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The origins of this song are obscure but it certainly gained popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, particularly in the USA where it was taken up by minstrel groups. It has been a vehicle for improvising verses and many diverse versions have been found. It is particularly popular in the Appalachian Mountain area. English versions are rare. Sam Larner of Norfolk sang it and it was also collected from a singer in the Scilly Islands but apart from our Gloucestershire version, that is it.