Child 208 (as Lord Derwentwater). This is a song about the execution of a Jacobite – the same Lord Derwentwater whose dying words are supposed to be recorded in the ‘Farewell’. I learned the song from Shirley and Dolly Collins’s marvellous version on the album For as many as will, although at first I found it hard to get to make it work in the absence of trumpets and a portative organ. I was heavily influenced by Patti Reid’s unaccompanied Lord Derwentwater (thanks, Martin); I also rummaged fairly freely in variants of Child 208 for a set of verses I was happy with. In the Collinses’ Lord Allenwater, for example, our man denies being a traitor and then proclaims his loyalty to King George, which is not only historically inaccurate but turns a noble gesture of defiance into something a bit feeble. There are versions where Lord D.’s severed head speaks, and others where his headless body stands up and walks, neither of which miracles would really have the desired effect on a modern audience; I was briefly tempted to include both of them, but ended up leaving them out. I did keep the business with the letter, despite it being an obvious lift from Sir Patrick Spens. Folk process innit.
This is one of my favourite songs; I hope I’ve done it justice.
Update 31/8/13 Now re-recorded; still no trumpets or portative organ, but there is flute and concertina. Otherwise my thoughts about the song are unchanged – and this time round I think I have done it justice.