“Pretty Nancy of London (Jolly Sailors Bold)”


The singer writes to tell his love of the hardships endured by sailors. He describes a horrible storm he recently endured; "a sailor must yield to whatever may come." He assures Nancy he is remembering her as best he can


Leach-Labrador 49: "This song should not be confused with 'Nancy of Yarmouth' or 'Jimmy and Nancy,' and so forth. Although it borrows heavily from other songs, it is a distinct and separate piece."

The "green grow the laurels" verse is

Green grow the laurels and the tops of them small,

For love is a flower that hangs o'er us all,

For the green leaves will wither and the roots will decay,

But the red rose will flourish when my love comes from sea

The "ship in distress" theme is from "Nancy of Yarmouth". The "Green grow the laurels" verse has only those four words in common with Green Grows the Laurel (Green Grow the Lilacs) - BS

Classifying versions of this song is indeed very difficult; Roud in fact includes a number of versions titled "Nancy of Yarmouth." The title also adheres frequently to "William and Nancy (II) (Courting Too Slow)" [Laws P5]. There are some fragments beyond classification. This is the best we can do. - RBW

Cross references


  • Cyril Poacher, "Nancy of Yarmouth" (on Voice12)


  1. Randolph 78, "Pretty Nancy of London" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Peacock, pp. 568-570, "Nancy from London" (1 text, 3 tunes)
  3. Karpeles-Newfoundland 53, "Nancy of London" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. BrownII 130, "Sweet William and Nancy" (1 text, mixed with "Green Grows the Laurel" and other material)
  5. Greenleaf/Mansfield 33, "Nancy from London" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  6. Leach-Labrador 49, "Lovely Nancy from England" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  7. Roud #407
  8. BI, R078


Alternate titles: “Tall Grow the Rushes”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1920 (Greenleaf/Mansfield)
Found in: Britain(England(Lond)) US(SE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf)