The Making of The Promise: The Tale Of Eliza Gray

The Tale of Eliza Gray


'I'll tell you the tale of Eliza Gray,

She died, she died this very day.' 

Well, I could go on and on about this song. (Don't worry, I won't... well, I might!) I have so much to say about it. It's actually one of my personal favourites on the album. I wrote it in the car travelling back home to Anglesey one day. I had a three hour car journey ahead of me and I often sing and play around with lyrics in the car. Sadly though, most of the ideas never get recorded as I'm driving! This time though I liked the idea so much I just sang it and sang it until I got to a services and pulled in. I then recorded it quickly on my phone. I played it to Neil in the studio and he really liked it too. 

Listen to The Tale of Eliza Gray


Again, as with The Lady, the narrative drove the piece in terms of tempo and feel. However, unlike The Lady, in The Tale of Eliza Gray there is no 'happy' ending for our heroine. The Lady uses mythological tropes (more on this in upcoming The Lady blog) and is fantasy based. The Tale of Eliza Gray is based on a more traditional folk narrative and explores themes of women viewed as property and object; a legacy from the feudal system1. I am deeply interested in the history of the control of female sexuality and its usage/representation in literature, art and religion, particularly in folklore and fairy tales. (I told you I could go on and on…..)

If you'd like to explore these themes further, I've put some links at the bottom of the page. 

(Bluebeard, Eve, Mary, The feudal system) wildness/witchcraft/sexual misconduct

For visual inspiration I looked to Gone to Earth, a 1950 Powell/Pressberger film set in 19th century England and starring Jennifer Jones. Jones plays a wild young girl who catches the eye of the local rich landowner. In terms of appearance my Eliza looks very like Jennifer Jones in this film. Do check it out if you get a chance, it's a corker! 

The Music 

Again, as with The Gypsy and The Lady, I needed to tell the story from start to finish in as few verses as possible. It proved pretty impossible to fit it into just three, so we made the decision to sing two verses consecutively, so that the song wouldn't be ridiculously long. Then Neil set to work writing counter melodies, arranging it, adding instruments and weaving his musical magic around what was essentially a very simple melodic idea. Folk songs generally are! (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!)


Ooh..we've gone off-piste with the middle 8! 

The 'middle 8' was originally quite a lively instrumental with a lovely accordion melody, which actually sounded jolly nice. It would have been perfect except for the fact that it came straight after verse three, in which Eliza is attacked by the squire in the field. Listening to it over and over, Neil and I felt it just wasn't working because it jarred so much with the storyline. So we decided to be a bit radical and completely alter the feel of the middle section so that it musically supported the narrative. In effect, we attempted to create a marriage of form and content2, so to speak. Crikey...I've come over all academic. I know!…..posh eh? 

‘He took her soul that very day.’ 

So, as Eliza had just been brutally raped and she was lying 'all but dead', we wanted to create a kind of surreal out of body experience for her. We did this by layering ethereal vocals, almost dissonant, over a low chant which symbolises Eliza's 'earthly anger' forcing her back to life! A rhythmic build-up and then a key change following the middle were added to reinforce Eliza's fight back that we witness in the second part of the song! 

‘She killed him for his wicked ways.’

In the final chorus, we dropped everything out very briefly, except for the block vocals, as we wanted there to be a sort of 'shock' musical hiatus at the end when Eliza is hanged.

I vividly remember my mum's reaction when she first listened to this song. She had earphones in so I couldn't hear the music, then all of a sudden my mum shouted, 'oh no, they hung her!'. 

'They hung her high.'

Inevitably, Eliza is executed for her crime. Had she not killed the squire, he would have carried on taking his ‘pleasure’ with any ‘wench’ that took his fancy.  In essence, Eliza sacrifices herself, so that this did not happen again to someone else. 


The Tale of Eliza Gra

 By Caitlin Grey/Neil Harvey

1. I’ll tell you the tale of Eliza Gray

She died, she died this very day

A story so sad, ‘tis a tale of dark revenge and death and sorrow

Oh, Eliza Gray, she died, she died this very day

Oh, Eliza Gray, she died, she died today


2. ‘Twas two hundred years ago this day

There lived a fair young maiden

Her eyes were as green as an emerald sea

With hair as black as raven. 

Oh, Eliza Gray, she died, she died this very day

Oh, Eliza Gray, she died, she died today


3. Eliza would run like a wild young mare 

In the fields beyond the town

When a squire came upon her, strong and cruel

With a mind to pin her down.

Oh, Eliza Gray, he took her soul this very day

Oh, Eliza Gray was all but dead that day



 Oh Eliza, oh Eliza Gray

Oh Eliza, oh Eliza Gray

(He took her soul and ruined her, oh poor Eliza Gray)


4. Eliza now burned with a hatred strong

Consumed by a murderous thought

A dagger she took to the squire one night

For to plunge straight to his heart.

Oh, Eliza Gray, she killed him for his wicked ways

Oh, Eliza Gray, they hung her high

Oh, Eliza Gray, she died, she died this very day

Oh, Eliza Gray, she died, she died today



Gone to Earth starring Jennifer Jones 1950 Dirs. Powell & Pressberger

The Gypsy from the album The Promise by Caitlin Grey Copyright Harvey/Grey 2014 

The Lady from the album The Promise by Caitlin Grey Copyright Harvey/Grey 2014 

The Romany from the album Siren's Song by Caitlin Grey Copyright Harvey/Grey 2008 

Links to further reading.

Binary opposition in Bizet's Carmen:


1The feudal system introduced by William the Conqueror.

2A marriage of form and content – the relationship between the content of a song/poem/painting etc. and the form that the piece takes.

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