MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
Mike Kent NFLD 1 Tape 8 Track 12
Cape Broyle Audio:
Ballad / seduction-murder Laws 37 ("The Old Oak Tree")

Dark was the night cold blew the wind and fast came down the rain,
When Betsey left a lonely home for to return again,
She left her father's dwelling house she feared no winter cold,
For she was young and fond of fun 'twas love that made her go.

She did not fear the drenching rain the tempest's threatening force,
She threw her cloak around her neck and walked quickly from the door,
The night passed on and morning rose and Betsey came not home,
It grieved her parents more and more to know where she was gone.

Her mother arose put on her clothes and cried in actions wild,
Saying, "This country I will travel through or find my darling child,"
For three long weary weeks she spent in searching this country round,
At last it proved to no avail for Betsey was not found.

And for to reach her lonely home so sad and withered cried,
And pressed with grief she then knelt down and broken-hearted died,
It was three weeks later the owner of this ground,
One squire MacAlyan he went out to search with all his hounds.

Up hills down dales they quickly rode with gallant company,
At length by chance they spied a fox down by the old oak tree,

The hounds began to sniff and snort and then to tear the clay,
Twas more than all those whips could do to drive these hounds away,
These gentlemen then all gathered round and called for pick and spade.
They dug the ground and there they found the murdered missing maid,

Her bosom once was dazzling white was black with wounds and blows,
And from those wounds fresh blood poured forth came twinkling through her clothes,
The grave to show its horrid work it was a shockin' sight,
To see the worms eat through her eyes that once was bloomin' bright.

And in her side a knife was found to my sad grief and shame,
And on the knife this gentleman read Squire MacAlyan's name,
"I have done the deed," MacAlyan cried, "my soul is food for hell,
Oh hide that cold corpse from my eyes and I the truth will tell.

It's true l've loved young Betsey the same as I did my life,
A thousand times I told her I'll make her my wife,
And as she pleaded on her knees those words she said to me,
The devil whispered take her life and then you will be free.

The knife I cut my dinner with I plunged it through her breast,
Twas with my staff I knocked her down I need not tell the rest,
And from this dreadful hour till this she appears before my eyes,
I thinks I sees her bleeding ghost and hears her dying cries."

He drew a pistol from his belt and he fired it through his brain,
Right where he fell they buried him no Christian grave had he,
Or none was found to bless the ground down by the old oak tree.


Sources: Mercer 163-64, Greenleaf 1968: 116 ("The Squire; Squire Nathaniel and Betsey); Leach 1965:52, 54, Peacock 628; Laws P37 ("The Old Oak Tree"); Henry 207; Roud 569;


Text notes: A seduction-murder ballad. The murderer confesses and commits suicide.

Tune notes: The tune is the same as that published by Peacock: an abba form in a slow and deliberate 4/4 metre.

All material on this webpage is copyright © 2004, Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland. No unauthorized copying or use is permitted. For more information, follow this link.