I Wish that the Wars were all over


Picking this song up from Roy Harris (the East Midlander rather than the American composer!!), Jon once again adds a concertina to this song which, as he points out is, “A sentiment that is unlikely to be anything other than current and timeless unfortunately.” Roy was born in 1933 and did National service after WWII as well as serving in the RAF in the 50s. You can find Roy’s version on the Fellside CD The Rambling Soldier, where it’s described as a “heartfelt longing for peace.” His affinity is clearly with the rank and file experience down the ages and he highlights the natural ambivalence present in their songs and stories. The notes in the CD point to the first line of the chorus “Oh, I wish that the wars were all over,” as appearing on many popular prints in the late 18th Century. The reference to Flanders dates this either to the Seven Years War of 1756-63 or to a later conflict in 1793. There’s an interesting Mudcat thread here that has a few alternatives lyrically, although your have to scroll down the thread to get to version Jon is singing.

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28 Responses to “I Wish that the Wars were all over”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Griffiths. Andy Griffiths said: I Wish that the Wars were all over http://bit.ly/cme3fK via @AddToAny one of the better ones since Jon Boden started this project […]

  2. Sally Henderson says:

    Loving these songs, feel utterly spoilt – this has to be the best one so far – thank you!

  3. Nick Hallam says:

    More about I wish that the wars were all over from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

    On checking the online Library Index there are two records of the song.

    The one to which we believe Jon is referring was collected by Sabine Baring Gould in 1893 from Mary Tavy in Devon.

    By searching on the Roud number a further 10 versions of the song can be found including a number from Ireland. Most have a similar title such as I Would That The Wars Were All Over, however it is also known as ‘Twas Down in the Meadows in Joyce’s, Old Irish Folk Music & Songs.


    If you wish to see more detail on each record, change the ‘output’ to ‘record’ and press ‘submit query’.

    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 http://www.efdss.org/front/access-the-library-online/access-the-library-online/115

    If you need any help accessing the library online or have any questions, please contact the VWML on 020 7485 2206 or library@efdss.org.

  4. Julia Taylor says:

    This gives, apart from the heartfelt message, an excellent example of Jon Boden’s trilling. To my ear, as pitch perfect as anything that Craig David can do!

  5. behzod says:

    it was very interesting to read.
    I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

  6. Elly says:

    I agree with Sally – these are all marvellous, but this is the best yet. And yes, sadly it’s still timely over 200 years later… :-/

  7. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    How did I miss this lovely song the first time through!!!!!!…….and I usually click straight on “Mainly Norfolk” to see the words as Jon sings……….Reinhard hadn’t appeared at this point.

  8. jonathan says:

    It hasn’t stopped, probably won’t, and we’ve all been affected by it. Also interesting to hear how lots of the ideas crossed the Atlantic check out Tim Eriksen who also appears later in AFSAD as a source.


    It’s really good to be able to catch up on the earlier postings, thanks.

  9. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Jon: Thnx for the repeat performance, now safely stowed in my pc!

    @ Jonathan: Thanks for the YouTube link. Tim Eriksen gives the song an almost medieval feel with the capo on the 7th fret. If the modern medieval acoustic guitar sound appeals, check out neighbouring YouTube videos of Frédéric Mesnier – Lord of the Strings as one commentator puts it!


    @ Muzza: I sent a return message to your LambWatch comment on YouTube, but not sure if you received/have seen it. I have not had a notification yet about your latest ‘stage production,’ but will check it out!

  10. Reinhard says:

    Thank you muzza! “hadn’t appeared” depends on the context, though 😉 Simon H. hadn’t found my site at this time yet but it is more than a decade old and still growing. If I remember correctly, it started with the Steeleye Span discography in about 1996, and now it comprises about 2200 albums and nearly 2500 songs or tunes in about 4000 text files and 14500 files total.

  11. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    @Simon..thanks for that…….as you so rightly said…I crave a link to Mainly Norfolk……….it makes all the difference to read as you listen (Ok ..I confess-
    I (sometimes)read to the end quickly to see who did it!)

  12. nev perry says:

    Looking through all the previous songs on the site I must have missed this one first off, glad that I’ve ‘found’ it though. The sentiment expressed is so lovely but very sad. The real essence of this song has been truly brought out by the singer. I take my hat off to you my good man, I dont know how you do it!

  13. Sumon Khan Personal Blog…

    […]I Wish that the Wars were all over « A Folk Song A Day[…]…

  14. Phil says:

    Here’s my version of this song, also recorded with concertina – which I’d never even touched the last time this came round! Thanks, Jon, for an inspiring example.

    I would that the wars were all done

  15. Diana says:

    This is wishful thinking I am afraid – there are so many wars going on at present I see no end to war. Jon’s singing is up to scratch though and the sentiments do come through in his voice.

    I rather think that Reinhard would prefer us to go back to his given name as he has now dropped Reynard from his Mainly Norfolk site which he has used for so many months.

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    Bit plaintive that one. A good high note in there though. Wondering if ye ever took singing lessons, Jon? Not that the natural talent isn’t shining through!

    I see we have Jon’s intro and ending tacked onto each song now. I’ve got that on every one in my Windows Media ‘cos did not ‘collect’ first time round. Songs sound just as fine though!

  17. Linda says:

    Made in the Great War, Sam Sweeney was on Radio 3 In tune, July 1st, worth a listen,looking forward to September

  18. John Bryson says:

    Hello Linda,

    I’m seeing Sam at The Stables, Wavendon, in September. I heard the background a few months ago. Sam and I are old boys of the same school (some years apart!) and I heard about the theme of the concerts from there.

  19. seo says:

    Hello Web Admin, I noticed that your On-Page SEO is is missing a few factors, for one you do not use all three H tags in your post, also I notice that you are not using bold or italics properly in your SEO optimization. On-Page SEO means more now than ever since the new Google update: Panda. No longer are backlinks and simply pinging or sending out a RSS feed the key to getting Google PageRank or Alexa Rankings, You now NEED On-Page SEO. So what is good On-Page SEO?First your keyword must appear in the title.Then it must appear in the URL.You have to optimize your keyword and make sure that it has a nice keyword density of 3-5% in your article with relevant LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing). Then you should spread all H1,H2,H3 tags in your article.Your Keyword should appear in your first paragraph and in the last sentence of the page. You should have relevant usage of Bold and italics of your keyword.There should be one internal link to a page on your blog and you should have one image with an alt tag that has your keyword….wait there’s even more Now what if i told you there was a simple WordPress plugin that does all the On-Page SEO, and automatically for you? That’s right AUTOMATICALLY, just watch this 4minute video for more information at. Seo Plugin

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

    Wow…..ref Seo’s comments above…………I’m sure Admin Simon and Techie Ben knew all that…he lost me in the second line!

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

    This is Simon’s link from above that takes you to Reinhard’s Mainly Norfolk and the words

    Muzza this is what you crave.

  22. Linda says:

    John ref comment 2014 Sam has a solo CD coming out The Unfinished Violin looking forward to hearing it……..also Jon has a tour in March 2019 Jon and the Remnant Strings ticket ordered …..

  23. John Bryson says:

    Thanks Linda,

    My Wife Jane and I saw Jon on his solo tour in April – a super night

  24. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Ref the missing links above (i.e. this is what you crave Muzza)
    Well….see below the link to the magnificent Folk song site ‘Mainly Norfolk’ to which the comments refer.
    Reinhard’s incredible song index lists more songs than you could shake a stick at…click on a song and you’ll find all about it.


  25. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Hey…Jane (Maryland)..just seen tv programme (Aerial America )all about your neck of the woods…Phew…you have a bit of conflict history there…and interesting to find that’s from whence the ‘Star spangled banner’ evolved and was adopted as the National anthem 1931

  26. Jane (Maryland) says:

    Hey Muzza! We weren’t aware of Aerial America, but it appears we can get it on our TV. We’ll take a look. Yes, besides the Battle of Baltimore (the one with the Banner) in 1814, there was a good deal of conflict in Maryland during our Civil War. The song for July 3 would be an appropriate soundtrack.

  27. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Hey Jane Maryland…..glad you picked up on Aerial America…fascinating series…
    Ref your home….wow…so much water….creeks and islands.. webbed feet would be an asset!

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