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Alphabe Thursday …. E is for Elsie Marley

June 19, 2014

2014-06-17 14.04.44

Elsie Marley is grown so fine,

She won’t get up to serve the swine,

But lies in bed till eight or nine,

Surely she does take her time.

And do you ken Elsie Marley, honey,

The wife that sells the barley, honey?


She lost her pocket and all her money

Aback o’  the bush i’ the garden, honey?

Elsie Marley is so neat,

It is hard for one to walk the street,

But every lad and lass they meet,

Cries do you ken Elsie Marley, honey?


Elsie Marley wore a straw hat,

But now she’s gotten a velvet cap,

She may thank the Lambton lads for that,

Do you ken Elsie Marley, honey?


Elsie keeps wine, gin and ale,

In her house below the dale,

Where every tradesman up and down,

Does call to spend half-a-crown.


The farmers as they come that way,

They drink with Elsie every day,

They call the fiddler for to play

The tune of ‘Elsie Marley’, honey.


The pitmen and the keelmen trim,

They drink bumbo made of gin,

And for the dance they do begin

To the tune of ‘Elsie Marley’, honey.


The sailors they do call for a flip

As soon as they come from the ship,

And then they 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 will sit down and dine,

Along with Elsie Marley, honey.


So to conclude these lines I have penn’d,

Hoping there’s none I do offend,

And thus my merry joke doth end

Concerning Elsie Marley, honey

The opening verse of the song was written around 1750; while Elsie Marley was still alive.  The writer clearly knew her well.  She was born in 1715 Alice Harrison ; but known by her friends as Ailcie or Elsie, She was the first wife of Ralph Marley, and the attractive landlady  of the Swan at Picktree.  A writer in the Newcastle Magazine met her in her later days and described 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, and a grandson also called Ralph who claimed his grandmother’s ;laziness mentioned in the first verse was poetic licence. She was it seems an active manager of the household!  He said that the lost pocket incident happened on the way to pay the brewer’s bill with the money sewn into her pocket.  On the way someone jostled her and she exclaimed loudly ‘Oh honey honey I’ve lost my pocket and my money!!’

According to Sir Cuthbert Sharp in 1834 she had already given her name to a spirited and lively song; sung at country fairs.  The Lambton lads were bachelor brothers all  Elsie’s admirers.  

This happy disposition and a wide circle of friends didn’t save Elsie from an untimely end. On the 5th August 1768 in the Sykes’s Local Record the death was recorded of ‘the well known Alice Marley.’ It seems while ‘in a fever’ she left her home and fell in a disused coal pit that had filled with water and drowned.  

16 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2014 2:28 pm

    Evidently Elsie Marley had quite a life, but what a terrible ending … to her life, not the poem!
    Wren x

  2. June 19, 2014 4:43 pm

    Delightful photo and post for E ~ thanks ^_^

  3. June 19, 2014 11:21 pm

    I love this one!

  4. June 20, 2014 2:11 am

    Oh gosh, what a horrible way to go! Nice little poem; I can see it as a song! {:-D

  5. June 20, 2014 12:42 pm

    Interesting background…love the poem♪

  6. June 20, 2014 4:55 pm

    Such a nice little poem!

  7. June 22, 2014 5:39 pm

    Elsie had quite a life until her sad ending.

  8. July 1, 2014 1:50 am

    What a fun poem!

    And I loved that illustration.

    Still smiling over that!

    Thanks for an exceptional link for the letter E.


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