> Danny Spooner > Songs > John o’ Grinfilt

John o’ Grinfilt / Jone o’ Grinfield

[ Roud V38524 ; Bodleian 21914 ; trad.]

Danny Spooner sang John o’ Grinfilt on his 2008 CD Brave Bold Boys. He noted:

At the time that this broadside was made conditions in the British Army would have been pretty awful, but for the factory fodder of the Industrial Revolution, the army would have been a blessing. At least they would get fed and clothed and have a bit of money in their pockets. The jingoism of the song only highlights the appalling conditions of many factory workers, and also their susceptibility to the recruiting party that promised the earth until the victim signed up by taking the shilling and kissing the book.

Laura Smyth sang Jone o’ Grinfield in 2014 on her and Ted Kemp’s EP, The Charcoal Black and the Bonny Grey. [The protagonist’s name is written as ‘Joan’ on the album sleeve but corrected on the duo’s website.] They noted:

Jone O’ Grinfield is one of the oldest and most popular surviving Lancashire dialect songs. Writing in 1844, Samuel Bamford stated that the song sold more copies amongst the rural population of Lancashire than any other song known. It concerns a recruit who joins the army during the Napoleonic wars, and is believed to have been written by a contemporary, Joseph Lees, residing in Glodwick near Oldham.

The character Jone is a figure of fun and seen as somewhat backwards and dim-witted. Locals to the Oldham area will know that Greenfield is just over the border into Yorkshire, and we often wonder whether this placement by Lees was intentional!

Laura Smyth also sang Jone o’ Grinfield in 2019 on the album of Pete Coe, Brian Peters and her, The Road to Peterloo. They noted:

Created by Joseph Lees or Glodwick, the humorous character of Jone o’ Grinfield (John of Greenfield) made his first appearance around 1805 in a ballad describing his enlistment as a soldier to fight in Napoleonic Wars. It was so popular in Lancashire that numerous sequels appeared in which John continued his exploits in a variety of topical settings reflecting the concerns of the day. In this episode, set during the depression after the Napoleonic Wars, John complains about living conditions and the lack of work and food. Laura sings it to the original tune, The Chapter of Kings.

Edward II’s Jone o’ Grinfield on their 2016 album Manchester’s Improving Daily is quite another song with just the same title (Roud 937, starting with “I’m a poor cotton weaver”).


Danny Spooner sings John o’ Grinfilt

Said Jone to his wife one hot summer’s day,
“I’m resolved in Grinfilt no longer I’ll stay,
For I’ll goo up to Oudham as fast as I can,
So fare thee weel Grinfilt and fare thee weel Nan;
For a sojer I’ll be and brave Oudham I’ll see
And I’ll have a battle wi’ French.”

“Dear Jone,” said Nan and her bitterly cried,
“Does intend t’ be on foot or dost mean for t’ ride?”
“Odds lass I’ll ride either an ass or a mule,
Ere I’ll cower in Grinfilt as black as the du’el,
Both clamming and starving and never a farthing
Ecod, ’twould mak’ any mon mad.”

“Aye Jone, sin we’ve come into Grinfilt t’dwell,
We’n had mony a bare meal, I can very weel tell.”
“Bare meal, ecod lass that I very weel know,
There’s bin two days this week we’n had nowt t’ate at a’
I’m very near sided, afore I’ll abide it,
And I’ll fight either Spanish or French.”

Then says me Nont Margit, “Ah Jone th’art so ’ot
I’d neer goo t’ Oudham but in England I’d stop.”
“It matters not Madge for t’Oudham I’ll goo,
I’ll not clem t’death less some bugger s’all know;
Fust French I find, I’ll tell him me mind
And he wont feight he can run.”

So down the ould road into Oudham I went;
I asked a recruit if they’d med up their keawnt,
“Nay me honest young lad,” man he talked like a king.
“Go wi’ me through’t street and thee I s’ll bring
T’where if thou art willing, thou shall have the shilling.”
Ecod, I thought that were rare news.

He brought me t’ a place where they measure yer height,
And if thee been length, there’s nowt said about height.
So I stretched me and retched me and never did flinch,
Says he, “Lad th’art me mon to an inch.”
I thought this’ll I’ll have guineas enoo,
Ecod Oudham, brave Oudham for me.

So fare thee weel Grinfilt, a sodjer I’m made
I’ver getten new shoon and a fancy cockade;
I’ll feight for Oud England as hard as I can
Either French, Dutch, or Germans t’me they’s all one.
And I’ll mek ’em to stare like a new started hare
When I’ll tell ’em fe Oudham I’m come.

Laura Smyth sings Jone o’ Grinfield

Said Jone to his wife one hot summer’s day,
“I’m resolved that in Grinfield no longer I’ll stay,
So I’ll go to Oudham as fast as I can,
and it’s fare thee well Grinfield an’ fare thee well Nan,
For a soldier I’ll be, brave Oudham I’ll see,
And I’ll go and have battle wi’ French.”

“Dear John,” said our Nan and too bitterly cried,
“Willst be one on foot or them for to ride?”
“By god, I’ll ride either an ass or a mule,
Than I’ll cower in Grinfield as black as the Dule,
Both clemming and starving with never a farthing
It’s enough to drive any man mad.”

“Aye Jone since we’ve coming to’ Grinfield to dwell,
We’ve had many a bare meal I can very well tell.”
“Bare meal, egod aye! That I very well know,
There’s been two days this week that we’ve had nowt at all,
And I’m very near sided, that before I’ll abide it,
I’ll go and have battle wi’ French.”

So I’ve come down to brew for I lived at the top,
I swore I’d reach Oudham before ere I’d stop,
Egod how they stared when I got to the Mumps,
With my hat in my hand and my clogs full of stumps,
But I very soon told them that I were going to Oudham
And I’d have a battle wi’ French.

So they took me to the place where they’re measuring their height,
And if there’s been height there’s nowt said about weight.
They retched me and stretched me and never did flinch,
Says the man, “I believe that me lad to an inch.”
And I thought this’ll do, I’ll have a new guinea coat,
And it’s! Oudham, brave Oudham for me!

So fare thee well Grinfield, a soldier I’m made,
I’m getting new shoen and a red cockade,
I’ll fight for old England as hard as I can,
Either Dutch, French or Spanish, to me it’s all one,
And I’ll make ’em to stare like a new started hare,
And I’ll tell ’em from Oudham I’ve come.


Thanks to Garry Gillard for transcribing Danny Spooner’s lyrics