“Billy Boy”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1776 (Herd, according to Opie-Oxford2)
Keywords: courting age youth
Found in: US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,Ro,SE,So) Britain(England(North,South)) Canada(Mar,Ont)

Description

Asked where he has been, Billy says he has been courting, and has found a girl, "but she's a young thing and cannot leave her mother." In response to other questions, he describes her many virtues, always returning to his refrain

Notes

A number of scholars have linked this simple little song with the classic ballad "Lord Randall." Since they only have two things in common, however (the courting theme and certain metrical traits), in the Ballad Index at least we keep them separate.

De la Mare attributes the "My Boy Tammy" text to Hector MacNeill (1746-1818), a prolific author now almost forgotten. (_Granger's Index to Poetry_, for instance, cites only one of his poems: This one.) Given the dates of other versions, it seems unlikely that MacNeill originated "Billy Boy," but he may well have created a popular recension. - RBW

Cross references

Recordings

References

  1. Bronson (12), 29 versions (though Bronson omits a higher fraction than usual of the versions known to him)
  2. Belden, pp. 499-501, "Billy Boy" (2 texts)
  3. Randolph 104, "Billy Boy" (1 text plus a fragment and 5 excerpts, 1 tune)
  4. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 131-133, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 104A)
  5. BrownIII 121, "Billy Boy" (2 texts plus an excerpt; the headnotes mention 47 texts in the Brown collection)
  6. Hudson 133, pp. 278-280, "Billy Boy" (4 texts, condensed, plus mention of "at least" 8 more)
  7. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 296-298, "Billy Boy" (4 texts, mostly short; 1 tune on p.435) {Bronson's #27}
  8. Eddy 38, "Billy Boy" (5 texts, 1 tune)
  9. Creighton/Senior, pp. 246-248, "Billy Boy" (2 texts plus 2 fragments, 1 tune) {Bronson's #20}
  10. Flanders/Brown, pp. 162-163, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronon's #29}
  11. Linscott, pp. 166-167, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #19}
  12. Wyman-Brockway I, p. 14, "Billie Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #26}
  13. Fuson, p. 105, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
  14. Cambiaire, pp. 45-46, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
  15. SharpAp 89, "My Boy Billy" (3 texts, 3 tunes) {B=Bronson's #22, C=#8}
  16. Sharp-100E 58, "My Boy Willie" (1 text, 1 tune)
  17. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 320-322, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #28}
  18. Hugill, pp. 450-452, "Billy Boy" (3 texts, 2 tunes) [AbrEd, pp. 336-338]
  19. LPound-ABS, 113, pp. 231-232, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
  20. JHCox 168, "Billy Boy" (4 texts)
  21. Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 267, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
  22. Opie-Oxford2 45, "Where have you been all the day, My boy Billy?" (2 texts)
  23. cf. Gardner/Chickering, p. 477, "Billy Boy" (source notes only)
  24. DT (12), BILLYBOY BLLYBOY2* BLLYBOY3*
  25. ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #40, "My Boy Tammy" (1 text)
  26. Roud #326
  27. BI, R104