Henry Martin (song)

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"Henry Martin" (also "Henry Martyn" or "The Lofty Tall Ship") is a traditional Scottish folk song about Henry Martin, a seafarer who turns to piracy to support his two older brothers.


The first known printed version dates from the early 17th century and consisted of 82 verses describing the exploits of Sir Andrew Barton and his two brothers, Robert and John. Barton was a privateer who carried a letter of marque issued by James IV, king of Scotland, giving him the right to arrest and seize Portuguese ships. He is alleged, however, to have exceeded his licence, engaging more generally in piracy. On 2 August 1511, he was killed, and his ship The Lion captured, after a fierce battle with Sir Edward Howard and his brother Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, who were acting on the authority of the English king Henry VIII.

The story of Andrew Bartin, based on the original ballad, was included in Francis James Child's collection of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (Child's Ballads), as Child Ballad 167.[1] However, over the years, through oral tradition, the song had been significantly shortened and the name of the protagonist changed from Andrew Barton to Henry Martin (or Henry Martyn).[2] In this form, the tale also appears in Child's Ballads as Child Ballad 250.[3]

Notable recordings[edit]

Musician and folklorist A. L. Lloyd described Henry Martin as "one of the most-sung ballads of our time."[2] It has been recorded, amongst others, by:


External links[edit]