Song of the Day, January 22: The Devil and Bailiff McGlynn by June Tabor

TaborAshesMcGlynnToday’s song is the charming Devil and Bailiff McGlynn from June Tabor’s Ashes and Diamonds. It’s a fun traditional song [Roud 5294] featuring a conversation between the titular characters. The lyric is part of a long tradition of songs about the Devil bartering with mortals for their souls. In this exchange, he and the Bailiff note the many times people use the phrase “may the Devil take…”

The Bailiff is a clear symbol of the coarseness and stupidity of authority figures, constantly suggesting that the Devil act on these oaths while the Prince of Darkness assures him that such light wishes are insufficient. At the end, a woman wishes the Devil would take the Bailiff, a wish “straight from her heart” that comes true as the song wraps up.

Tabor turns in a fine, a cappella performance, showing off her fun side as she assumes the characters and sets the tone. Enjoy this fun little romp today.


About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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