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Di ye ken Elsie Marley, hinny?
The wife that sells the barley, hinny?
She lost her pocket and all of her money
A back o' the bush i' the garden, hinny.

Elsie Marley's grown so fine
She won't get up to serve the swine,
But lies in bed till eight or nine,
Di ye ken Elsie Marley, hinny?

Elsie Marley is so neat,
It's hard for one to walk the street
But every lad and lass ye meet,
Cries "Di ye ken Elsie Marley, hinny?"

Elsie Marley wore a straw hat
But now she's gotten a velvet cap,
The Lambton lads mun pay for that.
Di ye ken Elsie Marley, hinny?

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Source: North Countrie Folk Songs for Schools, Ed Whittaker, Pub Curwen, 1921

The tune is very common as an instrumental, but the words are rather less frequently encountered, especially the later verses.
I have preserved the 'Geordie' representation of the lyrics, except that I have changed 'honey' to 'hinny' throughout, which is rather more likely in my view!

Another song taken from Northumbrian Minstrelsy, where a much longer text is given (likely deriving from Bell's Rhymes of the Northern Bards); with honey throughout. The first verse ends And surely she does take her time. The additional verses are:

Elsie keeps rum, gin, and ale
In her house below the dale,
Where every tradesman, up and down,
Does call and spend his half-a-crown.

The farmers, as they come that way,
They drink with Elsie every day,
And call the fiddler for to play,
The tune of "Elsie Marley", honey.

The pitmen and the keelmen trim,
They drink bumbo made from gin,
And for to dance they do begin
To the tune of "Elsie Marley", honey.

The sailors they do call for flip
As soon as they come from the ship,
And then begin to dance and skip
To the tune of "Elsie Marley", honey.

Those gentlemen that go so fine,
They'll treat her with a bottle of wine,
And freely they'll sit down and dine
Along with Elsie Marley, honey.

So to conclude, these lines I've penned,
Hoping there's none I do offend,
And thus my merry joke doth end,
Concerning Elsie Marley, honey.

Bruce and Stokoe add some interesting notes, but I'll quote instead from Iona and Peter Opie's Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1951), as they go into more detail.

"Alice Marley was a lady much fĂ?ÂȘted in the North Country, and the song is still popular there today, especially on Tyneside. Judging from further verses about her, however, which were current while she was still alive, it is evident that the way she served her ale was not the entire cause of her fame, and a contemporary writer confirms that she enjoyed a certain reputation. It is possible from one source and another to learn a considerable amount about her, and she is, in fact, one of the best documented of the nursery rhyme characters.

"Alice Marley, known to her friends as Ailcie or Elsie, was born Alice Harrison about 1715. She was the first wife of Ralph Marley, and the attractive proprietress of The Swan at Picktree. A writer in the Newcastle Magazine met her in her later days, and describes her as 'a tall, slender, genteel-looking woman', who successfully kept him and his party of horsemen amused with her badinage while she served them. She had a son, Harrison Marley, whose son Ralph also left an account of her. According to him the story of his grandmother's lethargy was poetic licence. 'Elsie was an active manager, and the household affairs were entrusted to her sole control.' In illustration, he says that the 'lost pocket' incident in the chorus arose on an occasion when Elsie was going to Newcastle, with twenty guineas sewn into her pocket, to pay the brewer's bill. On Sandhill someone jostled her, and clapping her hand to her side, she exclaimed aloud, 'O honney, honney, I've lost my pocket and all my money'. According to Sir Cuthbert Sharp (Bishoprick Garland, 1834) she had already given her name to a spirited and lively tune often called for as a dance at country fairs; and he adds that the 'Lambton Lads' were five brothers, 'all bachelors to a certain period', and all Elsie's admirers.

"A happy temperament and a wide circle of friends did not, however, save Elsie from a melancholy end. In Sykes's Local Records under the date 5th August 1768, the death is recorded of ;the well-known Alice Marley', and it is stated that, being in a fever, she 'got out of her house and went into a field where there was an old coal-pit full of water, which she fell into and was drowned'. This date is confirmed by the Chester-le-Street Parish Register, her burial being 7th August. According to Sharp, her husband married again.

Sharp further records that at the time of the '45 rebellion, Dutch troops marching northwards used the signboard of The Swan as a shooting target. It is not improbable that these troops, or their like, heard the song and turned it to their own purposes, for Chambers, in Scotland, thought it was a Scottish song, and only knew it in an anti-Jacobite vein:

Saw ye Elsie Marley, honey,
The woman that sells the barley, honey?
She's lost her pocket and a' her money,
Wi' following Jacobite Charlie, honey.

"Burns knew, under the name Elsie Marley, what is probably an alternative chorus:

O little wats thou o' thy daddie, hiney,
An' little wats thou o' thy daddie, hiney;
For lairds and lords hae kiss'd thy minnie,
An' little wats thou o' thy daddie, hiney."

Roud: 3065 (Search Roud index at VWML)

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