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The Sheep Stealer





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Mick writes:

Here's a 200 year old song from the county of Dorset in England. It probably originated around 1805 when the land enclosure act came in and there was a great deal of poverty among the working folk. The song was probably collected by the Hammond Brothers around 1905 who went around looking for old folk songs to write down and preserve, pestering old ladies to sing them everything they knew from their childhoods. I'm glad they did.

As far as I know, blues is a mix of African rhythms and European folk music, so here's one half of that equation. A dark tale of a desperate man on a moonlit night, back in the early 19th Century. I hope you enjoy it.

I am a brisk lad though my fortune is bad
And I am misfortunate poor.
But indeed I intend my misfortune to mend,
And to build a house out on the moor,
build a house out on the moor.


Well The farmer he keeps - fat oxen and sheep
On a neat little neck of the downs
when the moon's shining bright In the depth of the night
There's a great deal of work to be done, my brave boys,
There's a great deal of work to be done.


Well I'll walk all around on some other man's land,
And I'll take a fat sheep for my own.
With the aid of my knife I will shorten its life
And it's then I will carry it home, my brave boys,
And it's then I will carry it home.


And my children will hue the skin from the ewe,
And I will be weathering on.
When the constables come I will stand with my gun
And I'll swear all I have is my own, my brave boys,
I'll swear all I have is my own.


I am a brisk lad though my fortune is bad
And I am misfortunate poor.
But indeed I intend my misfortune to mend,
And to build a house down on the moor, my brave boys,
And to build a house down on the moor.


"The Sheep Stealer", or "the Brisk Lad" Traditional.


Cover artwork from 'The Sheep Stealer' by Briton Rivière 1884

Folk version by Boilerhouse via Cornwall.

Mick Clarke - The Sheep Stealer'