the song
title : I loved a lad
written by : traditional, arranged by Eddi Reader
song copyright : none; arrangement © 1996 Warner Music UK Ltd
Eddi said
“This is a traditional tune that was given to me through David Campbell. He sent me a tape of his Dad’s folk group with ‘I Loved A Lass’ on it. I immediately identified with the poor soul who had to watch their lover marry someone else. The riddles in the lyrics apparently have answers but I don’t know them - do you?”
Candyfloss and medicine press release

the performance
Eddi Reader lead vocal, piano
Calum MacColl electric and acoustic guitars, zither
David Piltch electric bass
Roy Dodds drums and percussion
with :
Kat Evans electric violin
key : E major
time-signature : 4/4
tempo : MM 106
form : V V V v V

Here are the lyrics for one of the versions of this song in its male persona. I am sorry I don’t have details to hand of from whom, by whom and where this version was collected, but thank you to all involved. I have left the dialect spelling in this text although I don’t know how accurate it is. Have fun playing spot the difference with the Eddi-ted version on the album!

I loved a lad/lass

I ainse loved a lass and I loved her sae well
that I hate all others that spoke of her ill;
but now she’s rewarded me ill for my love
she’s gone tae get wed tae another.

When I saw my love tae the kirk go
wi’ bride and bridemaidens they made a fine show,
and I followed after, may hear’ filled wi’ woe,
to see my love wed tae another.

When I saw my love sit doon tae dine
I sat doon beside her and poured oot the wine
and I drank tae the lassie that should’a been mine,
but she’s gone tae be wed tae another.

The men of yon forest, they ask it o’ me
“How many strawberries grow in the salt sea?”
I answer them back wi’ a tear in ma e’e
“How many ships sail in the forest?”

Go dig me a grave, both long, wide and deep
and cover it over wi’ florets sae sweet;
and I’ll turn in for to take a long sleep
and maybe in time I’ll forget her.

And they dug him a grave, both long, wide and deep
and they covered it over wi’ florets sae sweet;
and he’s turned in for to take a long sleep
and maybe by now he’s forgot her.

the recording
produced by : Eddi Reader and Teddy Borowiecki
recorded by : Gerry O’Riordan assisted by Dan Gilliland, Mark Chambers and Ron Warshow at The Snake Ranch, Lots Road, Chelsea, London
mixed by : David Bottrill at Eden Studios, Acton, London
mastered by : Tim Young at Metropolis
track timing : 5:01
song timing : m:ss
released on
album : Candyfloss and medicine (UK, Japan) track 7
album : Candyfloss and medicine (US) track 11

Eddi asked if we know the answers to the riddles – well, I don’t, so if you do, please contact me me with the details. Actually, I’ve always thought that the answer to both riddles was “none”, the point being that strawberries will never grow in salt water and ships will never sail in the forest, just as the singer will never marry his love. However, I’m perfectly willing to be proved wrong and shown that there is some punning way in which strawberries and ships do do these odd things. In fact, as I am fond of the odd pun myself (see above!), I’d like to be proved wrong.

There seem to be three different traditional tunes for this song, all known as ‘The False Bride’. Eddi sings the most well known one; at least, it’s the one I know best, as I love the version recorded by The Pentangle on their 1968 album ‘Sweet child’ – where it’s recorded in the “lass” version even though sing by Jacqui McShee