2nd June

May Colvin

from an old ballad

False Sir John came wooing, and that’s a polite word for it. He wooed a young woman of great beauty, the only child of her father, and her name was May Colvin.

Sir John would not leave her alone. To him, ‘no’ never meant ‘no’. At last she gave in and agreed to go with him.

So he went down to her father’s stables and picked out the best horse there. He took that horse and mounted it, and May Colvin went with him, and they rode till they came to a lonely place, a cliff beside the sea.

‘You can get down now,’ said false Sir John. ‘There’s your bridal bed. Seven lasses I have drowned, and you’ll be the eighth. But first, off with all your finery, your silk dress and your fancy shoes. It would be a shame to ruin them in the salt sea.’

‘You’re a despicable monster,’ she said, ‘but I think you are still gentleman enough not to watch while I undress. Please turn your back and spare me my shame.’

His pride was flattered. No sooner had he turned away than May Colvin rushed at him and barged him off the cliff into the sea. Piteous then were his cries for help, but she neither helped nor pitied him. ‘If you drowned seven lassies, you can be husband to them all,’ she said, watching him sink.

Then she rode her father’s horse through the night, and was home before dawn.

But as she crept in, a parrot in the house began to squawk, ‘Where have you been, May Colvin? Where’s false Sir John, May Colvin? You rode away with him, May Colvin.’

‘Hold your tongue, pretty bird,’ hissed May Colvin. ‘I did what I had to do. Hold your tongue and I’ll make you a golden cage to hang in the willow tree. But carry on with your chatter and I’ll not be half so nice.’

Her father called from his room. ‘What’s wrong with that parrot? It’s never stopped prattling since daybreak.’

‘A cat, a cat,’ the parrot cried. ‘A cat was at my cage door. But May Colvin scared it away. All’s well again, all’s well.’

Reader: Marissa Bonnar
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Piano: Kit Downes
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