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Who Knocks There?

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Place Collected: Winchcombe
Date collected: 1909 (8 Apr)
Collector: Sharp, Cecil
Roud Number: 1563

This curious song lasted for over 200 years as a harvest supper piece in several places, including Gloucestershire. One Oliger Jacobaeus, a Dane who visited London in 1679-83, wrote down the following that he had heard:

Who is there?
Poor maid full of sorre and care.
I beseech to rep poor Tham in.
Is poor Tham dead?
Poor Tham is dead.
When did poor Tham dey?
Yesterday in the morning grey
Partit poor Tham and deid, deid, deid.
I heard a bort sing in the wood
Poor Tham is dead, we will drink a half for poor Tham’s sake,
For he was a right anish [‘honest’] man.
I will drink a half w’ play for me self
W’ so shall every man.
Sup, pru, nel, mel, dal, Yohn.

The rhyme lasted until the 20th century in a Sussex version, where it was sung at harvest suppers, and it was also collected in Richmond in a version which can be traced back to a Scottish maidservant, singing in the 1830s. This version was published in 1897, with tune, in “Golspie. Contributions to its Folklore”, Golspie being a village in Southerland, Scotland.

Notes by Gwilym Davies 11 April 2015