40’ north in what is now Waldo County.

Waldo represented the “climate to be as wholesome and safe for British constitutions as any part of South or North Britain; that there was commonly hard frost and snow for about three months every winter during which the sky was so serene that the weather was never prejudicial to health; that the soil was as fertile as most lands in South or North Britain, being commonly black mould with a bottom of blue or yellow clay; that the ground was capable of producing plenty of Indian corn, Wheat, Rye, Barley, Oats , Beans, Peas, Hemp, Flax and Roots of all kinds, and of raising black-cattle, Swine, and Sheep; that besides summer feeding in the woods, natural meadows abounded and the whole summer season being commonly fair, great provision of hay might be made early and secured with small expense; that the timber consisted of Oak, Beech, Maple, Elm, Birch, and all kinds of Fir or Pine, all of which were in such demand at Boston as to pay for clearing the lands, and well adapted for making pot and pearl ashes; that the waters abounded in cod, haddock, salmon, sturgeon, mackerel, eels, smelts, bass, shad, oysters and lobsters; that there was fine opportunity of hunting; wildfowl, moordeer and beaver being abundant.”

These offers attracted the attention of about sixty persons in Stirling, Glasgow, and other places in Scotland, who entered into an agreement to emigrate. They were for the most part mechanics, and unacquainted with all agricultural operations, except reaping and threshing. Having the promise of lands within two miles of tide waters, they naturally looked forward to the comforts of city life to which they had been accustomed at home. Fearful of Indian hostilities, and unaquainted as they were with the wild beasts that frequented the woods, they could not think of fixing their habitations at a distance from each other. Accordingly when the spring opened they went out to the place assigned them for a new city and took possession of their half acre lots, on which they erected small log huts. To this embryo city they gave the name of Stirling, in honor of that from which most of them had come.

Our friend, Geordie McIntyre, of Dunblane, Scotland, made this song based on the account of this settlement recorded in the Annals of the Town of Warren, by Cyrus Eaton, published in 1851.

It was in 1753, in the summer o’ that year
Some stood silent, others cheered as we left the Greenock quay
We raised a prayer to give us strength an’ banish all our fear
As we voyaged to a promised land across the western sea

We had maistly cam’ frae Stirling an’ frae Glasgow toon as well
Wi’ the Greenlaw folk, frae Edinbro, the truth tae ye i’ll tell
There was Malcolm and Kirkpatrick there, an’ Miller and Johnstone too
Weavers, coopers and makers-o’-slates just tae name a few.

The time was in oor favour then an’ providence proved kind
Our course was sure and steadfast as the dolphin rode the wind
Those weary weeks drew to a close when we saw the landbirds fly
And Captain Couters smiled an’ he said the wooded coast was nigh

We landed at Piscataquis; ‘t was our first port of call
Then north to the Georges Ri-ver to reach our final goal
And when we reached the sylvan shore a pipe – tune filled our ears
Aye, there was mony a fit that danced a reel an’ mony an eye, wi’ tears

We had trials and tribulations which, in time, we did surmount
We knew the worth o’ friendship and the principles that count
This land has been a blessing bright to me an a’ my kin
So I raise my glass to America, an auld Scotia far ahin!

Year 1780
If I Were a Blackbird

This is a traditional Irish song, but relflects a true Maine story. A young lady in Ireland, Mary Young, had a lover whom she favored in spite of the opposition of her father and family. This young man was Alexander Fossett, who, after the Youngs had left for America, determined to come join her. He signed on to a cattle boat and worked his way to Philadelphia. Finding that Miss Young had come to Maine with her friends, he soon followed, was favorably received, and in due time they were married. The Fosset family has been prominent in mid-coast Maine since that time.

I think I changed two words in this traditional lyric to make the story fit just a bit better.

If I was a blackbird, could whistle and sing
I'd follow the vessel my true love sails in
And in the top rigging I'd there build my nest
And I'd flutter my wings o'er her lily white breast
I am a young sailor, my story is sad
I once was carefree and a brave sailor lad
I courted a lassie by night and by day
But now she has left me and sailed far away

I promised to take her to Donnybrook Fair
And to buy her fine ribbons to tie up her hair
I offered to marry and to stay by her side
But she said in the morning she sails with the tide
If I was a scholar and could handle the pen
One secret love letter to my true love I'd send
And I'd tell of my sorrow, my grief and my pain
Since she's gone and left me and sailed o’er to Maine

Her parents they chide me and do not agree
Saying me and my true love married never should be
But let them deprive me, let them do as they will
While there's breath on my body she's my true love still

Year 1790
The Wild ‘Prentice Boy
words Traditional, tune by Fred Gosbee

The Newry Highwayman is a traditional Irish folk song about a criminal's life, deeds, and death. It is also found in England, Scotland, the USA and Canada. The earliest known broadside is from about 1830 (Bodleian Harding B 25(2054)). Some versions mention "Mansfield" and this is sometimes taken to be William Murray, first Earl of Mansfield (1706-1793). Here is one version of the traditional lyric:

The version I sing here is from my grandather, John West, who learnt the song whilst working in the lumberwoods of Maine and New Brunswick in the first decades of the twentieth century. I wasn’t able to capture his tune. He was very short of breath when I collected the song and kept changing key, so this melody is my attempt to construct a tune that is the same “shape” as his.

In Newry Town I was bred and born
In Steven's Green now I'll lie in scorn
I served my time at the saddler's trade
And I always was a roving blade

At seventeen I took a wife
And I loved her dearer than I loved my life
And for to keep her both fine and gay
I went a-robbing on the King's highway

I've never robbed any poor man yet
Nor any tradesman caused I to fret
But I robbed Lords and their Ladies fine
And I carried their gold home to my heart's delight

To Covent Garden I took my way
With my dear wife for to see the play
Lord Fielding's men, they did me pursue
And taken was I by that cursed crew
My father cried "My darling son"
My wife, she cried "I am undone"
My mother tore her white locks and cried
That in the cradle I should have died

When I am dead, aye, and for my grave
A flashy funeral pray let me have
Six highwaymen for to carry me
Give them broadswords and sweet liberty

Six pretty fair maids to bear my pall
Give them white ribbons and green garlands all
When I am dead, they may speak the truth
"He was a wild and a wicked youth"

In Newry Town I was bred and born
In Steven's Green now I'll lie in scorn
I served my time at the saddler's trade
And I always was a roving blade

Year 1813
The Capture of the Crown
New words and arrangement by Fred Gosbee

This song is from a biography of Commodore Samuel Tucker, a very successful captain for the United States in the Revolutionary War. He retired with his winnings to Beacon Hill in Boston but through a combination of failed investments and high living he lost his fortune and retired to a farm in Bremen on the shores of Muscongus Bay in Coastal Maine.

When the British privateer, Bream, was raiding Maine coastal villages in the War of 1812, a crew of Bristol fishermen decided to put to sea and stop the raiders. Someone loaned a sloop and small cannon were borrowed from the fort in Edgecomb. The volunteer crew asked Commodore Tucker, then 67 years old, to take charge of the expedition. They cruised off midcoast Maine for three days and saw nothing. Food and rum may have been running out - and the men from Edgecomb were getting nervous about leaving their town undefended. The sloop returned to Edgecomb, offloaded the cannon and was making way toward Bristol when they encountered the British sloop, Crown. In the ensuing conflict Tucker did what he had done during his naval career: he outsailed them, putting the Crown into an undefensible position. Contrary to the lyric there was only one round of small arms fire and the only casualty was the British captain’s hat. The Crown surrendured and there was little damage to either vessel - but what kind of song would that make?

Peter Collamore was known as the Bremen Giant or the Bremen Monster because of his great size and immense strength. The story of him using the achor as a grappeling hook is well known in the oral tradition of Bremen, where the Collamore family has lived for many generations. I took the liberty to add a verse about Collamore to the original ballad, which was found in The life of Samuel Tucker, Commodore in the American Revolution, by John Hannibal Sheppard, published in 1868.

So cheer up, my lively lads and never be it said
That the brave boys of Bristol were ever yet afraid

On the 26th of April, it plainly doth appear
The brave boys of Bristol fitted out a privateer
In command of Captain Tucker- a sloop both neat and trim
And we set out to cruise the seas all for to take the Bream

We cruised the shores for several days and nothing did appear
At length our brave commander resolved to homeward steer
It was on a Friday morning, and clear was the sky
And as we were returning, a sail we did spy

Then rose our bold commander and to his men did say
"My boys, be all stout-hearted and do not fail today!
Our enemy's before us and after her we'll run
For I'm resolved to take her before the setting sunî

Then we bore away for her and up to her did come
We hauled down our foresail and gave her a gun
'Twas broadside and broadside we showed her Yankee play
'Til our enemy got frightened and tried to run away

We went to bind her to our side but much to our chagrin
We found we had no grappling hooks to seize and pull her in.
Till Collamore leapt up and swung the anchore o’re his head.
“Captain, shall I let her fly?” the Bremen monster said.

Then they quit their quarters and down below they run
We shot away their halliards and down their colors come
Their captain he stepped forward and waving of his hand
He cried "I must surrender; this I can no longer stand!"

Then we hoisted out our boats and on board of her did go
We made them all prisoners and ordered them below
We hoisted Yankee colors and hauled the British down
And when we did examine her, she proved to be the Crown

"Now" says our brave commander "we'll bring our prize ashore
For we're the boys that fear no noise, though cannons loudly roar!
And quickly we will clear the coast of all these British boys
For we will fight 'em till we die, and never mind their noise!"

Now we have fought this privateer till she is overcome
And God bless Captain Tucker this day for what he's done
Likewise his officers and all his jolly crew
God grant that they may prosper in everything they do

Year 1815
The Ballad of the Widow Stone © 2000 Fred Gosbee

In 2000, Julia and I were engaged to perform “an historically informed concert” for the tercentenary of Framingham, Massachusetts (part of southern Maine until 1820). We knew very little about the history of Framingham so they loaned us their local history synopsis. We found many interesting tidbits about the town such as the existance of two fox-hunting clubs into the 1960s. The story of the door was the last entry and was so evocative that I set out to write the song. When we performed it we were invited to see the door, which is still in use. Between two carved hearts is a small, framed silhouette of Widow Stone, reputed to be a handsome English woman. On the back of the frame is a tiny envelope and in the envelope is this story, written down in 1830. The song replicates the story in verse. With its refrains and repeated chorus lines this song is reminiscent of an old ballad, however I haven’t found any old songs structured quite like this. When I first introduced the song and told the audience it had fifteen verses they didn’t believe me!

The protagonist in the story is never identified, nor is the reason he left town after his proposal of marriage. We do know that Captain Nixon was a fifer in the Revolutionary War; the Framingham Historical Society has his tune book. I wrote the lyric based on the idea that the events were around the War of 1812. It may well have been earlier, but certainly not much later.

One day as the sun was setting low
There’s dew on the bud so early
One day as the sun was setting low
And the flower’s fair at noon
One day as the sun was setting low
A traveler came down the road
His pack and gun were his only load
And the bloom aye fades away
He stopped that night to take his rest
At the Nobscot Inn where the ale is best
Never dreaming love would pierce his breast

For as he took his meal alone
‘Twas there he met the Widow Stone
Oh, Cupid’s darts were quickly thrown

Her face was fair, her eyes were clear
As they conversed with much good cheer
It seemed he’d known her many a year

He took the widow by the hand
And said, “I’ll have you understand
“I go to join the Patriot Band”

“But when I’ve done what I must do
“My fondest wish I’ll tell you true
“Is to return and marry you”

The Widow Stone then turned her head
Her cheeks, they blushed a rosy red
“May God go with you, sir!” she said

At break of day the man was gone
To bloody battles fierce and long
Yet he often dreamt of Widow Stone
At last the Patriots won the war
And a bearded veteran, gaunt and sore
Came trudging down the road once more

He went to the Nobscot Inn straightway
Where he left Widow Stone that long gone day
What he found there filled him with dismay

For Nixon he had come to town
That Captain bold of high renown
The Widow Stone in wedlock bound

That night he knocked upon their door
‘Twas just to to see his love once more
“Oh, can you shelter a vet’ran poor?”

She rose at once to let him in
He joined their table like a friend
But she never knew that it was him

Then in the dark hours of the night
With the moon and stars his only light
He crept downstairs with his long, sharp knife

The man was gone in the early morn
He left no trace from the night before
Save two hearts carved in the parlor door
For the bloom aye fades away

Year 1839
Maine Battle Song
Tune: Maggie Lauder

This song appeared in Maine newspapers in 1839 during the Aroostook War. In this border dispute between Maine and New Brunswick the Maine legislature, through belicose rhetorhic and the mustering of the Maine militia into the disputed territory, almost forced the U.S. into a war with England. There was much sabre-rattling on both sides but there were no battles and all the casualties were of non-combative causes. The economic driver of the conflict was the huge stands of virgin forest in northern Maine. Daniel Webster and Lord Ashburton negotiated the present border which preserved communication for Canada between the Maritime Provinces and western Canada. Maine retained the rich timberlands in the Penobscot river basin and the southern shore of the St. John River. Interestingly, Webster and Ashburton were close friends and Ashburton had large land holdings in eastern Maine. The border established in 1842 by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty is almost identical to that proposed by King William I of the Netherlands in 1830.

As a consequence of the treaty, communities such as Madawaska, which were on both sides of the St John River, suddenly were divided by an international boundary. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty laid the groundwork for the longest unfortified international border in the world which, until recently, was little more than a formality to cross.

The Flag of Bennington is a revolutionary-era U.S. battle flag. The references to the Bennington flag and the “July thunder” harken back the the Revolutionary War.

Come, sogers! take your muskets up and grasp your faithful rifles;
We’re gwoin to lick the red coat men, who call us Yankees “trifles”.
Bring out the big gun made of brass which causes July thunder.
Bring out the flag of Bennington and strike the foe with wonder.

We’ll lick the red coats anyhow and drive them from the border.
The loggers are awake and all await the gin’ral’s order.
Britannia shall not rule the Maine, nor shall she rule the water.
They’ve sung that song full long enough, much longer than they oughter.

The Aroostook is a right slick stream; has nation sight og woodlands
And hang the feller that would lose his footing on such good land!
And all along the boundary line there’s pasturing for cattle,
But where that line of boundary is we must decide by battle.

We do not care about the land but they shant hook it from us.
“Our country, right or wrong!” we cry; “No budging or compromise.”
So beat the sheepskin, blow the fife and march in training order.
Our way is through the wilderness and all along the border

Year 1883
The Wreck of the Edjuardo © 2007 Fred Gosbee

As told to me by Delia Mae Farris, whose family has lived in Cutler, Maine, for generations.

Maine was the first state to pass alcohol prohibition in 1851. Although it was not vigorously enforced in all communities it could be difficult to wet one’s whistle so when a ship loaded with wine grounded out near Little River in Cutler the local fishermen jumped at the chance to stock their cellars. The ensuing six-month bender involved most of the town. The Reverend Farnum complained about people whittling and dancing in the church (on Sunday!), and being generally rowdy. He wrote the letter to the Machias Republican newspaper in which he complained that Cutler had become a “New Downest Gomorrah”.

The practice of drilling up through the planking of a dock to steal liquor is not unique to Cutler. In the ninteenth century restauranteurs of larger cities such as Boston or New York would purchase wine by the cask. Usually they would go to the harbor to sample the vintage assure it was acceptable. It was not unusual for local wharf rats to go beneath the dock and drill up between the planking to tap into the wine.

Upon further investigation I have found that the date of this incident was actually August, 1883 and the the storehouse where the barrels were impounded was on Farris’s dock instead of Corbett’s. Valsusa is a modern wine, so that is an anachronism but the song has escaped, so there it stands. Otherwise it happened just this way. This lyric is the “official” version – not necessarily the way I sing it now.

Delia Mae really does have a piece of the old dock planking, holes and all.

It was August, eighty-eight, when a steamer hauling freight
Ran aground near Little River in the fog.
Bound for Boston at the time loaded with Italian wine,
So it says according to the log

Eduardo was a mess so she signaled her distress
So some Cutler boys rowed to her o'er the tide
When they found out what she carried they never even tarried
until several casks of wine went o'er the side

A six month toot and no one gave a hoot
If they were drinking asti or chianti or valsusa
Everyone felt fine until they ran out of wine
When Cutler had a six month toot.

The captain of Eduardo , well, he tried to keep his cargo
But the Cutlerites were brazen and were bold.
And before the sheriff came to end their little game
They had taken every bottle in the hold.

When the owner's agent came only heavy casks remained
Which were salvaged with hard labor o'er the rocks.
They put them in a store with a guard before the door
That was situated right on Corbett's dock.

Now the boys thought it a waste that they couldn't have a taste
From those barrels that were locked up in the store.
So with augers and with drills and some vessels they could fill
They rowed beneath and bored up through the floor

Now they borrowed every can, baby bottle, tub, and pan
It's a wonder that the dory's weren't all sunk.
The water jugs went missing - there was not a pot to piss in
When the Cutlerites went on their six-month drunk.

Though it wasn't strong as whisky, still everyone was frisky
When they started drinking wine that August day
They danced in church on Sunday, had hair of the dog on Monday
And didn't sober up until next May.

Now a few folk still went fishing; there were others maybe wishing
That all that wine would somehow turn to water.
Farnum, who was reverend, was mortally offended
At the antics of the Cutler sons and daughters.

When he finally had enough he quit Cutler in a huff
Wrote a letter which expressed his pain and sorrow
That in spite of prohibition, Cutler lost all inhibitions
And had become a new Downeast Gomorrah.

It's a century and more since they bored up through the floor
But still in town you'll see a souvenier.
Where Delia Mae still keeps, as a conversation piece,
Some perforated planking from the pier

Till It Is Clear Day

Carrie Grover came to Maine from Nova Scotia at the age of twelve. She was a wonderful singer and fiddler who lived for many years in Gorham, Maine. Her Heritage of Songs contains songs she learned from her mother and father; this is one of her mother’s. We have not found this song anywhere else.Here are her remarks about this song:

“In 1811, I believe, my grandmother Long’s father, William Hutchenson was given a grant of land between the villages of Wnndsor and Chester in Nova Scotia with the provision that he build a public house halfway between the two villages for the accomodation of all travelers. As there is a fine harbor at Chester, what is more likely than that this song was sung at the public house by sailors waiting for sailing orders?”

It was down in Cupid’s garden where my love and I, we chanced to meet
I put my arms around her and gave to her some kisses sweet

For it’s not the time to go, boys, for to go, boys, for to go away,
For it’s not the time to go, boys, we will drink away till it is clear day

I bought a bottle of good brandy to drink in my loves company
But she was so proud and haughty that de’ils the drop would she drink with me

Come, landlady, my darling, come fill us up a glass with speed
We will drink it as a cordial, a cordial in the time of need

For now is the time to go, boys, for to go, boys, for to go away
For now is the time to go, boys. We will drink no more, for it is clear day

Track Credits and Instruments

I built the 10-string baroque guitar used on the Ballad of the Popham Colony. It is from a design of that time. I also made the bowed psaltry, the low whistles, the classic guitar and Julia Lane’s harp.

While most of the instruments used on this recording are recognisable, there are a few strange and wonderful sounds. If you are looking for a guitar, violin, flute, or whistle contact these fine builders.

Claire Curtis, South Berwick, Maine, made the rebec used on New England Annoyances. It is typical of fiddles used in folk music from the middle ages through the 1500s.

My violin was made by Edward Garber, Tyrone, Pennsylvania

Irish flutes by Casey Burns, Kingston, Washington

Whistle by Michael Burke, Murphysboro, Illinois

The custom Apollo 12-string guitar was made for me by Nikos Apollonio, Rockport, Maine.

The Ballad of the Popham Colony – baroque guitar
Thomas Morton’s Maypole Songe – Low F whistle; Julia Lane, percussion
Morton’s Return – 12-string guitar; Fender bass guitar; violin; M.T. Chorus
New England Annoyances – Low F whistle; 3-string rebec
John Earthy’s Tavern – M.T. Chorus
The Escape of Old John Webb – 12-string guitar; Fender bass guitar; violin; Julia Lane, harp
The Complaint – bodhran
Isabell’s Rescue – Julia Lane, harp; violin; Bb Irish flute; violin; cello
Promised Land – 12-string guitar; violin; Julia Lane, harp
If I were a Blackbird – 12-string guitar; pennywhistle; Julia Lane, harp & harmony vocals
The Wild ‘Prentice Boy – 12-string guitar; D. Anderson, bodhran; D. Conboy, bass; J. Lane, psaltry
The Capture of the Crown – M.T. Chorus
The Ballad of Widow Stone – Viola; tenor viola (aka “chin-cello”); cello
Maine Battle Song – classic guitar
The Wreck of the Edjuardo –12-string guitar; Fender bass; violin; tambourine; M.T. Chorus
Till It Is Clear Day – M.T. Chorus

Note: M.T. Chorus = Multi Tracked Chorus.



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Van Reid

John Earthy's Tavern - your best yet!
John Earthy’s Tavern is wonderful and the title song is one of your best yet!