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Early Pearly cover art from Bryony Griffith and Alice Roberts, featuring a sailor desperately trying to get home to a glowing house in a snow storm.
Illustration by: Ali O'Neill

Early Pearly – Bryony Griffith & Alice Jones

Released as a charity single, 'Early Pearly' is a traditional song from Ripon, Yorkshire. Bryony Griffith gives us the lowdown.

‘Tis the season of goodwill, and Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones are bringing the cheer. Released today, December 2nd, their new single is intended to raise money for homeless charities. As it’s also Bandcamp Friday, downloading the song will mean there’s more of that cash to go around. Flex your credit cards via the link below.

It’s a merry old soul, this song, and it bounces along on the duo’s string arrangement and close harmonies. The chorus is of the kind you’d commonly expect to join in on at your local folk club. You’ll have it buzzing around your head before they’ve even got through the second verse.

“‘Early Pearly’ is a traditional Yorkshire song that was still being sung by children in the 1940s in the streets of Ripon at Christmas time,” explains Bryony. “The jaunty tune shrouds the sentimentality typical of Victorian tearjerkers, and the children would go from door to door in the hope of tugging on the heartstrings of the occupants to gain financial reward. This version is a concoction of ‘Haley Paley’ from Dave Hillery and Harry Boardman’s 1971 album Transpennine and Hull singer Margaret Gardham’s ‘Early Pearly’ on the Yorkshire Garland website. It was sung in her family as a lullaby for at least four generations.

“Since the lyrics are about being charitable, we saw it as a perfect opportunity to release a Christmas single and try to raise some money for homeless charities. It’s really quite unbelievable just how many people are without shelter in this country, especially during the winter, so once we’ve covered costs, we’ll be donating the rest of the proceeds to charity. We’re releasing it on December 2nd on Bandcamp as it’s Bandcamp Friday, so we’re hoping to raise lots of pennies, fee-free! We know it’s tough times for a lot of people at the moment, but if you’re in a position to donate more than £1 for the track, please do and help us make a difference to someone’s quality of life this winter.”

Early Pearly by Bryony Griffith & Alice Jones is released today, December 2nd. Download it from the duo’s Bandcamp page.

Early Pearly lyrics

Early Pearly snow on the ground,
The wind blows bitter and raw.
A poor young sailor lad dressed up in rags,
Came to a lady’s door.


Early Pearly snow on the ground,
The wind blows bitter and cold.
Early Pearly snow on the ground,
The wind blows bitter and cold.

The lady sat up in a window so high,
She cast her eye upon him,
“Go ‘way, go ‘way, you tarry sailor,
So dirty, so ragged and thin.”

“But, madam, I’m hungry and, madam, I’m cold,”
The sailor lad cried from the door,
“If you’ve got a penny to give me,” he said,
“I never shall want anymore.”

The lady still sat in her window so high,
Still casting her eye upon him,
“Go ‘way, go ‘way, you tarry sailor,
So dirty, so ragged and thin.”

“My father, my father was drowned in the sea,
My mother she cried and she cried,
Did you ever see a smile on her face,
Of a broken heart she died.”

She threw a penny all down in the snow,
She threw down a penny or two.
“Oh, I am your William that’s come from the sea,
Your William and you never knew.”

“Come in, come in, you good-hearted lad,
You never shall want anymore,
As long as I live, I’ll charity give,
To a poor young sailor boy.”