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The Roving Journeyman / The Rambling Irishman

[ Roud 360 ; Master title: The Roving Journeyman ; G/D 7:1397 ; Ballad Index MA062 ; Bodleian Roud 360 ; GlosTrad Roud 360 ; Wiltshire 453 ; DT RMBLIRSH ; Mudcat 145998 ; trad.]

Sabine Baring-Gould, Henry Fleetwood Sheppard: Songs of the West Karl Dallas: One Hundred Songs of Toil Gale Huntington: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People James Reeves: The Idiom of the People

John McGettigan sang Rambling Irishman in a 1936 recording made in Philadelphia. It was included in 1979 on the Topic album of classic recordings of Irish traditional music in America, John McGettigan and His Irish Minstrels.

Paddy Doran sang The Roving Journeyman in a recording made by Peter Kennedy in Dan O’Neil’s Loanen, Belfast, in 1952. This was published on the anthology Jack of All Trades (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 3; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968) and was included as The Little Beggarman in 1994 on the Saydisc CD Songs of the Travelling People.

Tom Willett sang The Roving Journeyman, “a song extolling the virtues of the travelling life” in 1962 at the age of 84 as title track of the Willett Family’s album The Roving Journeymen. His son Chris sang it on the same album too. Tom’s version was also included as The Roaming Journeyman in 1998 on the Topic anthology There Is a Man Upon the Farm (The Voice of the People Volume 20). Another version of Tom Willett’s recorded by Peter Kennedy at Paddock Wood, Kent, on 4 September 1963 was included in 2012 on the Topic anthology I’m a Romany Rai (The Voice of the People Volume 22). The original album’s booklet commented:

A fuller version under the same title from the Sharp manuscript collection appears in The Idiom of the People. Baring-Gould’s Songs of the West contains a presumably edited version, and refers to a broadside text.

Mr Willett’s version is obviously somewhat degraded since line 1, verse 3 refers to no previous context, and is obscure. The bottle and glass motif is common, and appears in Irish versions. The song is firmly Irish in origin and usually the text refers to the locality of Carlow. However, the Mixolydian tune used by the Willetts is not the one generally employed for the song in Ireland. The popular Irish singer Delia Murphy recorded a good version for this song on HMV IM747.

We have included Chris Willett’s version of the song so that his style may be directly compared with that of his father. The text here is much abbreviated.

Cyril Tawney sang The Roving Journeyman in 1962 on his HMV EP Baby Lie Easy. All tracks of this EP were included in 2007 on his anthology The Song Goes On.

John Kirkpatrick learned The Roving Journeyman from Tom Willett’s recording. He sang it in 1972 on his Trailer album Jump at the Sun and in 1998 on Brass Monkey’s third album, Sound and Rumour.

Tommy Dempsey sang The Little Beggarman accompanied by John Smith in 1976 on their Trailer album Green Grow the Laurel.

Harry Brazil sang a variant of this song called The Rambling Irishman in a recording made by Mike Yates in 1973-78. This was published in 1979 on the Topic anthology Travellers: Songs, Stories and Tunes From English Gypsies. And Danny Brazil sang The Rambling Irishman in his caravan at Staverton, Gloucester, to Gwilym Davies on 5 May 1978. This recording was included in 2007 on Musical Traditions’ Brazil Family anthology, Down By the Old Riverside.

James Raynard sang The Roaming Journeyman in 2011 on the Woodbine & Ivy Band’s eponymous CD The Woodbine & Ivy Band.

Andy Turner learned The Roving Journeyman from the singing of Tom Willett and Chris Willett too and recorded it as the 28 January 2012 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week. He learned The Rambling Irishman from the Boys of the Lough and sang it as the 21 September 2014 entry of A Folk Song a Week.


Tom Willett sings The Roving Journeyman

I am a roaming journeyman, I roam from town to town,
And when I get a job of work I’m willing to sit down.
With my bundle on my shoulder, with my stick all in my hand,
And it’s round the country I will go, like a roaming journeyman.

Now when I get to Brighton Town, the girls they jump for joy,
Saying one unto the other, “There comes the roaming boy.”
One hands to me the bottle, and the other holds the glass,
And the toast goes round the table, “Here’s good luck to the journeyman.”

I cannot think the reason why my love she looks so sly,
I never had any false heart to any young female kind.
I never had a false heart to any young female kind,
But I always went a-roaming for to leave my girl behind.

John Kirkpatrick sings The Roving Journeyman

I am a roving journeyman and I roam from town to town,
And when I’ve done a job of work I’m willing to sit down.
With my kit all on my shoulder and my grafting tool in hand,
And it’s round the country I will go a roving journeyman.

And when I came to London town the maidens jumped for joy;
Said one unto the other; “Oh here comes a roving boy.”
They treat me to the bottle and they treat me to the can,
And it’s let the toast go round, boys, to the roving journeyman.

Well I had not been in London town the days were scarcely three
Before my master’s daughter she fell in love with me.
She asked me for to dine with her and she took me by the hand,
And she proudly told her mammy that she loved a journeyman.

“Oh get away you foolish maid such folly speak no more;
How can you love a roving man you’ve never seen before?”
“Oh mother sweet I do entreat, I love him all I can,
And it’s round the country I will go with my roving journeyman.”

Danny Brazil sings The Rambling Irishman

Sure I am a bit of an Irishman, and I’ve travelled the country round;
To seek for work in foreign parts, I’ve took it to be a plan.
With me bundle on me shoulder, me shillelagh blackthorn in me hand,
Sure I bless the day as I sailed away as a rambling Irishman.

When I landed in Castlecomerol the girls did jump for joy;
There was one unto the other, “Here comes an Irish boy.”
One treated me with a bottle and the other one with a can,
And the toast went round the table, “Here’s good luck to an Irishman.”

Sure I hadn’t been in Philadelphie, it was scarce likely days, no more;
All for the landlady’s daughter, she fell in love with me.
She asked me if I’d dine with her; she kissed and squoze my hand
And she whispered to her mummy, “Sure, I’m in love with the Irishman.”

“Oh, it’s daughter, dearest daughter, you must be mad I’m sure,
To fall in love with an Irishman you never known before.”
“It’s hold your tongue, dear mother”, she said, “I will do the best I can,
And I mean to ramble the world around with me rambling Irishman.”