“Elsie Marley”


"Elsie Marley's grown so fine, She won't get up to serve the swine, But lies in bed till eight or nine." "Di' ye ken Elsie Marley, honey, The wife that sells the barley, honey?" Stanzas tell of how Elsie leads an elaborate lifestyle


According to Stokoe, Alice "Elsie" Marley was an innkeeper's wife in Pictree who, afflicted by fever, wandered from her bed and drowned in a flooded coalpit. Stokoe gives no other particulars (such as a date; the Baring-Goulds say 1768, and claim Elsie was born c. 1715), but this would explain what is otherwise a very strange song, with no real plot and an odd mix of praise and censure: Elsie is dead and being prepared for burial. - RBW


  1. Stokoe/Reay, pp. 70-71, "Elsie Marley" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Opie-Oxford2 152, "Elsie Marley is grown so fine" (4 texts)
  3. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #246, p. 155, "(Elsie Marley has grown so fine)"
  5. Roud #3065
  6. BI, StoR070


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1900 (Stokoe/Reay)
Keywords: work clothes drink death
Found in: Britain(England(Scotland))