Widdicombe Fair

Tom Cobley and Company

Here is a famously celebrated English ballad. I think it qualifies as a murder ballad, though the victim be equine, as well as a ghost story.

The song allegedly has its origins in Dartmoor village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Widecombe Fair is very much alive as are the many convoluted theories concerning the actual identities of Tom Pearce, Tom Cobleigh, and all. However the song conveys a well known theme and there are Scottish versions as well as variants from other parts of England. Those who dispute Devonshire's claim, such as folks from Sommerset, point out that the current Widecombe Fair was established after the song was first published around 1880. Of course there is a thread on MudCat.org where you can follow the topic.

Widdicombe Fair has been a favorite of mine since I learned it as a child from Burl Ive's 'Wayfaring Stranger' album. There is also a lovely version on Tim Hart's children's album, "My Very Favourite Nursery Rhyme Record."

Lyrics: 

Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare
All along, down along, out along lee.
For I want to go down to Widecombe Fair

Wi’ Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

And when shall I see again my old grey mare?
All along, down along, out along lee.
By Friday soon or Saturday noon

Wi’ Bill Brewer . . .

So they harnessed and bridled the old grey mare
All along, down along, out along, lee.
And off they drove to Widecombe fair,

Wi’ Bill Brewer . . .

Then Friday came and Saturday soon
All along, down along, out along lee.
Tom Pearce’s old mare hath not trotted home

Wi’ Bill Brewer . . .


So Tom Pearce he got up to the top of the hill,
All along, down along, out along lee.
And he sees his old mare a-making her will,

Wi’ Bill Brewer . . .

Tom Pearce’s old mare, her took sick and died
All along, down along, out along lee.
And Tom he sat down on a stone and he cried

Wi’ Bill Brewer . . .

When the wind whistles cold on the moor of a night,
All along, down along, out along lee.
Tom Pearce’s old mare doth appear ghastly white

Wi’ Bill Brewer . . .

And all the long night be heard skirling and groans,
All along, down along, out along lee.
From Tom Pearce’s old mare and her rattling bones

Wi’ Bill Brewer . . .

Instruments: 
Tuning: 
C standard