“Nottamun Town (Nottingham Fair)”

Alternate titles: “Nottalin Town”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1865 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 18(687)
Keywords: madness nonsense paradox
Found in: US(Ap,So) Canada(Mar)


The narrator goes to Nottamun Town, meets odd and mad people, and sees impossible and paradoxical sights: "In Nottamun town, not a soul would look up, not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down to show me the way to fair Nottamun town."


There were several episodes of mass insanity in Europe, probably caused by ingestion of ergot, a mold found on rye with hallucinogenic properties. - PJS

(I have also heard this song explained as the effects of the delirium caused by the plague. Compare also the song "Black Phyllis," which uses some of the same words and which appears to be about syphilis. Jean Ritchie thinks it's from a mummer's play and not intended to be understood. - RBW)

This song merges almost continuously with "Paddy Backwards," and there are probably fragments which might go with either song. - RBW

Broadsides LOCSinging sb30373a and Bodleian Harding B 18(687) are duplicates.

Broadsides LOCSinging sb20153a and Bodleian Harding B 18(214) are duplicates.

Broadsides Bodleian Harding B 18(687) and LOCSinging sb30373a: H. De Marsan dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS

Cross references



  1. Wyman-Brockway II, p. 6, "Fair Nottiman Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Randolph 446, "Nottingham Fair" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Randolph-Legman I, pp. 302-305, "Nottingham Fair" (3 texts, 1 tune)
  4. SharpAp 191, "Nottamun Town" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  5. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 69, "Nottamun Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Ritchie-SingFam, pp. 105-106, "[Nottamun Town]" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Ritchie-Southern, p. 5, "Nottamun Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Abrahams/Foss, pp. 8-9, "Nottamun Town" (1 text, 1 tune, called "Nottamun town" in the header though "Nottalin Town" in the notes and Index)
  10. Roud #1044
  11. BI, WB2006