Butcher Boy

Album: various (1895)

Songfacts®:

  • Also known as "The Butcher's Boy" and "The Butcher Boy," this traditional English folk song is rather morbid: A young girl falls in love with the son of a butcher, who breaks her heart. Despondent, she kills herself, leaving a note asking that she be buried with a turtle dove so the world will know that she died for love.
  • The song has taken many forms over the years, sometimes told from the perspective of a man in a tavern. Alternate titles include "The Fatal Courtship," "In London City Where I Did Dwell" and Go Dig My Grave. It has also been altered to "The Railroad Boy," which is how Joan Baez performed it. She and Bob Dylan played this variation on the 1976 Rolling Thunder Revue tour.
  • Buell Kazee, a minister from Kentucky with in interest in Appalachian folk songs, recorded this in 1928, bringing the song to a wider audience.
  • Artists to record this song include Tommy Makem, Peggy Seeger, Kirsty MacColl and Dave Van Ronk. It has been done in the stylings of country (Roscoe Holcomb, The Blue Sky Boys), bluegrass (Dan Crary, The Lilly Brothers), and even polka (Frankie Yankovic).
  • Elvis Costello often performed this song in the '00s when dobro player Jerry Douglas was part of his band. In 2017, Douglas released his own version on his album What If.
  • The 1997 film The Butcher Boy features a version by Sinéad O'Connor on the soundtrack. She makes a brief appearance in the movie.

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