Jon accredits this as “From Barry Dransfield. The tune is very old but this is the best use of it I’ve come across.”

Mainly Norfolk seems to indicate that there are several different ‘nonsense’ chorus variants and this one seems to be Dransfield’s. I’m also intrigued by Bert’s notes about the age and origins of the story. Although I’m wary of accepting it as the actual root, it at least shows a common and widespread tale that crosses different cultures. You’ll note it’s in the Child collection as well and has several alternate title including The Cursed (or Curst) Wife. Mudcat away here as well as there’s plenty more information including a Rabbie Burns version. Is it just coincidence that along with yesterdays, there was a whistling part to this? OK! So, the one yesterday is a modern addition by the Highwaymen and today’s is a much older part based on the idea that whistling summoned the Devil, but spooky none the less. As for the tune – William Of Orange’s marching tune? Flutes, whistles? OOooer!



50 Responses to “Lillibulero”

  1. Jane Ramsden says:

    Another familiar corker! Very well sung, Jon.

    This immediately made me think of ‘The Devil and The Feathery Wife,’ which I know from Maclaine Colston & Saul Rose’s ‘Sand and Soil’ – then I looked at your Mudcat link, Skyman, and saw the song & Martin Carthy version mentioned. Here’s a link to the Colston & Rose rendition:

  2. Jane Ramsden says:

    Of course, I like their track ‘Little Bear/Wobbly Cat/Twin Sisters’:

  3. Reinhard says:

    The Wikipedia entry about Lillybulero has a bit more information about William III, the British Army, and the BBC.

  4. johnone says:

    Another great one to sing along with Jon. BTW who are you going to hand over to? Is it the end of this month you finish?

  5. Gail Duff says:

    I had heard that it was a Royalist song in the Civil War and, yes, somewhere (I think deep in the Voice of the People CDs) I have heard the chorus whistled.

  6. Reinhard says:

    johnone: The project started on June 24 last year, so I’m sure it will run until June 23.

  7. Carla says:

    Also similar is a song called “The Women are Worse than the Men” (they went down to hell and were thrown back again), attributed as Irish in my Hal Leonard songbook.

  8. SRD says:

    I think the Williamite version was in one of the schools singing books (Probably ‘Singing Together’) which is where I first knew it, but it seemed to be popular in all of the schools I attended in the ’60s whether they did the radio singing thing or not. Was it recorded or in a film maybe?
    We recently attended an early English music concert where Purcell’s version was played, virtually the whole audience sat up and smiled in recognition at the tune so it must be an integral part of the memories of people of a certain generation.

  9. Diana says:

    Certainly familiar with the title and also the music, but the words are totally different to the ones I vaguely remember. An improvement I think and rather amusing.

  10. Diana says:

    @Reynard I don’t know if you are interested but if you go to “Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia” and type in Lillibullero, then under lyrics – you will find a far different version of this song. You might be surprised.

  11. Diana says:

    @Reynard I don’t know if you are interested but if you go to”wikipedia, the free encyclopedia” and look under Lillibullero and Lyrics you will find a completely different version. You might be surprised.

  12. Reynard says:

    Thank you, Diana. I didn’t know of this “other” Lillibullero.

  13. Diana says:

    Thank you for your quick updating in your site – a surprise for me that time.

  14. Reynard says:

    You’re welcome, Diana; but this was not the first time that I added some new information on the fly. Just now I found a suitable youtube clip for tomorrow.

  15. Diana says:

    Have just been amusing myself and under the same wiki site and down the list to REME you can actually hear this being sung – it is definitely the same tune but with the original words.

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Diana & Reinhard: Very informative Wiki-link, thankee. I love how many versions there are of this song.

    Eee, it’s quiet on here without Muzza. He’ll enjoy this story when he gets back off holiday!

    Aside from the similarity to ‘The Devil and The Feathery Wife,’ the comeuppence of the Devil and his 2 imps reminded me of the tale of the Lincoln Imp(s):

    Back in the 14th century (a very old story, like this very old song!), Satan sent two little imps out one day to do his evil work. First, the two imps went to Chesterfield and sat on the church spire twisting it. In Chesterfield, you can still see the crooked spire.

    After vandalising Chesterfield’s spire, the two imps headed east to Lincoln Cathedral. Upon their arrival, they did as Satan had instructed them, causing as much mayhem as possible. They began by tripping up the Bishop and then went on to smash all the tables and chairs. It was whilst they were in the process of destroying the Angel Choir that an angel appeared and told them to stop. One of the imps was braver than the other, so he flew to sit on a stone pillar and began to throw heavy objects at the angel. (One version says he made to pull out the angel’s feathers – shades of the feathery wife!) His punishment for his bad behaviour and defiance was to be quickly turned to stone by the angel, leaving the imp sitting forever on the pillar. (He’s still grinning, ‘cos it happened so quickly!)

    Whilst this was happening, the other imp was hiding amongst the broken tables, hoping the angel would not see him. The angel gave, or the second imp took his chance to escape and hitched a lift on a passing witch’s broomstick! But he wasn’t as safe as he thought. In exchange for his safe passage from the Cathedral, the lonely witch turned him into a black cat for companionship. That is why all witches are portrayed with a black cat on their broomstick. (Now I would know that, wouldn’t I?!!)

    Since the Lincoln Imp was associated with the Devil, many people believed he was bad luck. The Imp’s royal connections may have helped turn that view around. In 1928 the then Prince Of Wales, later King Edward VIII, was presented with a Lincoln Imp tie pin. The following year his gelding won The Grand National, whilst his colt won The Epsom Derby. The story is now recognised as a triumph of good over evil, which view may be ascribed to some of the versions of ‘Lillibulero’…. or indeed, many other folk songs… hahahahaha!

  17. Diana says:

    @Jane love this tale, can just seeing it happening in my mind’s eye. I did a little detecting (shades of Sherlock) re: the other version of Lillibullero. I just knew that this version by Jon wasn’t how I seemed to recall it. Couldn’t tell you anything about it except it didn’t seem to have the correct words. Gut instinct I suppose.

    I hope Muzza has had some decent weather and we certainly miss him don’t we Jane?
    He will probably be back next week to wind us up again.

  18. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Diana: Does the Imp remind you of anybody?

  19. Diana says:

    @ Jane: yes now that you mention it. Let me see, what was his name again? It is on the tip of my tongue.

  20. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Diana: Or look what I found… Someone we know should get a pair, rather than just the one. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  21. Diana says:

    @ Jane: that is GREAT. I expect another person might appreciate that – he also seemed to be fond of that particular word. So now we have an M and possibly a R. What say you?

  22. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Diana: Oh, M to both, without a doubt! I could not believe it when I found the holy sock (lol) with said imp. I had a better photo, but the link would not post, so I suspect caught by the spammy filter.

  23. Diana says:

    @ Jane; Just to confuse the issue for some, those blessed socks could be called holy, wholly or even holey ones. These words keep cropping up with several meanings. 😀

  24. Grumpy Imp(Lincolnshire Cath) says:

    Stone me…or perhaps..”sock it to me baby”…..incriminating photo on FB
    Now that’s an end to it…….let’s get back to Folkin’

  25. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: This is what happens if you go away for a while… we get a little impish…

  26. Grumpy Imp(Lincolnshire Cathedral) says:

    @Jane…what a star you are…didn’t think for a moment that you would trawl back this far.but you did……..what am I going to do when we get to 22nd June!!!!!

  27. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: Dunno… but I’ll bend my impish mind to it!

  28. Diana says:

    Love this version!

  29. Linda says:

    prefer the Bellowhead version but like this one as well

  30. Diana says:

    Not quite one expects it is?

  31. Linda says:

    @Muzza 36 hours have passed and now you have company…….I once managed a version of this on the accordion ..more practice needed but hey at least I tried something else to blame on AFSAD….all good I hasten to add….

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

    Hi Lindy Lou…..I now await, with bated breath, your Lillibulero YOUTUBE debut on that accordion

  33. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Linda…my bated breath is stretched to breaking point…..still waiting for you to post your accordion debut on Youtube

  34. Linda says:

    Sorry Muzza need to get back to the accordion at the moment it is hibernating….

  35. Linda says:

    No Muzza still hibernating ……..

  36. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.U) says:

    Ha… beat me to it….I was going to harass you again…..come on….you can do

  37. Linda says:

    What no harassment this year ….make a belting car sing song with the Bellowhead version

  38. Sally Christina Watts says:

    I am Sussex born and bred and have known this version all my life, but only heard one other recording apart from this.

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

    LINDA…….accordion…..your version…..come on!

  40. Linda says:

    No Muzza sorry

  41. Old Muzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Lindy Lou…..even if you don’t venture to Youtube….get it down from the loft and give it a go…you’ll not regret it…..despite leaving Yateley morris men back in 2013….I still play my melodeon every day….keeps you young…..and the way I play…ensures social distancing as far as earshot!

  42. Linda says:

    Your right about social distancing last time I tried it somebody came home from the then open pub and said you can hear that at the other end of the street……..

  43. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Lindy Lou…….I’m an old man and running out of years…..desperate to hear you on Youtube with Lillibulero and accordion……..aaaaarrrgh

  44. Linda says:

    Sorry Muzza no progress …..

  45. Linda says:

    No Muzza still no progress…… seems there was a lot of discussion between Jane and Diana reading back through the comments still prefer the Bellowhead version ..

  46. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Awwwwww come on Lindy LOu….at least reassure me that you still have the accordion and that you do give it a go now and again and (out of earshot of the now closed pub at the end of the street)

  47. Linda says:

    Can confirm still have accordian…… well out of ear shot of pub as have moved across country to Lincolnshire nothing to do with the accordion……… Good concert Friday night Sam Sweeney at Gainsborough…….

  48. OldMuzza(NWSurreyUK) says:

    We want Lindy…we want accordion & lindy Lou version on Youtube

  49. OldMuzza(NWSurreyUK) says:

    Blimey….just dipped in to Mainly Norfolk and …wow…..there’s a few hours reading there!….and with all those versions you can take your pick of choruses…from Jon’s “bulenoraaa”…to a variety of fol de rols and titty fi do’s!

  50. John Bryson says:

    Hello Muzza,

    If you look at the article ‘Fantastic Night at Stoke Lane’ there’s 2 interviews further down the article. Our Chairman Mick does a bit of drip feeding the articles 😀👍

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