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Home » I Once Loved A Lass (Orkney Blackening)

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Sikkersnapper - I Once Loved A Lass. Cover art by Martin Laird showing a red strawberry standing out against green seaweed. An allusion to the ancient rhyme contained within the song lyrics.

I Once Loved A Lass (Orkney Blackening)

I Once Loved A Lass (Orkney Blackening)

I Once Loved A Lass, aka The False Bride, is an ancient ballad generally thought to be Scottish, but which is also known in England and may originate there (or the Borders). There are many variations, adapted by countless musicians, but it certainly has the feel of an English ballad. The lyrics pose what is supposedly the oldest riddle in the English language:

“The men o’ yon forest, they askit o’ me,
How many strawberries grow in the saut sea?
I askit ’em back wi’ a tear in my e’e,
How many ships sail in the forest?”

I Once Loved A Lass (traditional)

The arrangement of this song by Sikkersnapper includes field recordings of an Orcadian blackening. A blackening is a pre-wedding ritual found in parts of North-East Scotland. The bride and/or groom are tarred and feathered and paraded around town on the back of a flatbed truck (presumably this would have been a horse-drawn cart in days gone by) with much shouting and little sobriety. They are then tied in a prominent place for public humiliation – often the Merkit Cross infront of St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.

Listen and purchase on Bandcamp now. Streaming platforms to follow at a later date.