Little Sir Hugh
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


The ballad appears in Jamieson's Popular Ballads (circa 1783). Anglo-French ballads of the tale date back to 1259.

The events are supposed to have taken place in the 13th century. The Annals of Waverly (1255) related the tale of a child who was crucified by the Jews. To conceal this fact the body was thrown in a stream, but it surfaced. The body was then buried, but found above ground the next day. The body was thrown into a well. The well was then lit by a bright light which caused people to think something holy was there. Looking into the well they found Hugh's body floating. The King ordered an investigation and eighteen Jews confessed and were hung.

However, Bishop Percy concluded that the events were "groundless and malicious." Charges of ritual murder was common against Jews. They were first levelled in twelfth-century England, and occurred throughout Europe as late as the 1880s. Jews were said to kill Christian children, often before Easter, for ritual purposes. These fabrications, known as the Blood Libel, made a cult of the supposed victims and was an excuse for persecution which took a toll of thousands of Jewish lives over many centuries

This ballad is Child Ballad #155 (Sir Hugh, or the Jew's Daughter). This is one of eighteen versions Child collected.

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site see Francis J. Child Ballads.

It rains, it rains in merry Lincoln,
It rains both great and small,
When all the boys come out to play,
To play to toss their ball.

They toss'd their ball so high, so high,
They toss'd their ball so low;
They toss'd it over the Jew's garden,
With all the fine Jews below.

The first that came out was a Jew's daughter,
Was dressed all in green:
Come in, come in, my little Sir Hugh,
You shall have your ball again.

O no, O no, I dare not a-come
With out my playmates too;
For if my mother should be at the door,
She would cause my poor heart to rue.

The first she offer'd him was a fig,
The next a finer thing;
The third a cherry as red as blood,
And that enticed him in.

She set him up in a gitty chair,
She gave him sugar sweet.
She laid him out on a dresser board,
And stabb'd him like a sheep.

And when the school was over,
His mother came out for to call,
With a little rod under her apron
To beat her son withal.

His mother she went to the Jew's wife's house,
And knocked aloud at the ring;
O little Sir Hugh if you are there,
Come let your mother in.

He is not here the Jew's wife said,
He is not here today;
He's with his school fellows on the green,
Keeping this high holiday.

My head is heavy I cannot get up,
My grave it is so deep;
Besides a pen knife sticks into my heart,
So up I cannot get.

Go home, go home, my mother dear,
And pare me a winding sheet;
For tomorrow morning before it is day
Your body and mine shall meet.

And lay my prayer book at my head,
And my grammar at my feet,
That all my school fellows as they pass by
May read them for my sake.
Related Links
From One Hundred English Folksongs and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.