Cornish Folk Songs

There are large number of well known Cornish folk songs sung by the people of Cornwall.

Below is a list of the most popular with lyrics.

Lamorna

So now I’ll sing to you, about a maiden fair,
I met the other evening at the corner of the square.
She had a dark and roving eye, she was a charming rover,
And we rode all night, through the pale moonlight
away down to Lamorna.

Chorus
Twas down in Albert square
I never shall forget,
Her eyes they shone like diamonds
and the evening it was wet, wet, wet.
Her hair hung down in curls,
she was a charming rover,
And we rode all night,
through the pale moonlight,
away down to Lamorna.

As we got in the cab, I asked her for her name,
And when she gave it me, well, mine it was the same,
So I lifted up her veil, for her face was covered over,
And to my surprise, it was my wife,
I took down to Lamorna.

Chorus

She said, I know you now, I knew you all along,
I knew you in the dark, but I did it for a lark,
And for that lark you’ll pay, for the taking of the donah:
You’ll pay the fare, for I declare,
away down to Lamorna.

Chorus

Camborne Hill

Goin’ up Camborne Hill, coming down
Goin’ up Camborne Hill, coming down
The horses stood still;
The wheels went around;
Going up Camborne Hill coming down
White stockings, white stockings she wore (she wore)
White stockings, white stockings she wore
White stockings she wore:
The same as before;
Going up Camborne Hill coming down
I knowed her old father old man (old man)
I knowed her old father old man
I knowed her old man:
He played in the band;
Going up Camborne Hill coming down
I ‘ad ‘er, I ‘ad ‘er, I did
I ‘ad ‘er, I ‘ad ‘er, I did
I ‘ad ‘er, I did:
It cost me a quid
Going up Camborne Hill coming down
He heaved in the coal, in the steam (the steam)
He heaved in the coal, in the steam
He heaved in the coal:
The steam hit the beam
Going up Camborne Hill coming down
Goin’ up Camborne Hill, coming down
Goin’ up Camborne Hill, coming down
The horses stood still;
The wheels went around;
Going up Camborne Hill coming down

CORNISH LADS

By Roger Bryant

Well Cornish lads are fishermen
And Cornish lads are miners too
But when the fish and tin are gone
what are the Cornish boys to do?
Well…..etc

From Newlyn town we used to sail
Through rain and mist and lashing gale
The mackerel shoals we hoped to find
And soon we’ve left Land’s End behind
Well…..etc

We’ve searched the seven stones all around
But not a sign or shoal we’ve found
Round Island light is now in sight
But Scillies are a barren ground
Well…..etc

The winding engines used to sing
A melody to Cornish tin
And Geevor lads they all would grin
At pay day on a Friday
Well…..etc

The water now reclaims the mine
And young men talk of old men’s time
And go to work in gold or coal
Or face a life upon the dole
Well…..etc

The hammer of the auction man
Is the only sound we soon will hear
And visitors will make the noise
And order drinks from Cornish boys
Well…..etc

We’ll do as we have done before
Go out to roam the wild world o’er
Wherever sea or ship are found
Or there’s a hole down underground

The White Rose

The first time I met you, my darling
Your face was as fair as the rose,
But now your dear face has grown paler
As pale as the lily white rose.

Chorus

I love the White Rose in its splendour
I love the White Rose in its bloom
I love the White Rose so fare as she grows.
It’s the rose that reminds me of you.
You’re fair as the spring, oh my darling
Your face shines so bright, so divine
The fairest of blooms in my garden
Oh lily white rose, you are mine

Chorus

Years pass by so quickly, my darling,
Each makes you more precious to me;
But long may we grow close together,
Oh, lily-white rose, cling to me.

Chorus

Now I am alone, my sweet darling,
I walk through the garden and weep,
But spring will return with your presence
Oh lily white rose, mine to ke

Sweet Nightingale

‘My sweetheart, come along!
Don’t you hear the fond song,
The sweet notes of the nightingale flow?
Don’t you hear the fond tale
Of the sweet nightingale,
As she sings in those valleys below.
As she sings in those valleys below.

‘Pretty Betsy, don’t fail,
For I’ll carry your pail,
Safe home to your cot as we go;
You shall hear the fond tale
Of the sweet nightingale,
As she sings in those valleys below.’
But she was afraid
To walk in the shade,
To walk in those valleys below,
To walk in those valleys below.

‘Pray let me alone,
I have hands of my own;
Along with you I will not go,
To hear the fond tale
Of the sweet nightingale,
As she sings in those valleys below;
For I am afraid
To walk in the shade,
To walk in those valleys below,
To walk in those valleys below.’

‘Pray sit yourself down
With me on the ground,
On this bank where sweet primroses grow;
You shall hear the fond tale
Of the sweet nightingale,
As she sings in those valleys below;

This couple agreed;
They were married with speed,
And soon to the church they did go.
She was no more afraid
For to walk in the shade,
Nor yet in those valleys below:
Nor to hear the fond tale
Of the sweet nightingale,

Little Eyes

The other night, I had a dream,
The funniest dream of all.
I dreamt that I was kissing you,
Behind the garden wall.
And I said…

Chorus:

Lil Lize, I love you (Honey),
Lil Lize, I love you.
I love you in the springtime and the fall (Honey, Honey).
Lil Lize, I love you (Honey),
Lil Lize, I love you,
I love you the best of all (Honey, Honey, Honey).

Now tell me honey, tell me do,
Who is the one you love?
Oh tell me honey, tell me do,
Who is your turtle dove?
And she said…
Chorus

I went to call, for my best girl.
Her bulldog flew at me.
It bit me in the old back porch,
Right by the maple tree.
And I said…
Chorus

I took my baby home last night,
Beneath the spreading vine.
I put my arms around her waist
And pressed her lips to mine.
And I said…
Chorus

8 thoughts on “Cornish Folk Songs

  1. My gosh how profound, the joy of words first sung, clears the eyes but fills my soul of my Cornish family long gone.
    Great great grandfather in the mine he lost his life, leaving six children and a wife.
    Keeping cultural identity is paramount.
    To the Hawke and Stephens I say hi. My family.

    1. I’m so happy that I’ve finally found the words to Lamorna. I heard this song around 40 years ago and yesterday I literally searched for it online with ‘the evening it was wet wet wet’!
      Hooray for technology!

  2. How very useful! Thank you. Folk song seems to be reviving here – but without help such as this I couldn’t recall all the words to any of these.

    In ‘Lamorna’ I see that puzzling word in the last verse is still rendered as ‘donah’ – what on earth does it mean?

  3. need the full words of a song my granny and I used to sing.

    I’ll tell ye a story of Pasties and Cream,
    of Pilchards and Herrings that sparkle and gleam
    In the dear old county of Cornwall………..
    The land……
    The land of the Pirates and Fishermen bold
    Where men do the courting and maids are not bold

  4. My great-grandfather, a miner, was obliged to leave Cornwall to seek work and eventually found it in New Silksworth Colliery, Sunderland. Family history has it that he took with him in his pocket his entire possessions, nine half-sovereigns in a small leather case -which I still possess, and that he left Cornwall on foot. His son my grandfather was also a coal miner in Durham. My father turned his back on mining and became a soldier. These Cornish songs are precious to me and I add them to all the Geordie songs I know.

  5. I suggest that anyone interested in this subject buys SHOUT KERNOW The excellent definitive book and the result of 3 years research by Hilary Coleman and Sally Burley on this subject. The book contains 2 CDs of Cornish music and 31 Cornish Folk songs. Hilary Coleman is a Bard of the Gorsedh for her services to Cornish music, a founder member of the groundbreaking groups Gwaryoryon, Sowenna and Dalla, the list of her musical achievements is impressively long.

  6. Words to Lamorna are not right. “for the taking of the donah:” Taint right, it should be “for the taking of my honour”.

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