The Twelve Apostles

Version1: Learnt by Richard Chidlaw from Cameron Riley Johnson, Yorkley Slade, on  4 October 1975 and recorded by Gwilym Davies from Richard, October 1980.

Listen – Archive recording – Richard Chidlaw  C10 TranOriginal Richard Chidlaw-The Twelve Apostles

Manuscript    Song as Collected      (use also as singing copy)

Version2: Collected from John Bradley at Coates by Cecil Sharp on 31 March 1912

Manuscript     Song as Collected       Copy forSinging

MIDI                                                     Tune for Singing

This song is known in many forms in South and West England, Canada and the USA but rarely elsewhere.  It comes under many titles, including The Twelve Apostles, The Dilly Song, Children, go where I send thee, I’ll Sing you one-oh, etc.  The well-known version Green Grow the Rushes-oh is a version collected in Dorset by the Rev W Miles Barnes and published in 1893 in English County Songs (Broadwood).  Much ink has been spent on the supposed symbolism of the words, but there are as many versions of the words as there are collected versions and it appears that a good deal of corruption and mishearing has gone on in the oral tradition, thus making it impossible to talk about an ‘original’ set of words.  Mr Johnson’s set of words is no more incomprehensible than most other versions and was learnt by him from the singing of children at Christmas time.  Similar carols have been recovered in Breton, German, Greek, Flemish, Hebrew and medieval Latin (‘Unus est Deus’)’.  Perhaps the most convincing theory of the song is that it was a mnemonic for the kabbalistic doctrine of the ten stages between heaven and earth, with the twelve verses of the many versions representing a Christian overlay.

Notes by Gwilym Davies and Roy Palmer – November 2011