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Brennan Moor Ballad

Brennan Moor Ballad

I recently came across the following ballad/verse in Sabine Baring Gould’s ‘Book of the West’ which was first published in 1899. It retells the famous Dartmoor legend of the Blackingstone Ravens which is all about a mother leaving her baby ‘home alone’ whilst she went to Moretonhampstead Fair (nothing changes except they go to Spain now). When she returned she found a bloody heap of tiny bones and three well fed ravens. Incidentally, today the Ordnance Survey mark the isolated habitation as Brinning (OS Grid Reference SX 75255 85038) but locally it was always known as Brennan.

Brennan Moor Ballad

Three ravens, they flew over Blackingstone,

Down-a-down, hey and hey !

And loudly they laughed over Moreton town,

Over Moreton town,

Saying, Where and O where shall we dine today ?

On the moor, for sure, where runneth no way.

As I sat a-swaying all in a tree,

Down-a-down, hey and hey !

I saw a sweet mother and her babie,

And her babie,

Saying, Sleep, O sleep, I’m to Moreton fair,

For Babie and me to buy trinkets rare.

As I was a-flying o’er Brennan Down,

Down-a-down, hey and hey !

I saw her a-wending her way to town,

Away to town.

Our dinners are ready, our feasting free,

Away to Brennan, black brothers, with me.

The babe upon Brennan, so cold and bare,

Down-a-down, hey and hey!

The mother a-gadding to Moreton fair,

To Moreton fair.

We’ll laugh and we’ll quaff the red blood free,

There is plenty for all of us, brothers three.

Three ravens, they flew over Blackingstone,

Down-a-down, hey and hey !

And loudly they laughed over Moreton town,

Over Moreton town.

With an armful of toys, came mother, to none

Save a little white huddle of well-picked bone.

Sabine Baring Gould – 1899

 

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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