Tuesday 25 September 2012

54: Blow the Candle Out

This tune for Blow the Candle Out was noted down by Frank Kidson, who collected it from W.H. Lunt in Liverpool sometime in 1882-83. It appears to be unpublished, and I found it while going through the Lucy Broadwood manuscript collection in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Does anybody know whether it's similar to versions sung elsewhere? I've just bought my dad a copy of Roud and Bishop's New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, and I noticed that the tune given for "The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter", collected in Herefordshire in 1952, is rather similar: the notes there say the tune is "frequently found with come-all-ye ballads" and that Norman Cazden, in his Folk Songs of the Catskills, suspects it is Irish in origin, which would fit with it being found in late 19th century Liverpool.

Kidson's manuscript has the tune only, with no words, but it's not much of a problem to find a set of words from that period, as this was a very popular song among the broadside printers, and there are loads of copies from all over the country. I've based the words I'm singing here on the broadside by Harkness of Preston, who we know were active in printing for the Liverpool market.

This tale of unscrupulous apprentices knocking up young women and then legging it has a long history, with the earliest known set of words in print back in 1714. With the Merseyside councils currently investing to increase the number of apprenticeships, young women should be on their guard.

Blow the Candle Out is #368 in the Roud folksong index.


  1. Welcome back! I hadn't come across that Folklorist site before.

    Its a lovely song, but I was surprised to see how few examples of it have been collected. I really love Jimmy Gilhaney's version on the Folk Songs of Britain.

  2. Well, the Roud folksong index seems to provide an endless list of broadsides for this, and a handful of collected versions, particularly from East Anglia... but not as many as I would have expected either. Perhaps it was thought too much of a 'pop song', so to speak, for some early collectors, seeing as it was such a common broadside song?

    I've just added a couple of sentences about the tune following a read through the New Penguin Book of English Folk Song

  3. "With the Merseyside councils currently investing to increase the number of apprenticeships, young women should be on their guard."

    Ah, but what about female apprentices? Should young men beware??

    Actually 'The Female Apprentice' sounds like it should be a good broadside ballad....