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Who'll Buy my Primroses

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Alternative title: Kate, the Primrose Girl

Performer: Boucher, Harold
Place Collected: Cheltenham
Date collected: 1989 (Jan)
Collector: Davies, Gwilym

Primrose girl

It is undoubtedly an old song and broadside versions with the last verse go back to the 18th Century. The first 2 verses may therefore be a later addition.   The only previous reference to this song in the form that Mr Boucher sings is in “Songs of Britain – A Collection of One Hundred English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish National Songs” by Frank Kidson, published 1913 where it is entitled “Kate, the Primrose Girl”. No indication is given of its origin except for the wording “Adapted from an early song, last verse old.” The words given in 1913 are:

From valley and wood primroses I bring
The first of the flowers to tell of the spring
Through dull dismal streets primroses I cry
Come buy my primroses, who’ll buy primroses?
Who’ll buy primroses, who’ll buy, who’ll buy?

Their petals so fair, so fragile and pale,
How sweet they all nestled within the deep vale
With each wide-eyed flower looking up to the sky
Come buy etc

Then buy of poor Kate, primroses I sell
Through London’s fair city I’m known very well
I tramp through the streets whether wet shod or dry
Come buy etc.

Mr Boucher’s appears to be the only version collected in oral tradition.

Notes by Gwilym Davies