Goodbye, Bessy Ling

Goodbye, Bessy Ling

Good-bye, Bessy Ling, Good-bye  (Click red link to download audio file) By Peter Cave

This is a surprise: sheet music written and published in Ilkeston.

The melody and arrangement was by Amos Buxton, who was, at least before the Great War, a fitter at the Oakwood Colliery. The lyricist was William Noon, who had spent most of his working life as an entrepreneur in the lace trade. He lived in Bennerley Avenue, just round the corner from his factory in Cotmanhay Road.

Although we don’t know when it was written, the song was published in 1920. It’s a standard waltz that harks back to a style that was being overtaken by the newer fashion for popular music coming from America, penned by the likes of Gershwin, Porter and Berlin.

That is not to denigrate the composition. Its chorus-verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, with a short instrumental introduction and breaks, gives more than enough opportunity for the authors to repeat phrases and melody lines. And there’s a hint of a similar tune that’s just out of memory. Playing on the family (or pub) piano could soon establish it as a singalong favourite. Be warned: it’s what today is called an earworm — once it’s in your head it’s difficult to get out.

But what of the third party in this piece. Bessy Ling doesn’t seem to be the sort of name that would pop easily into an author’s mind, but who can tell? Can it be a coincidence that Elizabeth Ling, a silk winder, had lived in Larklands Avenue less than half a mile from Park Drive? In 1920 she would have been 27, while William and Amos were 60 and 40 respectively. We may never know.

One more unanswered question: Did they write any more?

  CHORUS:
Good-bye, Bessy Ling, good-bye; good-bye, Bessy Ling, don’t sigh.
I am leaving you behind, but you’ll always bear in mind.
When I’ve climbed the roll of fame, you’ll find that I’m just the same.
I’ll come back and change your name, good-bye, Bessy Ling, good-bye!

Good-bye, Bessy Ling, good-bye; good-bye, Bessy, dear,
How ever dark and black the skies, and whatever storm arise
I’ll be thinking of the time when I am ever thine
And you are ever mine, good-bye, Bessy Ling, good-bye!
  CHORUS

Good-bye, Bessy Ling, good-bye, love; good-bye, Bessy dear,
When I’m up on the mighty deep and your eyes are sealed in sleep,
Rest assured that I’ll be there, on the wings of love and prayer
And in your dreams I’ll reappear, good-bye, Bessy Ling, good-bye!
  CHORUS

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