I fancy myself as growing up immersed in the music of the North East but know that probably is not as true as I would like. I fancy that I learnt this song in school but I suspect I actually first heard Nic Jones' version on John Peel in 1977. This is my favourite version of this song, by the Copper family from Rottingdean. People assume that this is a Scottish or Irish song but Allendale is just outside Hexham. People also assume that this is a traditional song but it was written in the 1840s by two blokes. However, through the folk tradition a Victorian composition set in a tiny village in Northumberland is passed down by a family of East Sussex agricultural workers.
This is dedicated to my beautiful wife who will illustrate the song for you. Her middle name is Mary, which has relevance to the song, as you will see. I have a particular attachment for the final verse. Not the stuff about Africa's burning sands, obviously, but the stuff about my life being a wilderness.
My life has been a wilderness
unblessed by fortune's gale,
had fate not linked my lot to hers
the rose of Allendale.