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GUEST,Barrie Roberts Origins: Down in the Valley (44) RE: Down in the Valley 15 Sep 04


In 1965 I was a singer at the old Walsall Folk Club and a regular member of the audience was a young reporter called Sarah James. One night she arrived and asked me if I knew 'Down in the Valley'. She told me that she had just come into town by bus and that some kids on the bus had been singing a song to that tune. She had jotted it in shorthand into her reporter's notebook. She transcribed it at the bar and gave me the text. Later that evening I sang it straight from her written page. We believed that we held the world record for collecting a folksong in the field and performing it on stage.

The song in question was about a British Borstal Institute ( a young offenders lockup) and ran as follows:

Step from the dock, lad, dry up your tears,
You're bound down to Borstal for a term of three years.

Kiss me goodbye love, say you'll be mine,
Three years in Borstal's a bloody long time.

Counting the moonbeams, counting the stars,
Ten thousand I've counted through these window bars.

If I was the PO and the PO was me,
I'd lock him away and I'd swallow the key.

I went to the Po at the end of my time,
I asked what was due, he said 'Just one and nine'.

Step from the dock, lad, dry up your tears,
You're bound down to Borstal for a term of three years.

I later discovered that the song was written for a competition in a north of England Borstal Institute aboutb 1960. I believe that it was published in Spin magazine in a version slightly different from the one that Sarah collected.


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