Peter Bellamy collected this song from Peter Bullen who he knew in his Norfolk days. Bullen said that he'd learned it from his grandfather. This may be so, or it may not â€“ Mudcat sources suggest a lot of people at that time used to say that sort of thing about songs they'd made up themselves. Some say that the tune sounds very American and may even be an echo of Dylan's 'Oxford Town' â€“ and that in the absence of further evidence it may have been written in the 1960s or thereabouts, probably by Pete Bullen. There's no trace of this song anywhere prior to Peter Bellamy. The story is an old one and several otherwise unrelated songs have been based on it.
In Yarmouth Town there lived a man,
kept a little tavern down by the strand.
The landlord had a daughter fair,
a pretty little thing with the golden hair.
Oh, won't you come down,
Won't you come down,
Won't you come down
To Yarmouth town.
At night there came a sailor man
and he's asked the daughter for her hand.
"Oh, why should I marry you, she said,
I have all I want without being wed.
"But if with me you do want a linger,
I tie a piece of string all around my finger
and as you pass by, just pull on the string
and I'll come down and I'll let you in."
At closing time the sailor man
he's gone to the tavern down by the strand
and as he passed by, he pulled on the string,
and she's come down, and she's let old Jack in.
Now he's never seen such a sight before,
'cause the string around the finger was all she wore.
[no missing lines; this verse isn't longer]
The sailor stayed the whole night through
and early in the morning went back to his crew,
and then he told them about the maiden fair,
the pretty little thing with the golden hair.
Well, the news it soon got around
and the very next night in Yarmouth Town
there was fifteen sailors pulling on the string
and she's come down and she's let them all in.
So all young men that to Yarmouth go,
if you see a pretty girl with her hair hanging low,
well, all you've got to do is pull on the string,
and she'll come down and she'll let you in.