The Death of Bill Brown

Introduced by David Jones

David says: I learned this song from a recording by A. L. Lloyd, "English Street Songs," (Riverside, issued in 1956), an LP that I found in the $1.00 bin at Alan Block's Sandal Shop in Greenwich Village. The LP was reissued as a CD, "Ten Thousand  Miles Away" (2008). I mostly use Lloyd’s words which can be found on the website "Mainly Norfolk: English Folk and Other Good Music." Alongside, are Peter Bellamy's words which are just about the same. Also on this site is a video of Peter singing the song. The song has been recorded by Roy Harris, Peter Bellamy, A. L. Lloyd, and others.

The YouTube video posted above is an audio-only version of Peter Bellamy singing the song. And here is another fine version by Peter Coe: 

Song Notes:

Bill Brown TuneA ballad of poaching, revenge, and class warfare. Based on a true incident in Yorkshire in 1769, the story is set against the background of the "Enclosure Acts" (1760-1830). The Acts, which have been called acts of theft, caused common lands to be enclosed, to the benefit of the landlords and to the detriment of the common folk. The poacher, Bill Brown, was shot by a gamekeeper for exercising what would have been his rights before the acts. The poignance of the tale is that Bill Brown, The Gamekeeper, and the story teller (the avenger), knew each other, may have been friends, yet the gamekeeper carried out the task he was paid for. He shot Bill Brown.

David Jones is a South East Londoner, born in 1934, who has been singing the old songs for many years. Earliest remembered folksongs are the "Lincolnshire Poacher" and "The Farmers Boy," learned at school in the mid 1940s. He has sung in the USA more than anywhere else, but has made forays back to the UK, to Australia, and to parts of Europe. He has sung solo, and with a number of groups, and, on the way, has recorded several albums of folksongs. Now, he lives in Leonia, NJ, Gateway to the Golden West, with his wife  Louise, and tries to be involved as much as possible with the NYC folk music scene. He has appeared in a number of NYC theater productions to favorable reviews. His last local performance was as Alfred P. Doolittle in "My Fair Lady."

Lyrics from website "Mainly Norfolk: English Folk and other Good Music"

 A.L. Lloyd sings The Death of Bill Brown  Peter Bellamy sings The Death of Bill Brown

You gentlemen, both great and small,

Gamekeepers, poachers, sportsmen all,

Come listen to me simple clown,

I'll sing you the death of poor Bill Brown,

I'll sing you the death of poor Bill Brown.

You gentlemen, both great and small,

Gamekeepers, poachers, sportsmen all,

Come listen to me simple clown,

I'll sing you the death of poor Bill Brown,

I'll sing you the death of poor Bill Brown.

One stormy night, as you shall hear,

'Twas in the season of the year.

We went to the woods to catch a buck,

But in that night we had bad luck,

Bill Brown was shot and his dog was stuck.

One stormy night, as you shall hear,

It being the season of the year,

We went to the woods to catch a buck,

But in that night we had bad luck,
For Bill Brown was shot and down was struck.

Well, we got to the woods, our sport begun,

I saw the gamekeeper present his gun,

I called on Bill to climb the gate,

To get away, but it was too late,

For there he met his untimely fate.

Well, we got to the woods and our sport begun,

I saw the gamekeeper present his gun,

And I called on Bill to climb the gate,

And get away, but it was too late,
For there he met his untimely fate.

I know the man that shot Bill Brown,

I know him well and could tell a clown.

And to describe him in my song:

Black jacket he had and red waistcoat on;

I know him well and his name is Tom.

But I saw the man who shot Bill Brown,

I know him well and could tell the clown.
For to describe him in my song:

Black jacket he had and red waistcoat on;

I know him well and his name is Tom.

I dressed myself next night in time,

I got to the wood as the clock struck nine;
The reason was, and I'll tell you why,

To find that gamekeeper I did go try,

Who shot my friend, and he shall die.

So I dressed myself next night in time

And I got to the wood as the clock struck nine;

The reason was, and I'll tell you why,

For to find that gamekeeper I did go try,
Who shot my friend, and he shall die.

I ranged the woods all over, and then

I looked at my watch and it was just ten.

I heard a footstep on the green,

I hid myself for fear of being seen,

For I plainly saw it was Tom Green.

So I ranged the woods all over, and then

I looked at my watch and it was just ten.
I heard a footstep on the green,

So I hid myself for fear of being seen,

For I clearly saw that it was Tom Green.

I took my gun all in my hand,

Resolved to fire if Tom should stand;

Tom heard a noise and turned him round.
I fired and brought him to the ground,

My hand gave him his deep death wound.

So I took my gun all in my hand,

Resolved to fire if Tom should stand;

He heard the noise and turned him round.

I fired and brought him to the ground,

My hand gave him his deep death wound.

Now revenge, you see, my hopes has crowned.

I've shot the man that shot Bill Brown.

Poor Bill no more these eyes will see;

Farewell, dear friend, farewell to ye,

I've crowned your hopes and your memory.

So revenge, you see, my hopes has crowned.

I've shot the man that shot Bill Brown.

Poor Bill no more these eyes will see;

Farewell, old friend, farewell to thee,

I've crowned your hopes and your memory.


The Death of Bill Brown was published in Frank Kidson's book of "Traditional Tunes."

 

     
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