Ed Sheeran’s Folk Song! Why Not?

The Punished and Modern Day Press Gangs

In my coming-of-age book, The Punished, about family life and relationships in extraordinary times, a determined young woman is inveigled into fighting abroad for the British SOE (Special Operations Executive).

In the second world war, in real life, many young woman became saboteurs in mainland Europe. The way they were recruited, the training and the backup they received while in action seemed to be lacking. Many never returned.

That sad note of parting never to return, leads me to Ed Sheeran’s amazing song The Parting Glass.

The Parting Glass

On his recent CD, Ed Sheeran introduced a new audience to an old song from the British Isles, The Parting Glass. It’s a ‘folk song’ (shock, horror) that’s literally hundreds of years old, and it seems to have been a popular inclusion.

I’ve discussed how carefully Ed Sheeran selects his output here in Bio Changes and Eating Gregg’s Sausage Rolls, so…

So, I’m a writer. I love folk music because it’s about a long lost tradition amongst working people to sing about real life. Ed’s choice of folk music is great news because it means someone somewhere in the global corporate music biz knew that if he put one folk song on his CD, it wouldn’t destroy his career (remembering Travis’s disastrous Flowers in the Window).

And that person was right. Great decision. I love Ed’s version. His voice is perfectly suited to the melancholic old lament and he sounds great. I know it’s a secret track, but even so.

All Things Are Quite Silent

So, here’s another old folk song I like that has nothing to do with anything (or has it?).

It’s a sad lament sung by the excellent Shirley Collins. All Things Are Quite Silent is a song from the old days in the British Isles when thugs employed by kings kidnapped people with the aim of forcing them into dangerous work on the king’s ships from which they never returned. Do times ever change?

Not a bag of laughs, but then The Parting Glass isn’t a particularly cheerful ditty to end a CD with. Wiki- “[The Parting Glass] was known at least as early as 1605, when a portion of the first stanza was written in a farewell letter, as a poem now known as “Armstrong’s Goodnight”, by one of the Border Reivers executed that year for the murder in 1600 of Sir John Carmichael, Warden of the Scottish West March.”

The Press Gang

In Britain, the name give to the practice of kidnapping men and taking them to sea, was press ganging, or shanghaiing. In this song, it’s the unfortunate singer’s lover who has been kidnapped by the king’s men.

All things are quite silent, each mortal at rest,
When me and my true love got snug in one nest,
When a bold set of ruffians broke into our cave,
And they forced my dear jewel to plough the salt wave.


Read the full lyric: All Things Are Quite Silent Lyrics | MetroLyrics