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Creeping Jane

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Performer: Richards, Mrs
Place Collected: Little Sodbury
Date collected: 1907 (2 Apr)
Collector: Sharp, Cecil
Roud Number: 1012

There has been much speculation about the origins of this song. Certainly there were lots of racehorses called Creeping Jane, so it is not possible to pinpoint which one is intended in this song, of which the Gloucestershire version is very garbled. Intriguingly, a poem of the 1850s called “The Ballad of Jenny the Mare” is very close to our song here. This version refers to the horse as “Yorkshire Jen” and there was indeed a famous racehorse called Yorkshire Jenny. However, it is likely that “The Ballad of Jenny the Mare” is a rewrite of “Creeping Jane” rather than vice-versa. Broadside versions take the song back to about 1820, and it has turned up fairly regularly in tradition, all in England except for one Michigan version.

Notes by Gwilym Davies 7 July 2015