Jon says, “I seem to recall that my folk-hating school friends became rather attached to this particular song. I’m not entirely sure why but there’s something slightly Monty Python about the wording and perhaps that’s the appeal. It’s a strange combination of jollity and social comment.”
Jon credits Tim Hart as his source for this, who recorded it with Maddy Prior on their Folk Songs Of Old England Vol. 2 back in 1969. Sadly it’s another of those songs that hasn’t lost its relevance and Martin Carthy gave it a very smart updating with The Imagined Village, bringing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mainly Norfolk covers Tim and Maddy’s version. Wiki turns up an interesting Irish antecedent called Mrs McGrath that has a lot more detail, naming the conflict as fighting the Spanish.
You can buy the January digital album now from all good download stores: