Jon says, “There’s something very convincing about this song, regardless of how far Lloyd re-wrote it. The mix of industrial and rural imagery is very evocative and quite compelling. I know it from Anne Briggs.”
I’ll agree with that with slight reservations. It’s also interesting to note that Bert’s re-write of this is both extensive and has also been acknowledged for some time. Erring on the generous side, he was economical with his source information and as this Mudcat thread makes clear we know the original author as a Robert Anderson. You can read the original text, complete with its regional inflexion. Note it originally had a totally rural setting and the new recruit was a farm worker rather than miner, which I think leads to a couple of awkward little moments in the lyrics. It’s also very likely that this is a Bert Lloyd tune. I should perhaps make clear that I’m one of the people who have no issues with Bert’s ‘editing’ and ‘adapting.’ I doubt that the true ‘blood-line’ of a song was ever much of a concern with singers until the collectors set about the work of preserving the folk-heritage. The need for authenticity simply came with that as part of the package. In this case the original survives quite independently anyway. Either way, the story works well and I wonder how often this scenario has been played out with the distinct possibility that it will all unravel on the battlefield.