A selection of songs for children, made by Shan Graebe from the Baring-Gould song collection


There are a number of children's songs in the Baring-Gould collection - some collected from children, some remembered from children's nurses and sent to Baring-Gould and some remembered by the old singers from their own childhoods. Baring-Gould published the texts of a number of these in 'A Book of Nursery Songs and Rhymes' published in 1895. The artwork for this beautiful book was by A.J. Gaskin and his students at the Birmingham School of Art and it is a fine example of  'Arts and Crafts' design. In it Baring-Gould presents an interesting introduction to the topic of nursery rhymes, in which he sets out to demolish some of the far-fetched theories of some earlier writers about their origins.  This does not prevent him, though, from offering a few theories of his own, some of them almost as wild. On the whole, though, his notes are helpful and informative. The songs are drawn from his collection and from printed sources. It should not be a surprise that they have been edited to remove any sexual content. The full versions as collected are usually available in his manuscripts.

Here, Shan has drawn together a small collection of children's songs from the Baring-Gould collection. The target audience for this is not, directly, the children themselves, but singers who are looking for songs that they can sing to or (even better!) with children. As with other songs on this site they are presented in Sibelius Scorch format. This system enables you to download the song as high quality sheet music that you can print or play. The first time you try to download a song you will be asked to click on a link to install the 'Scorch' plug-in which will enable you to view the sheet music. You can then use the built in player to get some idea of what it sounds like and, if you like it, you can then print out a copy to learn at your leisure. 

To view the sheet music, click on the title of the song in the list below. We have included details about the sources of the song as given by Baring-Gould. We should repeat that these songs have been edited by us for this publication to give something that is ready for singing. We have also, in a few cases, changed words or ideas that would have been acceptable in Victorian times but which we now find offensive.  For those who wish to see what we have changed we have given the reference to the song in the 'Personal Copy' manuscript. Roud numbers have also been added for those who wish to make comparisons with versions from other sources. 

The Songs

The Fox  Ref: P2, 120 (170), Roud 131, Full Engish Ref. SBG/1/2/260 

One of the songs heard from the old hedger, James Parsons of Lew Down. Baring-Gould describes it as 'traditional throughout England' and quotes a number of printed sources.

Green Gravel  Ref P3, 49 (422), Roud 1368 SBG/1/3/6, Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/69

This song is one of those that Baring-Gould remembered sung by his nurse, Anne Bickle, when he was a child. It was also collected at Down House Farm, a few hundred yards from his house, from the two farmer's daughters, Louisa and Elizabeth Hamley, by Lucy Broadwood when she stayed with the Baring-Gould's in September 1893. She included a version from Lancashire in her 'English County Songs' published in the same year, describing it as "This dismal little game ..."

I'll get my love a house  Ref P2, 2 (115), Roud 330, Full English Ref. SBG/2/3/63

Baring-Gould collected this version of 'Don't you go a' rushing' from William Nichols of Whitchurch, near Tavistock. He only gave a portion of Nichol's song and that given here is compiled from the other versions that Baring-Gould included in his manuscript. 

Blue Muslin  P1, 61 (22), Roud 573, Full English Ref. SBG/3/1/137

Heard from John Woodrich of Thrushelton who told Baring-Gould that the song was often sung in pubs as a test of sobriety. The catch was that, at the end, the singer was required to repeat everything in reverse order with the girl answering 'yes!' to each question. Failure to complete the song correctly was an indication that the man was 'a bit fresh.'

The Codlin Apple Tree  P3, 369 (..), Roud 2423, Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/460

Lady Lethbridge sent Baring-Gould a number of songs, mostly children's songs and Shan has included some of them in this collection. At present we know little about her, apart from her having been the second wife of Sir Roper Lethbridge who lived at Exbourne. 

The Derby Ram  Ref: P3, 344 (..), Roud 126, Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/422

A version of the well-known song about the legendary Derby Ram as heard from the Dartmoor shepherd, John Hext.

The Dilly Song  Ref: P1, 165 (78), Roud 133 , Full English Ref. SBG/1/1/364

Many words have been written about the symbolism contained in 'The Dilly Song' and about its cousin 'The Twelve days of Christmas' so we won't look at that again here. This version was heard from an unnamed servant girl in Horrabridge, Devon. We know no more about how it came to Baring-Gould, which is a shame, since it is such a fine version. 

The Everlasting Circle  Ref P1, 208 (104), Roud 129, Full English Ref. SBG/1/1/491

A version of one of the songs that used to be sung around camp fires or on coaches when I was a boy. This came from James Parsons of Lew Down and John Woodridge of Thrushelton, both close to Baring-Gould's home in Devon. He published this song in his 'Book of Nursery Rhymes' and left out the circumstances of the child's conception. Here in the manuscripts we have franker record of the song as collected. We have reduced the length of the song by putting the stanzas in groups of three. It is still more than long enough! (but great fun to sing). 

The Fox and the Goose  Ref: P3, 358 (..), Roud , Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/442

Baring-Gould copied this song from a manuscript notebook of songs compiled by his aunt Emily Baring-Gould. Sadly, this notebook has not, so far, been discovered among Baring-Gould's papers.

The Frog and the Mouse (Kitty Alone)  Ref: P2, 310 (288), Roud 16, Full English Ref. SBG/1/2/636

Collected by Baring-Gould from Sam Fone, the mason of Black Down, Mary Tavy. He learned it from his mother in the 1840s.

Gaffer Grey  Ref: P3, 380 (..), Roud 16599, Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/473

Another song sent to Baring-Gould by Lady Lethbridge in 1905. The only other version of this song recorded in Steve Roud's 'Folksong Index' was collected by Cecil Sharp in Crocket Springs, Virginia on his visit to the USA in 1918.

The Herring's Head  Ref: P2, 154 (193), Roud 128, Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/873

This song came from John Masters of Bradstone, Devon and is one of three versions that Baring-Gould found, each of them several miles from the sea, explaining the slightly agricultural feeling of the song.

I had four sisters over the sea  Ref: P3, 372 (..), Roud 330, Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/462

Sent to Baring-Gould by Lady Lethbridge.

I saw three ships  Ref: P3, 24 (406), Roud 700, Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/38

This version of the well known song was sent to Baring-Gould by  Lewis Davis of Pinner, who had heard it sung by boatmen on the River Humber. Davis was an artist and drew the illustrations for Baring-Gould's article 'Among the Western Song Men' (English Illustrated Magazine, Vol. 9, p. 468 - 477)  

The Jolly Goss-hawk  Ref: P1, 151 (71), Roud 1048, Full English Ref. SBG/1/1/323

Another song with a cumulative chorus, heard from Harry Westaway of Belstone, Devon.

Let's go out a' shooting  Ref: P3, 386 (..), Roud 236, Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/482

 Another song from Emily Baring-Gould's notebook. In most versions of the song the bird is a wren rather than a sparrow.

Little Cock Sparrow  Ref: P3, 360 (..), Roud 3368, Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/446

Also from Emily Baring-Gould's notebook.

My Mother sent me out  Ref: P3, 404 (..), Roud 22240, Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/501

Heard from Mr M. Bunsell in Devonport in about 1870 and sent to Baring-Gould by the collector, H. Whitworth.

Robin-a-Thrush  Ref: P3, 374 (..), Roud 117, Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/464

Not, perhaps, the most positive image of home economics, but this song was very popular with country singers. Another song sent to Baring-Gould by Lady Lethbridge.

The Tailor and the Mouse  Ref: P3, 366 (..), Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/457

The tailor, like the miller, has usually been a figure of fun in country songs, perhaps because both trades were suspected of taking what was not theirs or abusing their positions. Here the tailor's choice of pet and his treatment of it is the source of ridicule. This song was sent to Baring-Gould by Lady Lethbridge.

Tommy a Lynn  Ref: P2, 322 (295), Roud 294, Full English Ref. SBG/1/2/668

Collected from James Parsons of Lew Down in September 1890. Parsons was one of Baring-Gould's first singers with such a large number of songs that he was known as 'The Singing Machine'.

'Twas once upon a time  Ref: P3, 385 (..), Roud , Full English Ref. SBG/1/3/481

From Emily Baring-Gould's Nursery Rhyme book