Frankie Armstrong


Frankie Armstrong

A history of the song:
“I was in the process of writing songs around the images and situations from the great ballad of transformation, Tam Lin. I knew I wanted to find the back story for the serving maid who tells Lady Margaret of how to find the herbs to bring on an abortion (old ballads can tackle subjects eg. abortion and incest, that are rarely sung of in modern songs). I then went overnight on a boat to Holland and was in the bar, when a group of soldiers arrived. I was close enough to hear their conversations which so incensed me that my fury went straight into the writing of ‘The song of the Second Serving Maid’.  It is uncompromisingly furious and knowing what has happened to so many women due to the misogyny and double standards still prevailing, I stand by that anger still.”
Frankie Armstrong

Song of the Second Serving Maid

Frankie Armstrong: vocal

Jon Gillaspie: piano

 It was a long time ago and not very far away,

I remember like it was yesterday;

I fell in with a soldier that barracked in our town,

No wonder I remember with the price I had to pay.


He came into the bar I worked one cold December night;

He was strong and tall and helped break up a fight,

I bathed his bleeding face, and bandaged up his hand,

I’d done more for him that that before the next dawn’s light.


In the way of young soldiers, in three weeks he was gone,

Didn’t say where to, just said, “It won’t be long…”

‘Course I’ve never seen him since, or heard from him again,

And just like the old songs say, it turned out he’d done me wrong.


I’d started to get worried before he went away,

Oh God, I remember counting off each day!

I’d cursed this bleeding many a time, now I longed to see It flo

But when six weeks were over, what use was it to pray?


I couldn’t tell my parents, so I went and told a friend;

She took me to a woman who lived beyond Town’s End.

She had jars of herbs and roots and leaves, she knew why I had come

So I bought what she advised with what little I’d to spend.


Some people say, what I did it was a sin,

I should have had the child, not turned to rue and gin,

But it’s mostly men and ministers that preach to me that way,

And I’d like to know what they know of the anguish I was in.


It was a long time ago, I wasn’t much more than a child;

The world would have frowned, though the baby might have smiled;

Sure sometimes I feel sad for the child that might have been,

But I never could have raised it, I was far too young and wild.


When I look on it now, I feel nothing but relief,

But what’s a woman’s feelings ‘gainst a man-made belief?

Sure I was young and foolish – I’ve been more careful since –

But should a night-time’s pleasure bring a lifetime’s grief?


As for the soldier, I wonder what’s become of him?

How many has he killed in the name of King and kin?

He’ll be blessed by bishops, maybe medals brooch his chest,

And they’ve the nerve to tell me that they’re the ones know best,

That I’m the one to bear the sin,

My soul will never rest?

I ask whose world we live in,

Where we women are but guests?

So sometimes we need rue and gin

While men get by with jests…

We’ve wounded, bled and maimed ourselves

While men they joke and jest…

We’ve hurt and drowned and hung ourselves

While men go with jests…


Words & Music:

Frankie Armstrong