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Lover's Ghost, The

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Alternative title: Suffolk Miracle, The

Performer: May, Richard
Place Collected: Fairford
Date collected: Between 1913 and 1916
Collector: Williams, Alfred
Roud Number: 246
Other Numbers: Child 272

The folklorist Frances James Child included this ballad in his iconic collection but obviously did not rate it, describing it as “not even a good specimen of its kind.”  Be that as it may, that view was not shared by traditional singers and the supernatural theme has had an attraction over many years.  It has particularly taken root in the USA, where numerous versions have been found.  In England, however, it has been rarely collected.  The collector George Butterworth found the song, entitled “It’s of a Farmer all in this Town” in Herefordshire in 1907, but no other English version has come to light.  The earliest version known is a broadside of c. 1689 entitled “The Suffolk miracle. Or A relation of a young man who a month after his death appeared to his sweetheart” and “The Suffolk Miracle” has been the name favoured by folklorists whereas singers have preferred to call it “The Lover’s Ghost” or “The Holland Handkerchief”.
Notes by Gwilym Davies 3 April 2016