Prince, Mrs Betsy

Collection date: Dec 1905

Area: Somerset - Yeovil & Crewkerne


Mrs Betsy Prince of Haselbury Plucknett (1830-1912): age 76, 3 songs on 27 Dec 1905: One of Betsy’s songs was ‘Betsy Wilson’ (usually titled 'Betsy Watson' Roud 1493: click vwml link). Sharp collected no other version of it in Somerset. Printed all over England during the 19th century by broadside printers, the song appears to come from the Hull area and is said to relate to a real incident of 1812. A young maid servant is made pregnant and then disowned by her lover; she gives a warning to other young girls and then drowns herself and her new-born son in the river Humber.

Betsy was born Elizabeth Bryant c1830 in Haselbury Plucknett, daughter of George Bryant, agricultural labourer. In 1851 census she was listed as unmarried, a ‘web weaver’, lodging with James Prince, labourer in Haselbury Plucknett. They were married in the church there soon after on 10/5/1851. Neither could sign their names. They had 6 children and James worked steadily as an agricultural labourer until his death aged 57 in August 1882. Betsy continued to support herself as a ‘web weaver’ into her ‘70s (1901 census RG13/2297 f65 p13). She lived for the final 20 years in Piddletown, part of Haselbury Plucknett and was buried at Haselbury church on 29/4/1912 aged 81.

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