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It is surprising how often cruel fathers turn up in folk songs, willing to murder their daughter’s lover. And it is invariably the fathers that are cruel whilst the mothers are reconciliatory. This tale is typical of 18-19th century broadsides and the story has everything – the broken token, the lover sent away to see and the lovers dying drowned in each others arms at the end.
It is a song with widespread popularity and versions of it have been found all over the English-speaking world, being collected as late as the 1970s.