—— folk family and jam

Northern Sea

Lord by the Northern sea (The two sisters)

Tom 1966

There was an old Lord by the Northern sea
Bow down, bow down
There was an old Lord by the Northern sea
Bow and balance to me
There was an old lord from the North Country
And he had daughters one-two-three

A young come a courting there
And he did choose the young and the fair

He gave his love a beaver hat
And the ugly sister thought naught of that (?)

Now he gave his love a gay gold ring
And the sister thought 'twas a sinful thing

O sister fair let's we walk out
And go where ships go sailing about.

They walked down by the salty brim
And the mean one pushed the fair one in

Oh sister sister give me your hand
And I will give you my farming land

I'll neither give you hand nor glove
But I will have your own true love

Away she sank as the current run
And into the miller's race she swam

Now the miller said an she'd give him a groat
He'd fish her out by her petticoat

He's robbed her of her gay gold ring
And then he's pushed her in again

Now the miller was hung for what he take
The ugly sister was burned at the stake:


 From Tom obviously.  But the origin is the same as Child's Ballad 10 - The Twa Sisters.  
A similar story is told in for example The miller and the King's daughter - a broadside from 1656.
I've no idea what the chorus means.

Many elements are the same as the other versions.  I don't know why we are introduced to three sisters in the first verse - there are only two in the rest of the song.  In some of the versions the courting young man (who is surprisingly peripheral to the main conflict) courts the elder (ugly) sister, but loves the younger.
It is often the miller's daughter who finds the drowned sister - and does not know if it is a mermaid or a swan she has found.
And in a number of versions a harper comes and makes strings for his instrument from her hair.  And the first tune it plays is Fare well, father; and the second tune is Fare well mother; and the third tune is Woe to my sister Ellen.

As can be heard, these are not studio recordings.  In fact it sounds rather as if Helen (still at junior school then) is doing spelling with someone in the background