> Ewan MacColl > Songs > The Coachman

The Coachman

[ Roud 862 ; Ballad Index K172 ; Bodleian Roud 862 ; Mudcat 170649 ; trad.]

Sam Larner sang The Jolly Young Coachman to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in 1961. This recording was included in 2014 on his Musical Traditions anthology Cruising Round Yarmouth. Rod Stradling noted:

There are several other rude ‘coachman’ songs in the canon—and this is no better and no worse. I don’t see why it should particularly appeal to Gypsies, but the only named singers amongst Roud’s 13 entries are Tom Willett, Jnr (Forest Tracks FT2CD KS1), Chris Willett and Jasper Smith.

A fragment of Tom Willett singing The Coachman in 1962 to Ken Stubbs was included in 2013 on the Willett Family’s Forest Tracks anthology A-Swinging Down the Lane.

Jasper Smith of Epsom, Surrey, sang The Coachman to Ken Smith in c.1965 and to Mike Yates in the 1970s. The latter’s recording was included in 1979 on the Topic anthology of songs, stories and tunes from English gypsies, Travellers. Mike Yates noted:

The trio of songs given together, The Coachman, Bonny Black Hare and The Cuckoo’s Nest, also appeared on 19th-century broadsides. The Coachman was titled The Jolly Driver by John Harkness of Preston in the 1840s. Harkness also printed a sheet bearing the words to The Bonny Black Hare, which, unlike The Coachman and The Cuckoo’s Nest, appears to be a rather rare item today.

Ewan MacColl sang The Coachman and His Whip in 1968 on his Argo album The Wanton Muse. He noted:

A somewhat longer version of this can be seen in the collection of Original Broadsides in the Nottingham University Library. This particular version was learned from Sam Larner of Winterton, Norfolk, in 1961.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang The Coachman in 1971 on their first album, Spencer the Rover Is Alive and Well. They noted:

The sybolism of the coachman’s ‘whip’ is rarely lost on listeners. The song is traditional and a popular one in English folk clubs.


Sam Larner sings The Jolly Young Coachman

I once was a jolly young coachman,
But my wages I tried to advance;
I once took a trip up to London
And then I went over to France.
I’ve learnéd all sorts of driving,
I’ll drive them in the fashion so gay.
If there’s any young lady want riding,
I’ll ride her the new-fashioned way.

The first one I met was a young lady;
She was dressed in her finest, so gay.
She had a nice little white pony,
And likewise a neat carriage.
“Three guineas a week I will pay you,
And I’ll dress you the finest, so gay.
But remember, young man, if I hire you,
You must ride me the new-fashioned way.”

Righ fal-the-ral-ural-I-ady
Righ fal-the-ral-ural-I-day
“Remember, young man, if I hire you,
You must ride me the new-fashioned way.”

She took me down in her cellar
And she gave me the liquor so quick
We hadn’t been long in the cellar,
When she wanted to look at my whip.
She took it, she mauled it all over,
And laying it down with a smile,
She said, “To look at your whip, Sir,
I think you can drive me a while.”

Righ fal-the-ral-ural-I-ady
Righ fal-the-ral-ural-I-day
“I think to look at your whip, Sir,
I think you can drive me a while.”

Three times I entered her coach-box,
And the wheel went spinning around,
One sudden crack of the whip, Sir,
She lost the main stay of her gown.
Righ fal-the-ral-ural-I-ady
Righ fal-the-ral-ural-I-day
One sudden crack of the whip, Sir,
She lost the main stay of her gay.

Spoken: Now that … I knew that when I was a little boy, when I first went to sea, they would sing that in sail …

John Roberts and Tony Barrand singThe Coachman

I once took a job as a coachman
My money was paid in advance
So I traveled first down to Dover
And then I crossed over to France
I was met by a charming young lady
Who clothed me in breeches so tight
Said, I see I have got a fine coachman
To drive me by day and by night:

Chorus (after each verse):
She was such a charming young lady
All in the height of her bloom
And me being a dashing young coachman
I drove her ten times ’round the room

She first took me down to the cellar
And filled me with liquor so quick
She told me to drink in a hurry
Then she asked for a look at my whip
She held it, viewed it a moment
And then laid it down with a smile
Said, I can see by the length and the look of your slash
You can drive in the old-fashioned style:

She bade me get into position
So I climbed right in to the seat
Three swishes I gave with my cracker
And drove her right down the High Street
I handled my whip with good judgment
Until I was sure of her ways
But the very first tug that I gave on the brakes
I broke the main spring of her stays:

When my mistress grew tired or grew weary
And wanted to take a short rest
She’d call for her servant maid, Sally
She’d say, Sally, we’ve got a fine coachman
He understands driving in style
While the spring on my chassis’s being strengthened again
I’ll let him drive you for a while: