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Peter's Private Army

[Martin Graebe]

Martin Graebe wrote Peter's Private Army in 1972. He noted (PDF document):

At one point in my career my interest in historical oddities and my professional life as a developer of new food products came together when I was working on Ambrosia ‘Traditional Rice Pudding’. In establishing the background for that product I used information on the retail market in milk products in the middle of the last century from Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor. This book also gave me the ideas for a couple of songs, one of which was Peter’s Private Army. Mayhew interviewed both legitimate tradesmen and the less honest with equal enthusiasm. One of his shadier interviewees described ‘The Shallow Lurk’—the confidence trick in which the participants dressed up to pretend they were ex soldiers or sailors in order to elicit sympathetic small change. If all the ‘sailors’ who claimed to have served on the Victory at Trafalgar had actually done so the ship would have sunk under their weight before leaving harbour.

Johnny Collins & Company sang Peter's Private Army in 1975 on their Traditional Sound Recordings album Johnny's Private Army.

Barry Skinner sang Peter's Private Army in 1975 on his album Abroad As I Was Working.

Danny Spooner and Duncan Brown sang Peter's Private Army, with a spoken prelude written by Danny, on their 2016 CD of songs of the working life, Labour and Toil. The album's liner notes commented:

This song by Martin Graebe was written in 1972 after reading an account of beggars in Victorian times pretending to be ex-soldiers or sailors to lend respectability to their appeal. These ‘Turnpike Sailors’ and ‘Street Campaigners’ were very rarely what they pretended to be—but after knowing Peter and his band for several years the relater of the account was inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt!


Please find the lyrics for this song at Martin Graebe's website (PDF document).

Sorry, I can't show the lyrics here as I don't have the copyright owners' permission to publish them. But please feel free and ask me to send you the song's lyrics.