Farmer’s Boy


Jon says “It’s such a classic this one but I’m not sure how widely known it is outside of the traddier end of the folk scene? Will Noble sings this round our way.”

Although it might not be a common song today, it is the regimental song of the Duke Of Edinburg’s who are apparently known as farmers boys. It was also a popular anthem around the formation of the agricultural workers union with its themes of kind hearted good deeds and honest hard work rewarded, but then that was about 150 years or so ago. It seems to be fairly robust in that there is little lyrical variation in the known versions and the use of the tune suggests the songs origins in the first half of C19th. This Mudcat thread has the earliest recorded date of 1845 from the journal of the Elizabeth, would suggest it was widely in circulation by then. You’ll note at Mainly Norfolk there’s an attempt to claim the identity of the farmer’s boy as a Reverend Thomas Smith of Little Leigh in Cheshire, although I haven’t found anything to back this up and would be very interested to hear from anyone with more information and perhaps local knowledge. I’m always intrigued when people try and link folk songs to real people and yopu might like a bit of general debunking courtesy of Mudcat.



22 Responses to “Farmer’s Boy”

  1. Shelley says:

    I think that’s one I know by that strange process known as folkmosis ie I seem to have known it all my life, but don’t know how!

  2. Joan says:

    Farmer’s Boy is one of the songs traditionally sung round the pubs before the Haxey Hood Game in Lincolnshire, and that’s what it reminds me of when I hear it sung anywhere else. It’s slightly different from the version sung by Will (and by most people), but at the moment I can’t remember exactly what the variations are! 🙂

  3. Jo says:

    There have been many songs which I have heard for the first time during this wonderful project but this one I do know from my childhood in Somerset. My father, whose family were all agricultural workers used to sing this to me. Will there be any more of my childhood memories in this last week? Anyway many thanks to Jon and all involved for a great year of learning!

  4. Andrew Smith says:

    A chorus I’ve known for as long as I can remember. But I always associate this song with Fred Jordan. We sang it in his memory at the unveiling of the memorial sculpture in Cecil Sharp House in 2005.

  5. Rich says:

    i remember this tune from your version of o little town! it was awesome

  6. Marlborough Melodeon says:

    The 1st Battalion the Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment were a front line British Army Infantry Regiment in the Order of Battle from 1959 until 1994. Everyone who served in this time from Private Soldier to General were known as “Farmers Boys”.

    Various versions can be heard and read on their website, here:

    Rather poignantly, this was also the last song (before the encore) that the The Yetties sang at their Final Fling Concert on 9th April 2011 after performing together for about 50 years.

  7. Rob says:

    The link with the Revd Thomas Smith is generally accepted. The song has been attributed to his brother-in-law Charles Whitehead (b.1792) who owned the next-door farm. Thomas Smith came to his father’s farm as a boy seeking work and was taken on. He married Whitehead’s sister and inherited the farm. Smith was a Baptist lay-preacher from an early age and later became ordained in the church.

    The tune is ‘Ye Sons of Albion’ composed for the patriotic song of that name in the Napoleonic wars c.1804. ‘The Farmer’s Boy’ dates from about 1830.

  8. Old Muzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Cor -Admin Simon’s notes ref the Agricultural Workers Union reminds me of when I left school and was a trainee Forestry Officer with the Forestry Commission. The other workers left you in no doubt that you should join. the AWU… a spotty Grammar school boy and they ‘hardened woodsmen’..aaarrhh happy days…still got me badge!
    It shows a ploughman & horses.

  9. Diana says:

    Another favourite of mine. A sentimental song it might be but there seems to be a ring of truth in there somewhere.

  10. Linda says:

    Brilliant. New CD today This Is Proper Folk Too!! for £1.99 this is value for money.Super track by Jon and Sam. Also a track from Bellowhead Lillibulero. @Diana if this is anything to go by we’re in for a super night at the Lowry !!!!

  11. Diana says:

    Just got mine this morning Linda. A great collection of songs and artistes. I liked the Thames song – very gentle, and although I have got Lillibulero solo by Jon, it is totally different from the Bellowhead version which you would expect – it being much faster altogether. The Lowry night should be something to remember.

  12. John Bryson says:

    A great song this, with (in my humble opinion) a great rendition by Jon.
    Also, interesting history. I was a guest at a Territorial Army Dinner many moons ago at the Duke of York barracks in Chelsea (not a military man myself). The band struck up after the dinner and suddenly various serving military started to stand – turned out they stood to their own regimental march. The one that stood out for me was Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill (a song I particularly like) which is the regimental march of the Womens Royal Army Corps.
    It particularly impressed me that night the link between traditions and music (does that sound daft?).
    Changing topic, anyone else like me looking forward to the launch of Full English on Thursday?

  13. Jane Ramsden says:

    Helloooo, John! I think the Full English is a fabulous idea and only wish their small tour took in a venue nearer me. *Sigh.*

    On the upside, I did get to see Eliza Carthy for the first time on her Wayward Tour. I was transfixed by her performance, voice and violin, and am now a convert! I can see much in Bellowhead from Mr Boden’s association with her. She has the stage-swaggering fiddle-playing song-style which is such a great source of entertainment!

    Highlights were her opening with ‘I Wish All The Wars Were Over’ – the timbre of her voice, used as the musical instrument it is, fair shivered the old timbers! Sadly, it is not on the Wayward Daughter double CD (which I am coincidentally listening to this very minute!) nor, I think, on any of her other CDs.

    She also sang a song I’ve not heard anyone else sing since I used to sing it at school – ‘Oh, rare Turpin, hero!’ I know he weren’t, but he were a Yorkshireman! I’d forgotten that he was hung as a result of being caught for shooting and killing someone’s chicken in the street! Should have employed the services of a trusty dog! Lol.

    The Wayward Band had a wonderful line-up of musicians (includ. Sam Sweeney, Saul Rose, Lucy Farrell, Beth Porter & Dave Delarre – sorry, I can’t remember all the names) fronted by Jim Moray in the first half. His latest album Skulk, with a fox on the front, is well-worth the listen. I also bought Low Culture, minded as I was that someone on here told me about his rappy ‘Lucy Wan.’ The memory stuck. I am further converted to his voice as well, and his treatment of traditional songs, which are wonderfully-well produced on all albums. Thank you SaltaireLive for bringing them our way!

  14. John Bryson says:

    Hello Jane,
    I’m a steward at the National Forest Folk Festival in Moira, Leicestersire, July 5th to 7th, and among those present will be Bellowhead on 5th, Eliza’s band on 6th, including her dad.
    We’re currently in the throes of preparing to move again, but this time only a mile, the joy of it all!

  15. Linda says:

    @Muzza have replied to your email

  16. Linda says:

    Another good chorus were you singing again Muzza… Diana reading the comments from 2012 oh happy days!

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

    Hi Linda………….Yes……and having a good old sing again today……as with most of the AFSAD repertoire(but not the GRIM ones!)……..
    hey…actually going out to tea with my three rugrats on Father’s day……….must be getting near ‘will time’ and they want to check on the old fella’s health! (only joking)

  18. Linda Bateman says:

    Fabulous – thanks for that, Jon! Great singing and accompaniment. We sang this a few years back years with Cecil Sharp House Choir – Sally Davies did a great multi-voice arrangement and I loved singing it – as the story really flows it’s also quite easy to sing it from memory too. Cheers for now!

  19. Pat Williams says:

    I grew up with my dad and his siblings singing this song, though slightly different words. We hail from Lancashire, from a farming background with Irish ancestry. Lovely to hear it again, as my father died in 2000 aged 89.

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

    Ha……my young uns took me out for Fathers Day again….we went back to the area and houses that they were brought up in….
    wow different from all those years ago but we swapped lots of memories….only downside….I lost my ;Morris umbrella’ that I had for 30 years!!!

  21. John Bryson says:

    I think this is a great version of this song. Particularly poignant for me for Jon to post it on this date.

    My Father, who passed away back in January 1990, was born on this day in 1921. He also was a farmer’s boy, the eldest of six, the farm land going down to the shores of Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland.

    Dad wanted to be a veterinary surgeon. The only university anywhere in Ireland where you could study was, and is, Trinity College Dublin. So that is where Dad was 1940-45. After the war the only veterinary work he could find in Ireland was locum. So, interview done over the phone, Dad arrived in Leicestershire in late October 1945.

    He met my Mum, a farmer’s daughter, and married in March 1954, your’s truly arriving in May 1955.

    Apologies for me going on a bit, but the date and the posting of this song, as I said above, I find poignant.

    Also, with all my geographical comments above, I have lived in the south east but now back in Leicestershire, have been for nearly ten years

  22. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Ref John Bryson……Great to have those memories John…..I reckon your mother’s father was a ‘canny lad’, …….a farmer marrying off his daughter to a VET!.. shrewd move…no vet bills!
    How about changing your tag line to John Bryson (Leicestershire UK) and start a location trend!…..1955 eh…a YOUNG fella….the year I left grammar school…..aaaarrrggghhhh!

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