Lowlands of Holland
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The Lowlands of Holland is a British folk song in which a young wife tells that her husband has died in the navy at the wars in Holland. The tune is thought to be of Scottish origin, although variants occur throughout the British Isles. Several variants on the lyrics exist: the song sometimes describes how the young man is conscripted, or only the wife's grief at his death and she refuses to adorn herself or marry again, and sometimes includes a verse where the wife's mother advises her to find a new partner, a description of Holland, or an account of the man's ship sinking.
Until well into the 19th century, the Royal Navy depended on impressment as a means to crew its warships. "The Lowlands of Holland" likely originated during the Anglo-Dutch Wars in the 17th century, and enjoyed revivals in popularity during the Wars of Louis XIV and the Napoleonic Wars. In some versions, the vegetation mentioned indicates that "Holland" may have become conflated with Dutch colonies in the West Indies, or with New Holland, an early name for Australia.
Another version of this song, originating from Suffolk, dates to the time of the Seven Years' War, fought in the Low Countries and Prussia/Silesia in the mid-eighteenth century. This version of the song is most likely a local adaptation of the song as it was known at that time. In this version of the song the singer's love who is leaving is a soldier, rather than a sailor. This is evident in one of the verses, which refers to his participation in the Battle of Minden, 1759. At the Battle of Minden various British regiments advanced to meet the enemy. It is said that as they echeloned forward, the soldiers plucked wild roses from the hedgerows, and wore them in their shakos, as the flowers reminded them of home.
The corresponding verse of the song states:
"My love across the ocean Wears a scarlet coat so fair, With a musket at his shoulder And roses in his hair"
"Minden Day" is celebrated to this day by numerous British Army regiments. One such is the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment, successor to the 12th Regiment of Foot (Suffolk Regiment), who were one of the regiments at Minden. On Minden Day, they decorate their regimental colours with red and yellow roses. Other British Army regiments who celebrate Minden Day wear roses of different colours, according to their own traditions.
Modern artists and groups who have recorded the song include:
- Paddy Tunney on The Lark in the Morning (1956) Tradition Records TLP 1004
- The Dubliners, on their 1969 album At Home with The Dubliners
- The Zydepunks recorded an adaptation, "Lowlands of Baghdad," on their 2005 album ...And The Streets Will Flow With Whiskey
- Steeleye Span (with vocals by Gay Woods), on their 1970 debut album Hark! The Village Wait
- The Levellers, as a B side to their 1994 single Julie
- The Chieftains (with vocals by Natalie Merchant), from their album Tears of Stone
- Dave Burland, on his album Benchmark
- Sandy Denny
- Louise Jordan on her 2011 album "Tempvs"
- Cordelia's Dad on their eponymous 1990 album
- Lowlands of Holland at mainlynorfolk.info : Retrieved 10 December 2014
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