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Green Bushes

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Performer: Brazil, Harry
Place Collected: Sandhurst Lane
Date collected: 1977 (27 Nov)
Collector: Davies, Gwilym
Roud Number: 1040

This song is one of the most iconic of English folk songs, but one in which the story line is rather suspect: a man meets a girl lamenting. She says she is waiting for her lover. He tries to entice her away by offering nice clothes and marriage. She says she doesn’t want the nice clothes but she will marry him anyway. The boyfriend later arrives and laments that he has been stood up. Thus an early example of speed dating. It is usually sung to the impressive tune as exemplified by Harry Brazil’s version. Apart from Harry’s version, it was also sung by his sister Lementina (Lemmie).

Percy Grainger encountered it several times in Gloucestershire, from William ‘Daddy’ Shepherd in Winchcombe workhouse, from Mrs Mary Hawker of Broad Campden and from John Collett of Stanton. Grainger already knew the melody from a Somerset version collected by Cecil Sharp, and had had a go at arranging it. He wrote to his girlfriend in 1907 of the song “It is really a remarkable feeling, after one has composed for so long around a melody like this (and half come to think of it as one’s own) to hear it in the mouth of such an amusing old man.” He must have been referring here to the John Collett version.

As for the history of the song, it was published on broadsides in the early 19th century and featured in an eponymous melodrama of 1845 by J B Buckstone. There are possible previous antecedents, but none that are clearly “Green Bushes”.

It has been widely collected with most of the versions coming from England.

Notes by Gwilym Davies 29 March 2015.

Media & Downloads

Hear the song/tune as collected (mp3 stream):

See the song/tune as collected (PDF file)
Hear the song/tune (midi file)
Version to sing (PDF file)
Hear a version to sing (midi file)

Modern recording performed by: Puzzlejug

Song/tune as collected (abc file)
Version to sing (abc file)