On Stow Brow, on Stow Brow a fair maid did dwell,
She love`d a young sailor lad, he love`d her as well.
He promised for to marry her when back he did return,
But mark how cruil fortune all on them did frown.
As they was a-sailin' a storm did arise,
The moon was overshadowed and dismal was the skies,
The wind it blew a hurricane, the billows loud did roar,
Which washed them poor sailor lads all on the lee shore.
Now when this dreadful news reached this fair maiden's ears
She fell a-ringin' of 'er 'ands and a-tearin' of 'er 'air,
Cryin', 'Oh, you cruil billows, come wash my love on shore,
That I may be'old 'is sweet fatures yance more.'
As she was a-walkin' frae Stow Brow ti Bay
She spied a drownded sailor lad as on the sands 'e lay.
She boldly steppe`d up tiv 'im and amaze`d she did stand,
For she knew it was 'er own true love by the markin's on 'is 'and.
She kisse`d 'im, caresse`d 'im ten-thousand times o'er,
She kisse`d 'im, caresse`d 'im ten-thousand times the more,
Sayin', ''Ow 'appy I would be for ti lay down biv 'is side,'
And a few mair moments efter this fair maid she died.
In Robin Hood's Bay churchyard this young couple lay,
And written on their tombstone these words are to be read,
Sayin', 'Oh, you cruil billows, you washed my love on shore,
That I might be'old 'is sweet fatures yance more.'
This is a traditional song about Yorkshire, collected in Yorkshire.
This nineteenth century broadside ballad has registered extraordinary widespread popularity considering its firm local setting. Its style dates it to the early part of the nineteenth century and I am convinced it tells of a true story, though nobody in Bay can name its participants and so far the details have eluded researchers. The headstone certainly is no longer traceable as I and many others have searched the churchyard in vain for hours. I have even been through the burial records from 1786 to 1840 and found no record of a young girl and a young lad being buried on the same day or even within a week.
The earliest broadside version still extant was printed by Williams of Portsea c1823-47 and this version has been altered to give the first line a local flavour to increase sales, claiming the girl was from Portland. This version was also printed by John Pitts of 7 Dials, London, who was at the address given on the broadside from 1819 to 1844. If the original was written and printed in Yorkshire it could have happened as late as 1840. Other early printings were by Collard of Bristol and Ross of Newcastle. Later printers like Harkness of Preston printed it and what could be a copy of a much earlier version was printed by William Forth of Hull c1890. Forth was apprenticed to his brother John at Pocklington and John was apprenticed to their father at Bridlington in 1811. William reprinted much of his brother's and father's old stock of ballads, although only a few of the father's (also William) sheets have survived.
A comment by song collector, Lucy Broadwood, in the Journal of The Folk Song Society, Volume III 1908-9, p260 accompanies two versions from Hampshire and, if true, certainly verifies the event. Miss Broadwood states 'I have a version of this ballad…..communicated by Mrs Macartney who noted it from Bill Moat, a Whitby fisherman, in 1907. The singer told her that the song describes a real event, recorded on a tombstone in the old disused churchyard at Robin Hood's Bay which is close to Whitby. The inscription is now almost illegible.' Many of the old tombstones do weather quickly there being made of the local sandstone.
Stoup Brow is a promontory overlooking Robin Hood's Bay.