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Good Ale Thou Art My Darling

[ Roud 203 ; G/D 3:590 ; Ballad Index K273 ; Bodleian Roud 203 ; Wiltshire 644 ; trad.]

Bob and Ron Copper sang Good Ale in a 1955 recording by Peter Kennedy on the EFDSS LP Traditional Songs from Rottingdean. Bob, Ron and John Copper returned to this song in 1971 on their Leader 4 LP box A Song for Every Season. Their earlier recording was included in 2001 on their Topic CD Come Write Me Down. The booklet notes commented:

Collected by several early collectors across southern England, in Scotland by Gavin Greig, and once in Kentucky, where it is understandably concerned with whiskey rather than ale. Several of Mervyn Plunkett's Sussex singers also knew the song. Oh Good Ale Thou Art My Darling also appeared on broadsides and in songsters, and its popularity is clearly based on its bucolic nature, as the London Methodist (c. 1831) notes it being “sung at convivial assemblies.” It seems also to be the basis of Robert Burns' O Gude Ale Comes, published in the Scots Musical Museum (1803, Vol. VI, No. 542) which is the earliest datable reference, although William Chappell assigns the song to the first half of the eighteenth century on the strength of the tune he published, which is quite different from that of the Coppers. Baring-Gould claims that the song was in the repertoire of the famous clown, Grimaldi (1779-1837), but its history and development is complicated by the fact that it shares several verses with the more widely-known Little Brown Jug, which was written for the minstrel stage about 1869.

Bob Copper and Bob Lewis sang Oh Good Ale at a concert at Nellie’s Folk Club, The Rose and Crown Hotel, Tonbridge, Kent, on 17 October 1999. This concert was released in 2017 on their Musical Traditions CD The Two Bobs' Worth.

Louis Killen recorded Good Ale in 1968 for his 1973 LP Sea Chanteys.

Cyril Tawney sang Oh Good Ale on his 1993 Neptune cassette of songs about drink and drinkers, Down the Hatch.

Magpie Lane sang O Good Ale with Ian Giles in lead in 2000 on their Beautiful Jo CD A Taste of Ale, and their Andy Turner sang it solo as the 25 January 2015 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week. The Magpies commented:

This song was included in Sabine Baring-Gould's English Minstrelsie, published in 1895, but is clearly much older than this. We have omitted one of the more misogynistic verses.

Paul Sartin with Jon Boden, Rob Harbron and Sam Sweeney sang Good Ale in Keble College Student's Bar after the Remnant Kings gig in The O'Reilly Theatre on 14 February 2011:


The Copper Family sing Good Ale

It is of good ale to you I'll sing,
And to good ale I'll always cling.
I like my mug filled to the brim
And I'll drink all you'd like to bring.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Oh Good Ale, thou art my darling,
Thou art my joy both night and morning.

It is you that helps me with my work,
And from a task I'll never shirk
While I can get a good home brew;
And better than one pint, I like two.

I love you in the early morn,
I love you in daylight, dark, or dawn.
And when I'm weary, worn, or spent
I'll turn the tap and ease the vent.

It is you that makes my friends my foes,
It is you that makes me wear old clothes.
But since you come so near my nose
It's up you comes and down you goes.

And if all my friends from Adam's race
Was to meet me here all in this place,
I could part from all without one fear
Before I'd part from my good beer.

And if my wife should me despise,
How soon I'd give her two black eyes.
But if she loved me as I love thee,
What a happy couple we should be.

You have caused me debts and I've often swore
I never would drink strong ale anymore.
But you, for all that, I'll forgive
And I'll drink strong ale as long as I live.


See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Oh Good Ale Thou Art My Darling.