Sweet Thames, Flow Softly

Album: Greatest Hits (1968)


  • This is a bittersweet poem about a friendship that didn't last very long. When Ewan MacColl wrote it in 1968, he was inspired by a line from the classic Disney Movie Mary Poppins: "I shall stay until the wind changes." At the time of the song's initial release in 1968, there were only 9 verses. By 1970, when the British press got a hold of Ewan's song, rumors in the tabloids reported that it was about a love affair that Ewan was having with another woman while still married to his wife Peggy. In 1972, a new version was published, this time, having been extended from 9 verses to 15 verses. The person who published the extended version was a local Londoner who read the rumors in the tabloids about the song. It was also noted that this song was part of a play made in London and loosely based on William Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet.
  • The 9-verse version of this song was Ewan MacColl's original rendering of the poem. However, it is the 15-verse version that has been recorded by many artists, such as The Dubliners, Planksty, Allison Brown, The Johnstons, The Clancy Brothers, as well as many other rare artists. However, it is the 9-verse version that is most well known in Ewan MacColl's hometown of Salford, England. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Annabelle - Eugene, OR

Comments: 5

  • Ruth from Cheshire, EnglandEwan didn't make a mistake when he wrote "enhancing." The line is "A necklace made of London Bridge her beauty was enhancing" meaning that the necklace was enhancing her beauty.
  • Noghar from Brentford, United KingdomAnd while we're at it, it looks very much like McColl himself made a mistake when he wrote 'her beauty was enhancing'. From the lyrics it isn't clear her beauty was 'enhancing,' or improving anything. Whenever I sing this I always put in 'entrancing' as I like to think that's what he meant. Also the version Planxty recorded on their eponymous first album was not the extended version or even the original but one cut down to about six verses. Isleworth and Hampton Court were not mentioned and it was Richmond Park that was given 'a twist/ into bracelet for her wrist.'
  • Ken from Douglas, AkWell, many of the place names in the song are not presented in geographic order. My theory is...it didn't ALL happen in the same boat trip.

    As to the implications that Ewan was cheating on Peggy...well, that's the right-wing British press for you. They never had liked the fact that Ewan had been able to get away with album after album of radical music, and they were going to do anything to bash Ewan(and every other musician/singer on the left).
  • Terry from London, United KingdomAnd Queue to Islewood is a bit odd!! Its actually
    'Kew to Isleworth' Up stream just before the first Thames Lock .
  • Wilf from Bury St Edmunds, United KingdomIt is not: " of that silver town" It is "Made a brooch of Silver Town" - Silver Town being a famous place on the river - that is thames just in case you were forgetting the title of the song
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