The Girl I Left Behind Me (Brighton Camp)

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What is the song about?

The Girl I Left Behind Me (Brighton Camp) is sung by a soldier going to war, who remembers the beautiful girl whom he left back home, hoping to return to her soon.

The Girl I Left Behind Me, by Eastman Johnson, early 1870s
The Girl I Left Behind Me, by Eastman Johnson, early 1870s


Where did it start?

As with many folk songs, no one knows for sure. Some date the song to the times of Queen Elizabeth I (17th century), when it was played when soldiers or a naval ship left for war.

William Chappell, a music researcher and writer (of music publishers Chappell and Co. fame) and the first person who seriously studied traditional English tunes, in 1859 dated the song to 1758, when there were military encampments on the coast of the English Channel. This was during the Seven Years War, when the French planned an invasion of Britain, which never materialised.

The first printed mention The Girl I Left Behind is from Ireland, in a serial song collection The Charms of Melody, printed in Dublin in 1791. The earliest known version of the melody was printed about 1810 in Hime’s Pocket Book for the German Flute or Violin (Dublin).

The Girl I Left Behind Me travels around the world

In the 19th century this tune had some different Irish and English language lyrics in Ireland, including one called An Spailpín Fánach (The Rambling Labourer).

Early American settlers mention a song called Brighton Camp, but it might have had a different tune.

During the Napoleonic wars (1812), when America quarrelled with England once again, after the Wars of Independence, the song became popular in the US army as a marching tune – it is easy to play on the fife, a staple instrument of military bands.

During American Civil War both sides popularised the song with their own adapted lyrics, one version inspired by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

In the early stages of WWI, the British army used an obscene version of this song which ran in part:

Kaiser Bill is feeling ill,
the Crown Prince has gone barmy,
We don’t give a f*** for old von Kluck
And all his bleedin’ army

The Girl I Left Behind Me Lives On

The song found its way into the modern culture, too, from Bug’s Bunny (A Wild Hare), where he plays it on a carrot for a fife, and Popeye cartoon Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor, to films about American civil war, Westerns and the Indian War, as well as TV series Hornblower and Sharpe’s Company. It features in the 1968 film The Charge of the Light Brigade and 1970s film Waterloo.

There are over 50 recordings of the song by various artists, including being referenced by Glenn Miller’s arrangement of American Patrol, popularised during World War II. Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album 101 Gang Songs (1961).

The site mentions 15 settings of the tune, as well as numerous name variations and the fact that it was added to 226 tunebooks.

The tune is popular with Morris dancers, often referred to as Brighton Camp, (Polka step in Morris dance, or as a 2/2 country dance tune). It was collected from musicians of the Cotswolds villages, where it was part of the popular music traditions.

The Lyrics:

I’m lonesome since I crossed the hill,
And o’er the moorland sedgy
Such heavy thoughts my heart do fill,
Since parting with my Betsey
I seek for one as fair and gay,
But find none to remind me
How sweet the hours I passed away,
With the girl I left behind me.

O ne’er shall I foget the night,
the stars were bright above me
And gently lent their silv’ry light
when first she vowed to love me
But now I’m bound to Brighton camp
kind heaven then pray guide me
And send me safely back again,
to the girl I left behind me

Her golden hair in ringlets fair,
her eyes like diamonds shining
Her slender waist, her heavenly face,
that leaves my heart still pining
Ye gods above oh hear my prayer
to my beauteous fair to find me
And send me safely back again,
to the girl I left behind me

The bee shall honey taste no more,
the dove become a ranger
The falling waters cease to roar,
ere I shall seek to change her
The vows we made to heav’n above
shall ever cheer and bind me
In constancy to her I love,
the girl I left behind me.





May Day

With the sun shining brightly, today is the day to welcome the summer!

People have been celebrating this since the Roman times. Floralia, a Roman festival lasting a week around this time, celebrated Flora, the goddess of flowers and fruit, with theatrical performances, spectacles, throwing beans and seeds and hares and goats running around.

Floralia by Hobbe_Smith (1898)
Floralia by Hobbe_Smith (1898) (

Later on, the Catholic Church selected 1st May to observe the May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, crowning her head with flowers. This is also a feast day of St Joseph, Mary’s carpenter husband and surrogate father of Jesus. The church also appointed the 1st May as the feast of St. Philip and St. James, but still could not suppress the pagan jollities associated with this by country folk.

The celts celebrated Beltane (“lucky or bright fire”) on the evening of 30th April. If your cow jumps over the fire on that day, its milk will be protected from the fairies! People had been leaping over the fire until the early 19th century, celebrating Beltane. Many May Day folk traditions grew around this day, still celebrated as a festival of new life and fertility in Europe and America. Maypole is a tall post decorated with flowers and greenery at the top. It was erected on the village green as a focal point of May Day festivities. The tallest one in Yorkshire is said to be 30 metres high. People hold ribbons coming off it and dance around, forming intricate patterns – the real skill is dancing the other way round, unwinding it in the correct order!

Dancing around the Maypole
Dancing around the Maypole Young Miscellany English Folk Dance Group

A May Day parade is often headed by the May Queen – a girl dressed in white and adorned with flowers. From 16th century onwards people would make garlands decorated with leaves and flowers, to be carried during a parade and for dancing at the festivities.

Chimney sweeps went even further. They would create a leaf decoration so big, that it concealed a man inside it, – it became known as Jack in the Green, who often headed the parade and inspired merriment and mischief. Jack in the Green, representing the Green Man, a symbol of fertility, echoing back to the times when our ancestors worshipped trees.

Jack In The Green in Hastings
Jack In The Green in Hastings

The tradition died during the late Victorian times, but was renewed in 1983, and now Hastings Jack in the Green Festival is an annual celebration of English folk traditions and dancing. It starts with Morris dancers welcoming the dawn at 5am on 1st of May, followed by a weekend of Morris dancing around the town, parties and concerts and culminating with the parade of Jack in the Green, his colourful attendants and all the Morris dancers, – as seen in our film!

Young Miscellany At Hastings 2017-19


Mummers’ Play

We were very lucky yesterday to see a performance by Croxley Mummers. A Mummers’ play is a long standing English tradition of amateur  actors performing short plays, often associated with Morris dancing, at festivals, events, pubs or even people’s homes.

St. George and the Dragon

Traditionally there are two opponents having a fight, and the doctor character revives the fallen opponent by way of a magic potion.

St George play

Mummers’ plays are usually tied up with traditional celebrations, like Christmas, Easter or Halloween. Our event fell between St.George’s Day and May Day, so it was fitting that the play featured St.George. In the case of our Mummers,  St.George slew not only the dragon, but also a Turkish Knight and a giant!

Mummers Play

In early German the word ‘mummer’ meant a ‘disguised person’, and our mummers featured striking costumes and masks, the Dragon even spotting a bit of fairy lights after having been revived!

Through the ages mummers were mostly men, but now women take part as well, and we had ‘the Queen of Sheba’ rewarding St.George with her ‘favours’.

mummers play

The earliest references to mummers plays come from mid 18th century. Folk traditions grow and change with the times, and mummers  are no exception. The rhyming couplets verse included the references to Trump and Brexit, and very skilfully it was done, too!

St. Albans Mummers



Potty Morris & Folk Festival

The weekend of 1 -2 July 2017 saw the little Norfolk Town of Sheringham bustling with folk dance performances.

It all started in the 1990s, when the local Morris Dance group the Sheringham Lobster Potties started an annual festival with just a few visiting sides (a Morris dance group is called a ‘side’).

The Lobster Potties started in the 1980s and performed the traditional Norfolk Morris style around the UK and Europe. They chose the Lobster Pub as their headquarters, and as Morris dancing is considered by some as ‘potty’, the choice of the name was obvious!

In 2013 the Lobster Potties disbanded due to the lack of dancers, but a committee was formed to run the festival.

This 24th festival featured 40 folk dance sides, showcasing different styles and parts of the country in many locations around the town. The festivities kicked off on the Saturday morning with a parade of all the sides dancing through the town, with the captive audience lining up the streets.

Then groups moved from one location to another, each side taking it in turn to dance.

The festival culminated in  the mass show in the main arena – the square in the town centre, with all the sides performing one dance for the final time.

Splendid time was guaranteed for all!


Jousting at Knebworth House

Going round stately homes on a fine holiday weekend you can come across Jousting – re-enactment of knights in colourful armour tackling each other on horseback. This has been a popular summer theatrical entertainment from 1970s.

Jousting at Knebworth House
Jousting at Knebworth House

During Middle Ages jousting had a practical purpose – preparing knights (and their horses) for warfare. This was also the opportunity for the noblemen to demonstrate their skills and courage.

The term comes from Old French joster, which in turn has a Latin origin iuxtare meaning ‘to approach or to meet’. Two knights gallop towards each other, aiming to strike the opponent’s shield with a long blunt lance, knocking their weapons off or unsettling them from a horse. The English nobility spoke Old French since William the Conqueror, but by the time of Henry VIII we have an English word for it – tilt, which originally meant a barrier to separate the knights charging towards each other, and the tilt-yard is where this competition took place.

The tilt-yard at Knebworth House
The tilt-yard at Knebworth House

The knights wore heraldic signs over their armour, and so did the horses, on capes called caparisons.

Jousting at Knebworth House
He was a French knight, Marquis du Lyon

As the sport developed, in later Middle Ages, it became more chivalric, and more regulated. There was a series of competitions, some of them involving agility and horsemanship skills, like charging towards a quintain – a wooden figure with two ‘arms’, one to be hit with a lance, and the other one holding a spiky club, which, as the quintain swings round, would hit the knight on the back if he was not quick enough to avoid it.

The Black Knight aiming at the quintain
The Black Knight aiming at the quintain

Another skill was to pick up rings with the lance, and to pin an object from the floor.

Trying to pick up a sponge from the ground with a spear at full gallop
Trying to pick up a sponge from the ground with a spear at full gallop (they mostly failed)

It was a popular sport with English nobility right up until 17th century, gaining more the status of a pageant, rather than training for battle.

And this is what we have today – a staged show, with knights in bright regalia, covering armour and horses, performing equestrian tricks and engaging in mock battles. The Knebworth House event had four knights from two opposing camps battling each other for the ‘Excalibur’ – pulled from a stone, obviously, by a little boy from the audience.

Jousting at Knebworth House

Jousting at Knebworth House

We were sitting by the side of the Black Knight – the ‘baddie’ of the show.

The Black Knight
The Black Knight

Lilia was very taken with him, and so was I, for his superb control of his horse, effortlessly doing sideways walks, prancing and charging from the spot, without obvious effort from the rider.

The Black Knight and his beautiful horse
The Black Knight and his beautiful horse

The Black Knight

He lost, however, being the ‘bad guy’… Lilia insisted on watching the second show of the day, hoping for a different outcome, – no such luck, the second performance was exactly the same as the first one.

The Black Knight lost!
The Black Knight lost!

The entertainment was excellent – watch out for jousting events throughout the country in summer. Lilia certainly wants to see it again (hoping for the Black Knight to win….)