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The Deserter

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Performer: Smith, Wiggy
Place Collected: Cheltenham
Date collected: 1994
Collector: Davies, Gwilym
Roud Number: 493

As ‘The New Deserter’ this ballad appeared on broadsides throughout the nineteenth century, presumably so titled because there was another earlier song with the title ‘The Deserter’. However, early printed versions with 8 stanzas vary enough to suggest it dates back to the eighteenth century. The first stanza states that the deserter is ‘Johnny, a young farmer from Oxfordshire’ and he is recruited at the statutes. The song has been found in the repertoires of source singers well into the twentieth century and it is popular on the folk scene.

Mike Yates recorded Wiggy singing the song in 1975 and Gwilym Davies and Paul Burgess re-recorded him in 1994.


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