Spencer The Rover

Written by: 
Trad. arr. J. Martyn
24 Jan 1975

This tune was composed by Spencer the Rover,
As valiant a man as ever left home.
And he had been much reduced,
Which caused great confusion.
And that was the reason he started to roam...

In Yorkshire near Rotherham, he had been on the ramble.
Weary of travelling, he sat down to rest.
By the foot of yon' mountain
Lays a clear flowing fountain.
With bread and cold water he himself did refresh.

With the night fast approaching, to the woods he resorted
With woodbine and ivy his bed for to make.
But he dreamt about sighing,
Lamenting and crying;
Go home to your family and rambling forsake.

't Was the fifth day of November, I've reason to remember,
When first he arrived home to his family and friends.
And they did stand so astounded,
Surprised and dumbfounded,
To see such a stranger once more in their sight.

And his children come around him with their prittle prattling stories,
With their prittle prattling stories to drive care away.
And he's as happy as those
As have thousands of riches.
Contented he'll remain and not ramble away.

This tune was composed by Spencer the Rover,
As valiant a man as ever left home.
And he had been much reduced,
And caused great confusion.
And that was the reason he started to roam...

muffnote:
Spencer the Rover is a traditional song John picked up from Robin Dransfield, then put through his own arrangements. Dransfield remembered the case well as late as 2003:

"In the summer of 1966 or 1967 I was doing a gig at the late-night Glasgow Folk Centre with Alex Campbell and in my first set I sang the traditional English song 'Spencer the Rover', which at the time was part of my standard folk-club repertoire. In the interval this manic, enthusiastic, bubbly-haired young guy forced me out onto the stairs and insisted I teach him the song, which he was very taken with. His name was John Martyn! So, on the stairs and later at Alex's flat I did so. I later recorded it on my own solo album but I've always thought John's live and recorded version is the best I ever heard of this widely performed song. Not being an English folkie, he simply looked at it like any other song, Martynised it, and the result was simply wonderful." - Robin Dransfield.

muffnote:
During the August 1980 concert at the Garrison Theatre, Lerwick (Shetland), John made an interesting remark introducing this song:
"His name was Spencer the Rover [...] He had the dubious pleasure of being the last man to be publicly hung in Sheffield."

First release: