London Waterman


Jon introduces this somewhat enigmatically with, “This is worth learning in case you find yourself on a midnight punting expedition in need of an appropriate song (as happened to me once.) Ian Giles sings the Dibdin original – I think I prefer this version though which has gone through the folk-process.” Ian is a member of The Oxford Waits and we can be precise about the origins of this, originally titled The Jolly Young Waterman as it was written by Dibdin for his ballad opera The Waterman (also known by the name My Poll And My Partner Joe), which was first performed at Haymarket Theatre in 1774. Dibdin was an actor, musician, dramatist, composer and author and this was written during a successful tenure at Drury Lane. He seems to be have led a somewhat colourful life and you can read the details on Wiki here. This song is one of several Dibdin  references in Dickens appearing in The Pickwick Papers.

You can buy the September digital album now from all good download stores:


22 Responses to “London Waterman”

  1. Lovely song, first time on this site, think I have missed some good old tunes.

    will be listening to moz

    All The Very best,

    Tony “For Ocean Loving Kites”

  2. There are some recordings of the London Waterman through the folk-process: barge skipper Bob Roberts on Songs from the Sailing Barges (1978), Peter Bellamy on Songs an’ Rummy Conjurin’ Tricks (1991) and June Tabor on the Ashley Hutchings anthology Burning Bright. The latter is from the Radio Trent recording of an Albion Band show from the late 1970s, The Albion River Hymn: A Celebration of the River Thames.

  3. muzza says:

    I like this one………………….and hey……………..nobody died.

  4. Not come across this one before – a delight – and no cross dressing or May mornings

  5. Jane Ramsden says:

    Lovely! Not heard it before either, but a warming tale of virtue being its own reward with the good deed leading to an even better life. What could be nicer? And great musical accompaniment on this one too.

  6. […] London Waterman « A Folk Song A Day […]

  7. Jo Breeze says:

    More about The London Waterman from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society.
    There is one record of The London Waterman in the Library, sung by Bob Roberts on the 1977 Topic album Songs from the Sailing Barges.
    We used the Roud number to cross reference against different titles for the song. When searched on Roud No. 1186, there are 26 versions, many known as The Jolly Waterman and appearing in a number of broadside collections.
    If you wish to see more detail on each record, change the ‘output’ to ‘record’ and press ‘submit query’.
    There are no records of the song in the Take 6 collection.
    We use the Roud index and the Take 6 online collections in the search for information on Jon’s selections.
    For more information, or to carry out your own search for songs, please visit
    If you need any help accessing the library online or have any questions, please contact the VWML on 020 7485 2206 or

  8. Simon says:

    Sorry folks been really busy and then rather unwell over the weekend so I fell a bit behind with the resceduling.

  9. Diana says:

    Hope you are feeling better now Simon. Thought we had lost you after there weren’t any songs over the weekend. Glad you are still here.

    The song is very jolly – did enjoy listening to it.

  10. Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    I worked in Faringdon near Blackfriars in the 70s and I’d love to have a time machine to whisk me back (briefly)to the period refered to in the song.
    I can’t let that Admin Simon have all the sympathy and attention(hope you are fully recovered Si!)…..
    I became a mystery shopper for the NHS last thursday and to do that I had to have a heart attack at 5pm and surgery on the friday. They passed with flying colours and sent me home Saturday and told me to take it easy-ha- I am the king of ‘Take it easy!’……….
    Diana…No need to comment me dear……I’ll be very presumptious and cheeky and use your comment above and just change the name from Simon to Muzza!

  11. Diana says:

    Hope YOU are feeling better Muzza my love. You had me quite worried there. I had to re-read your comments to make sure that I had got the right message.

  12. Jane Ramsden says:

    Commiserations, Skyman, but nice to have ye back!

    OMG, Muzza! Nice to have you here at all, and stop scaring me like that! I will email you separately with latest news, but just wanted to acknowledge your update here and show I am also still around (despite traumas Diana knows about, but I can’t write on here as not appropriate. People-related, but not folk-related, if you get my drift?! Lol!)

  13. Jane Ramsden says:

    PS I have finally found out Where She/McDooley Got It/The Brick… not half so exciting as all that, but all will be revealed… later…

  14. Phil says:

    I did this yonks ago, back in the early days of the (now nearly completed) 52 Folk Songs project. I wasn’t doing accompaniment back then, but I ran it together with a tune that seemed to go with it:

    London Waterman / Constant Billy

  15. Old Muzza(NW Surrey.UK says:

    Was that really three years ago that I had the heart attack………tempus fugits and all that

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

    Still here and still clinging to the wreckage for the moment

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

    The old heart still pounding along!

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

    Well I’ve made 80……all downhill from now on !

  19. OldMuuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Hey….still clinging to the wreckage…and sneaking a peek a day early,….cheeky eh!
    I am hoping the old Corvid 19 wont get me this year…..thank goodness I have AFSAD to keep me going!

  20. John Bryson says:

    A lovely song – Muzza, to sort of paraphrase a Fairport Convention song, where does the time go?

  21. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Well waaddya know….I’m still clinging to the wreckage….and would you believe that somebody found that my ancestors were ‘Boatmen’ from Bristol….sooooo I’d better learn this song!
    (cor blimey ain’t it cold for September…not seen the sun darn souf for quite a time …just overcast, cloudy days.
    This same period in 1959 it was scorching…folk fainted (from the heat) at my wedding on 12th!

  22. Linda says:

    Think this would suit a Muzza rendition !!!!!

Your Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /customers/a/0/f/ on line 121