Cob A Coalin


A suitable song to greet Bonfire Night, with Jon’s best wishes as he says, “Happy Bonfire Night! Fire on the common for me. No Guy though – that always freaked me out as a kid.” I can’t help but agree with the sentiment there as the burning of the Guy always seemed to be a little gruesome to me. These days of course it’s all organized displays, apart for the Herberts who’ll be letting them off at random for the next month as the unsold stock is discounted down! Mind you there’s generally more to these traditions that we are told as kids and this Mainly Norfolk link to the Watersons has sleeve notes that make the link to older traditions. Wiki here for more on Bonfire Night itself. Enjoy the festivities  and stay safe.


26 Responses to “Cob A Coalin”

  1. Simon says:

    Sorry folks another slip on the scheduling. Forgive me, I forgot to press the button!! Hopefully you’ll all catch up with this in time to prepare for your firewoks, bonfires, jacket spuds and so forth…

  2. Ellie May says:

    Great to have songs that celebrate British traditions, didn’t know this one will try and pass it on.

  3. Roberto says:

    I was worried becuase Santa Claus was not coming…

  4. Phil says:

    Fantastic stuff – good on you, Jon.

    If you delve on Mudcat you’ll find there’s a certain amount of controversy about the ancient roots of this song – there are those who say that Harry Boardman thought Oldham ought to have its own pace-egging song, and not being able to find one put this together instead. However that may be, I do remember a 20-something colleague from Oldham, in the insurance company where I used to work, referring to this song as if it was something everybody knew; this would have been about twenty years ago, meaning that it must have been current in the 80s at the latest. On the other hand, everyone might just have got it off their well-worn copies of Deep Lancashire

    Simon – your scheduling seems decidedly wonky, as I’m now getting folk songs from the future! You know the day after tomorrow? Not a folk song. (Tomorrow’s is ace, though.)

  5. Phil says:

    Oops – I meant “in the 80s if not later”, not “at the latest”.

  6. Neil says:

    Has anyone else noticed that the weekend’s tunes are up already?

    Proper good they are too.

  7. Jan says:

    I was hoping this would appear today! There was a version of it being sung at Filey Folk Club (Yorkshire) in the 80’s that I’ve racked my brains trying to remember and been unable to find anywhere else. It was more like the pace-egging songs with the ‘cob-a-coaling’ chorus and didn’t have the ‘my father is dead’ section that the Watersons do. One verse I do remember:-
    Way down in yon cellar there’s plenty of bugs
    They’ll jump in your pockets and out of your lugs
    we’ll get a sharp knif and we’ll cut their heads off
    And we’ll have a good supper of bug’s heads and broth!
    If anyone can add to this I’d be most grateful.

  8. oaktree says:

    @ Phil

    There seem to be three older origins given in this mudcat thread:

  9. Phil says:

    Yes and no – the song’s certainly old, but the “pace-egging” verses (“Now the next to come in…”) only seem to arrive in Harry Boardman’s version.

  10. Phil says:

    PS In my experience the song’s not complete without half the room singing “…for a Bonfire Night” and correcting themselves to “Neet”, and the other half singing “for a Bonfire Neet” and correcting to “Night”. Hard to do that with a solo voice, admittedly.

  11. SRD says:

    A new slant on wassailing. Interesting tune to the chorus; I know it as a children’s play song – Poor Jenny is a-Weeping. Shostakovich uses it in two or three of his works; apparently he picked it up from a fellow composer who was studying British children’s songs at the Conservatoire where they both taught.

  12. Jane Ramsden says:

    Rousing! Well-sung, Jon! Full of interesting stuff too, both light and dark sentiments.

    Now, ‘my father is dead’ immediately made me think of my own – who is dead. Although seriously ill, he was making plot toffee as he always did on 5 Nov, but died 5 days later on the 10th – which happens to be today, and happens to be my birthday. (I am playing catch-up here on AFSAD due to BT Total BroadBand totally failing for 6 days and leaving me with no internet access.)

    So a powerful little song. If we can all make sweet things 5 days afore we ‘go,’ in celebration of a part of the English folk calendar, we won’t have done too badly!

  13. Diana says:

    Great song. I also hate the burning of a guy and am fed up of fireworks going off for days or rather nights. Have already had a couple of evenings disturbed by them so now have to put up with them yet again probably for a few more nights as well. I always enjoy the organised displays though.

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  15. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    @Diana………when did ”Fed up of’ creep into the English Language……It should be “Fed up WITH’ (yes-they even say ‘bored of rather than ‘bored with’
    I’m standing by for the deluge of comments saying the language MUST evolve..sigh…..
    Take me out and shoot me NOW!

  16. Diana says:

    @Muzza: Don’t you dare take me to task you rapscallion you. I am allowed to make the odd grammatical error from time to time and it is not so very often.

    Love the song – very appropriate and jolly and well sung by Jon.

    Pick holes in that Muzza!

  17. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    @Diana…………Oh princess of the North…….may a thousand apostrophes rain down upon my head, may my vowels be tortured and murdered, may my accent be esturyied, may my hair and teeth fall out (oh- too late for that bit!) before I get bored of pulling your fair leg…..and may I soon stop digging the hole that you want me to pick holes in!……………Love the song – very appropriate and jolly well sung by Jon.

  18. Jane Ramsden says:

    Princess of the North? Ahem… haven’t we forgotten another princess not a million miles away? Shall I buy you a second spade, Muzzy? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (from Queen Jane…Approximately)

  19. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    OOOOoher Diana….I have just sent you an a[pology but the system says it can’t take it!….I wonder if I’m being moderated……I only said nice things!

  20. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    @Janey………….Queen……….Phew…….You have put your finger on it!…I just sent my latest OOOher Diana and the first apology miraculously appears…pass the spade!

  21. Diana says:

    All is forgiven Muzza dear – I knew you were just joking and I intended joking back = perhaps it did not come across as I intended. Never mind all is well. Oh dear now you have put Janey’s nose out of joint with your Princess comment. See you cannot hide from us fair damsels.

  22. Old Muzza(NW Surrey.UK says:

    I bet the two fair damsels of the north are busy protecting cats/donkeys from the whizz bangs this very day……… where is that box of matches and box of rockets

  23. Pamela Holmes says:

    My Mum taught me a version of this song when I was a child, about 65 years ago. As of a previous comment we had a verse about cutting bugs heads of and making soup. One bit I remember is ‘up a ladder down a ladder hit him in the eye, hang him on a lamppost and there let him die. A pound of cheese to choke him, a pint of ale to wash it down Guy, guy guy.’ Also knocking sound then sing Who’s that knocking at the door? Why it’s little Mary Ellen with a candle in her hand and she’s going down the cellar for some coal’ then the bit about bugs. I have made sure my children know the song so it isn’t lost.

  24. Yes location for collection and singing was always Lancashire and Night therefore should be Neet ~ Harry Boardman popularisation and Watersons would have Neet too

    Brian Peters put me right Cob a Coaling ~I think said it was asking for a great big lump of coal to keep the bonfire going? Of course miners had “home coal” and it was delivered “loose” and a number of big lumps would be among the ton ~ not a Yorkshire tradition as far as I know


  25. OldMuzza (NWSurrey UK) says:

    Bearing in mind that this is the 5th….sorry to deviate from the song….but Not a lot of people know this……….misguided though he was with his part in the plan to blow up Parliament……he, thankfully, committed suicide by jumping from the gallows prior to suffering the fate of his fellow conspirators of being hung, drawn and quartered.
    a good move I would say!

  26. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Oh dear…….poor old Guy……Blimey guvnor….didn’t our forebears dish out some horrendous punishments for misdemeanours! …..steal a loaf of bread at your peril!

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