Gentleman Soldier


Jon Describes this as “Just a cheerful ditty really, although actually the story’s not that cheerful since it presumably ends in shame and destitution for the girl. Cheerful tune though.”

It fair romps along this one. I don’t know whether this is the same tune as is noted in this Mudcat thread, where you’ll also see the two common title variants, The Sentry Box and Soldier’s Cloak. You’ll find A.L. Lloyd’s Martin Carthy’s and Steeleye’s versions at Mainly Norfolk although some may well know this by The Pogues. I note Martin’s reference to chauvinism, picking up on the John Blunt theme. I must confess, my curiosity was taken by the almost throwaway line that “two wives are allowed in the Army, but one’s more than enough for me.” That got me wondering and I’m clearly not alone in that respect, with various forum discussions, although nothing definitive on the subject. The suggestions range from the colourful  of the ‘camp followers’ to the more prosaic of the repair kit (needle and thread, etc) issued to conscripts that was nicknamed ‘the soldiers wife.’ There is also the possibility that as a soldier you are simply ‘married’ to the army. If anyone knows more I’m intrigued. On the subject of chauvinism, I read somewhere that Pete Seeger had culled songs on those grounds, with the suggestion that it had a rather drastic affect on his repertoire!! Apocryphal it must be,  as surely the last things you turn to folk for are political correctness and as suggested previously, historical accuracy.



12 Responses to “Gentleman Soldier”

  1. Mike New says:

    Morning all. I will be first on this one. A charming song and tune given the full works by Jon. Of course I have a copy of this song on vinyl (again) by S.Span. Nice one.


  2. Stephen Jeffreys says:

    Great performance. There’s also a storming version by Jack the Lad with an accordion solo by John Kirkpatrick.

  3. the_otter says:

    Great crude fun.

    I love The Pogues’ version – voices and The British Grenadiers and all – and I can remember enjoying The Corrie Folk Trio’s recording too. SS treat the song a little more gently, but I like their accompaniment.

    I always want to join in the chorus of TGS.

  4. Jane Ramsden says:

    This song reminds me of ‘Soldier, soldier, won’t you marry me?’ with its similar theme.

    The second army wife was most probably a camp follower, who performed all the wifely duties and tasks and was euphemistically called a laundress. Her fate might have been shame & destitution , as she would normally have been abandoned when the soldier went back home. Not such a gentle man then!

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  6. Diana says:

    Another cheeky song. Cheerful tune though.

    A great night last night, Jon gave his usual wonderful performance and he sang one of my favourites from “Songs from The Floodplain” which pleased me. Squeezy played magnificently as usual. I trust that you gather it was a terrific evening in Sheffield.

  7. Diana says:

    Jane the mystery is solved. The O2 advert with the bubbles is the one with the ticky-tacky song. I caught it tonight whilst watching the IPL cricket. Thank goodness!

  8. Jane Ramsden says:

    Well done, Diana! I haven’t heard it since I mentioned it. I’d never have remembered.

  9. Diana says:

    Jane I am sure that you find this the same – you go to one item on YouTube and before long all these other names come up and it is endless. Went to look at Traffic and there was Spencer Davis, then following them ended up with another group to look at and so forth. I only allow myself a limited amount of time otherwise nothing would get done.

  10. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Diana: Yup. That’s why I’m on here so often at silly o’ clock!

    Wonderfully well sung, Jon. Quite a hard one to get out clear, crisp and quickly!

  11. Western John says:

    The Jack The Lad version is the best by a mile. John Peel chose it as his 3rd favourite record of 1975. It even borrows the stacked harmony vocals section from Twist and Shout, and in the instrumental break it leaps straight from a squeezebox jig into full-tilt rocking guitar and harmonica. A 24-carat joy.

  12. Western John says:

    Sorry can’t edit – I meant ‘rocking guitar and fiddle’. Listen here

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