[1880:] In Percy's Reliques we are told that the ballad of Sir Andrew Barton was first printed from an old folio MS., which was then greatly decayed. I do not think that the ballad was traditionally known in Scotland, though it is all about the capture of a vessel owned by a brave Scottish sailor. Sir Andrew Barton's father had suffered from the Portuguese, and the son had obtained letters of marque from the Scottish Court to make reprisals; but Sir Andrew found richer prizes upon the sea than Portuguese vessels. He plundered English ships with impunity, and at last was tackled by the Earl of Surrey, his ship captured, and himself slain. Percy filled up the blanks in the old copy not very skilfully in some cases. The ballad is long, but is well written, and the story told with great spirit.
[...] Lord Howard made great preparations for the capture of this formidable pirate, and he was fortunate in securing as his chief gunner an old man of 70 named Peter Simon [...]. William Horseley, a Yorkshire gentleman, was made captain of the bowmen, and he also pledged his life that he would not miss his "marke twelve score one penny bread". The first round from old Simon's great guns sunk the pinnacle, the "fore mast tree" of Sir Andrew's ship was driven down with another round, and fourscore men killed beside. Barton called upon Gordon to "let his beams downfall"; but as Gordon "swarved the maine-mast tree
Horseley with a bearing arrow
Stroke the Gordon through the brain."
James Hambilton, the only son of Barton's sister, then tried the feat, but Horseley's next arrow was equally true to the mark; and at last Barton himself [was killed by Horseley]. (Ord, Glasgow Weekly Herald, March 20)
[1880:] Your article No. 18, on Sir Andrew Barton, is barely sufficient to give a clear exposition of this old historical poem, and to show its connection with the battle of Flodden, I think your readers will be interested in the following brief extract: -
"Two ships were fitted out and put to sea with letters of marque under Sir Thomas and Sir Edward Howard, sons of the Earl of Surrey. After encountering a great deal of foul weather Sir Thomas came up with the Lion, which was commanded by Sir Andrew Barton in person, and Sir Edward came up with the Union, Barton's other ship (called by Hall the Bark of Scotland). Sir Andrew was killed fighting bravely, [...] and the two Scotch ships with their crews were carried into the river Thames, August 2, 1511."
"King James insisted upon satisfaction for the death of Barton and capture of his ships; though Henry [VIII] had generously dismissed the crews, and even agreed that the parties accused might appear in his Court of Admiralty [accompanied?] by their attornies to vindicate themselves." This affair was in a great measure the cause of the battle of Flodden, in which James IV lost his life. (Letter to Glasgow Weekly Herald, May 15)
[1912:] [Sir Andrew Barton] The events on which this ballad is founded began in 1476, when a richly loaded ship, under the command of John Barton, was seized by the Portuguese. Letters of reprisal were accordingly granted, and renewed in 1506, to John Barton's sons, Andrew, Robert and John, who somewhat abused their rights, and "converted this retaliation into a kind of piracy against the Portuguese trade." (Johnson, Ballads xii)
[1916:] Versions of this ballad with tunes, are in Kidson's "Traditional Tunes" and "Songs of the West". The words appear on a Catnach broadside; and in Percy's "Reliques".
In "English and Scottish Ballads", Child prints the versions in Traditional Tunes and Songs of the West, and gives, in addition, four other sets - one from Motherwell's MS., two traditional copies from residents in the U.S., and a Suffolk fragment contributed by Edward Fitzgerald to "Suffolk Notes and Queries (Ipswich Journal, 1877-78)". In several versions, the hero is variously styled Henry Martin, Robin Hood, Sir Andrew Barton, Andrew Bodee, Andrew Bartin, Henry Burgin and Robertson.
Child suggests that "the ballad must have sprung from the ashes of 'Sir Andrew Barton' (Percy's Reliques), of which name 'Henry Martin' would be no extraordinary corruption." The Rev. S. Baring-Gould, in his note to the ballad Songs of the West, differs from this view and contends that the Percy version is the ballad "as recomposed in the reign of James I, when there was a perfect rage for re-writing the old historical ballads".
I am inclined to agree that the two versions are quite distinct. Sir Andrew Barton deals with the final encounter between Barton and the King's ships, in which Andrew Barton's ship is sunk and he himself killed; whereas the traditional versions are concerned with a piratical raid made by Henry Martin upon an English merchantman. It is true that in Songs of the West, Henry Martin receives his death wound, but, as Child points out, this incident does not square with the rest of the story and may, therefore, be an interpolation.
Unlike so many so-called historical ballads, this one is really based on fact. In the latter part of the 15th century, a Scottish sea-officer, Andrew Barton, suffered by sea at the hands of the Portuguese, and obtained letters of marque for his two sons to make reprisals upon the trading ships of Portugal. The brothers, under the pretence of searching for Portuguese shipping, levied toll upon English merchant vessels. King Henry VIII accordingly commissioned the Earl of Surrey to rid the seas of the pirates and put an end to their illegal depredations. The earl fitted out two vessels and gave the command of them to his two sons, Sir Thomas and Sir Edward Howard. They sought out Barton's ships, the Lion and the Union, fought them, captured them, and carried them in triumph up the river Thames on August 2, 1511.
I have noted down in different parts of England no less than seventeen variations of this ballad. (Sharp, One Hundred English Folksongs)
[1964:] In the early days of capitalist competition, there was often little difference between the merchantman and the pirate ship. In 1476, some Portuguese vessels plundered a rich Scottish ship owned by the merchant John Barton. As a result, the Scottish king granted 'letters of reprisal' to the merchant's sons, Andrew, Robert and John. Helped by his two brothers, and armed with the king's permit, Sir Andrew Barton attacked not only ships of the Portuguese trade (at that time the richest in the world, due to discoveries and acquisitions in India) but also Flemish vessels engaged in business, legal or illegal, in the North Sea. Sir Andrew was a fierce man, who sent three barrels of salted Flemish pirates' heads as a present to King James IV in 1506. A few years later, he took to piracy against English ships. Henry VIII sent out several vessels after him, and in a battle on August 2nd, 1511, Barton was killed, his ship captured, and (it is said) his head was cut off and taken to England for display.
A long ballad (82 verses!) was made about the piracy, pursuit and defeat of Sir Andrew Barton. It was printed and sold from cheap stationers' stalls in St. Paul's churchyard and elsewhere. In the course of time, as it was passed on by word of mouth from one country singer to another, it grew shorter. At length, only the first part of the ballad, the account of the piracy, was remembered. Perhaps through mis-hearing at some stage, the name of the bold Scottish seaman had become altered from 'Andrew Barton' to 'Henry Martin', and in that form it became fixed and survived well into the twentieth century in many parts of England, in several versions that, on the whole, differ only slightly from each other. (A. L. Lloyd, notes 'English and Scottish Folk Ballads')
[1964:] This version [by Joan Baez], with typical American vindication of the outlaw, has Henry Martin both successful and safe in his piracy. (Reprint Sing Out 6, 354)
[1967:] If lasting ballads of great battles are few, those of more or less mythologized flurries with pirate ships abound, and some seem well nigh indestructible. During the present century, there is hardly a traditional singer of note, from Henry Burstow to Sam Larner, who had not his good version of Henry Martin, a piece that has remained a favourite through many vicissitudes since it was first printed (in 82 verses!) at the outset of the seventeenth century, and sold from cheap stationers' halls in St Paul's churchyard and elsewhere. [...] In the course of time, passing by word of mouth from one country singer to another, the song grew shorter, the long-winded narrative pared down till only a swift account of the piracy remained. Perhaps through mishearing, the captain's name was altered first to Andy Bardan and then to Henry Martin. The piece remains one of the most-sung ballads of our time. (Lloyd, England 259)
[1981:] Henry Martin hieß eigentlich John [Andrew!] Barton. Er und seine zwei Brüder hatten Kaperbriefe des englischen Königs Heinrich VIII. [des schottischen Königs James IV!] in der Hand, machten also spanische Beute mit Hilfe eines Schiffes, das sie auf eigene Rechnung und Gefahr ausgerüstet hatten. [...] Die Grenze vom Kaper zum Seeräuber war rasch überschritten. Sobald sich die politischen und militärischen Verhältnisse änderten, waren die Kaper 'brotlos' - es sei denn, daß sie ihre auf Seekrieg ausgerüsteten Schiffe dazu verwandten, nunmehr Beute zu machen, wo immer es ihnen lohnend schien oder noch ein gewisser Schein von Recht aufrechtzuerhalten war. Henry Martin, der Held der alten schottischen Ballade aus dem 16. Jahrhundert (aus derselben Zeit gibt es eine Ballade von dem skrupellosen Kaper Sir Walter Raleigh, der seinen Schiffsjungen ertrinken ließ: The Golden Vanity), machte es nicht anders als andere Freibeuter: Er brachte nicht nur spanische Schiffe auf. Das wurde Heinrich VIII. zu bunt, und er setzte zwei englische Kriegsschiffe ein, um Henry Martins [schottischen!] 'Lion' aus dem Spiel zu nehmen - was ihm auch gelang. Henry Martin endete am Galgen [im Gefecht!] (während Sir Walter Raleigh bei Hof [am englischen Hof!] zu größten Ehren kam) [...].
Erst im Pariser Frieden von 1856 verzichteten die Seemächte auf die alte Form des Kaperkrieges und regelten durch Gesetz, daß nur noch solche Kauffahrteischiffe dem Gegner Schiff und Ladung abjagen durften, die ganz unter das Kommando der Kriegsmarine gestellt wurden. (Scherf 30)