The Bay of Biscay

introduced by Harry Tuft

The origin of this song, "The Bay Of Biscay" eludes me, even after a search of the internet. It appears that versions have been done by Shirley and Dolly Collins and Tim Hart and Maddy Prior, before the version I heard and have used in my own singing, by Norma Waterson on the album Waterson/Carthy. I imagine it would fall into the category of the ghost return of a dead lover. The melody is appropriately haunting, and Ms. Waterson's version is impressive. I included it on an album I released in 2011, Treasures Untold, on my own label, Manasses Records.

Here is a link to Norma Waterson singing “The Bay of Biscay” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_BK-e9mlvI (also embedded above)

Score Bay of BiscayClick on the image for a downloadable PDF

LYRICS:

My true love sailed on board a tender, 
And where he is I do not know
For seven long years I have been waiting
Since he has crossed the Bay of Biscay-oh

One night as Mary lay a-sleeping 
A knock came to her bedroom door
Saying arise, arise, my only Mary 
It is your true love, I, William-oh.

So, Mary rose, put on her clothing  
And swift she opened the bedroom door
And there she spied her true lover standing
His cherry cheeks they were as white as snow

Oh, William dear where are your blushes  
Your blushes you got so long ago?
Oh Mary dear the clay has changed them 
And I am the ghost of your William-oh.

And Mary dear, the dawn is breaking 
The time has come for me to go
And, I must leave you broken hearted
Since I have crossed the Bay of Biscay-oh

Oh, If I had all gold and silver 
And all the money in Mexico
I would give it all to the queen of England
For just one kiss from my William-oh.

For, my true love sailed on board a tender, 
And where he is I do not know
For seven long years I have been waiting
Since he has crossed the Bay of Biscay-oh

 

In addition to his own label, Manassas, Harry Tuft has been a recording artist for Folk Legacy Records. His album Across The Blue Mountains, recorded in 1977, is currently back in print. Harry says, "I regard myself as a ballad singer, as it is the ballad story and melody that excite me so often. And I've been accumulating songs for over sixty years, even during the years as owner of the Denver Folklore Center."

 

     
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