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This website received the following e-mail:
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There are the words of two tunes which is bugging my niece in Australia for the true words. When she lived in Birmingham during the Air Raids in 1940 they all used to sit on the cellar steps and her gran used to sing to them and two of the songs 1/ "Henry my Son" and 2/ " There was a girl with lilywhite hair; she loved a chap with jet black hair; she did not want anyone to know; but then her father got to know - etc. etc..." (she thinks the words were almost as stated but, as you can see, the verse does not rhyme) She is very interested to find out the origin because she now sings the songs to her own grandchildren. Can you help please?
Best Regards
George Morris <sur.stock@blueyonder.co.uk>

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The enquiry seemed worthy of a page on its own in which to offer the following "answer" - which, it is hoped, will satisfy the enquiry and also interest any other reader:
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It seems the song, "Henry, My Son", goes back almost to the proverbial year "dot" and has many versions; and the tune used, with all its variations, is the one many people might otherwise know as: "Where have you been all the day, Billie Boy, Billie Boy ".
Some of the versions are given below:

 Old Version - called "Henry My son"
Where have you been all the day, Henry my son?
Where have you been all the day, my beloved one?
In the fields, dear mother, in the fields, dear mother,
Make my bed for I'm afraid in my heart,
And I want to lie down.
Where did you see your father, Henry, my son,
Where did you see your father, my beloved one?
In the fields, dear mother, in the fields, dear mother,
Make my bed for I'm afraid in my heart,
And I want to lie down
What did your father give you, Henry, my son?
What did your father give you, my beloved one?
Water, dear mother, water, dear mother,
Make my bed for I'm afraid in my heart,
And I want to lie down.
What shall I give your father, Henry, my son?
What shall I give your father, my beloved one?
A rope to hang him, a rope to hang him,
Make my bed for I'm afraid in my heart,
And I want to lie down.
Where shall I make your bed, Henry, my son?
Where shall I make your bed, my beloved one?
In the churchyard, dear mother, in the churchyard,
Make my bed for I'm afraid in my heart,
And I want to lie down.
How shall I make your bed, Henry, my son?
How shall I make your bed, my beloved son?
Long and narrow, long and narrow,
Make my bed for I'm afraid in my heart,
And I want to lie down - for ever .
Music Hall Version - called "Green and Yeller"
Where have you been all the day, Henry my son?
Where have you been all the day, my currant bun?
In the woods, dear mother In the woods, dear mother
Mother be quick I got to be sick and lay me down to die.
What did you do in the woods all day, Henry my boy?
What did you do in the woods all day, my saveloy?
Ate, dear mother. Ate, dear mother.
Mother be quick I got to be sick and lay me down to die.
What did you eat in the woods all day, Henry my son?
What did you eat in the woods all day my pretty one?
Eels, dear mother. Eels, dear mother.
Mother be quick I got to be sick and lay me down to die.
What color were those eels, Henry my boy?
What color were those eels, my pride and joy
Green and yeller.
Green and yeller.
Mother be quick I got to be sick and lay me down to die.
Those eels were snakes, Henry my son.
Those eels were snakes, my pretty one.
Urgh, dear mother.
Urgh, dear mother.
Mother be quick I got to be sick and lay me down to die.

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Note:
The above comes in another version where the "eels" become "beans" - which are revealed to be poisonous.

There is, it seems, an even older version - called "Lord Randal" - with the first verse stating:
Oh where ha' ye been, Lord Randal my son?
And where ha' ye been, my handsome young man?"
I ha' been in the greenwood;
Mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm wearied wi hunting, and fain wad lie down.

In "The Journal of the Folk Song Society (vol.III issue 10, 1908: pp.43-4)" a contributor, Anne Gilchrist, suggests that the name "Henry" may have entered the song due to the death of Henry the First from eating a dish of lampreys, on his return from a hunting expedition. She also suggests that "Randal" in the other versions may have arisen from the story of Randal (Ranulph) III, 6th Earl of Chester who died in 1232 and was poisoned by his wife in order for her to marry her lover.

The "comic" Music Hall version - "Green and Yeller" - would have, most likely, arose in the 1890s.

There is an interesting discussion about all of the above which can be found on: http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/ballads/early_child/

Regarding the other song concerning the "The girl with lily-white hair":
No reference could be discovered about this one so it could be a "ditty" with a restricted, local origin?

However, if any reader(s) can "cast light" on this particular song, such contributions would be gratefully received.

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