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The Country Carrier

[ Roud 1400 ; Master title: The Country Carrier ; G/D 3:456 ; Henry H664 ; Ballad Index HHH664 ; Bodleian Roud 1400 ; Wiltshire 280 ; Harry Clifton]

Percy Webb sang The Country Carrier at the King’s Head Folk Club, London, on 18 February 1970. This recording was included in 2012 on the Musical Traditions anthology King’s Head Folk Club. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

A music hall song, written by Harry Clifton in the 1860s, which probably accounts for its popularity—although this is not reflected by Roud’s paltry 35 entries.

John Goodluck sang The Country Carrier in 1977 on his Traditional Sound album Monday’s Childe. He commented:

From the singing of, and in remembrance of, Percy Webb. Pre women’s lib song this, with its line, “It’s not my wife, upon my life, but my rattlin’ old grey mare”. Concerns life on the road before the days of the juggernaut.

The Andover Museum Loft Singers, conducted by Paul Sartin, sang The Country Carrier in 2012 on their WildGoose album The Bedmaking. Their liner notes commented:

From Henry Norris, Farnham Union (April 1909) and William Randall, Hursley (June 1905) via Dr George Gardiner, this has a touch of Music Hall about it.

Nick Dow sang The Country Carrier on his 2011 CD My Love You’ve Won to Keep. He commented:

A nice change from the Jolly Waggoner. It is a sweet little song, grounded in reality and with no pretensions. I am quite surprised it is not sung more often. I spend most of my life with horse drawn vehicles.

I first heard it sung by the best man at my wedding (not on the day I hasten to add), Bill Prince, an excellent singer songwriter and guitarist.

Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne sang The Country Carrier in 2017 on his WildGoose CD Outway Songster. His comments extend the above note by his label mates:

I first heard this on Nick Dow’s album My Love You’ve Won to Keep, then shortly after came across it in Frank Purslow’s book The Wanton Seed. Purslow had printed an amalgamation of text from William Randall of Hursley, Hampshire (collected June 1905) together with a tune from Henry Norris of Farnham, Surrey (collected April 1909), both collected by George Gardiner. This is not, strictly speaking, a folksong, but instead was written by music hall entertainer Harry Clifton (1832-1872) as My Rattling Mare and I in around 1867. Clifton was one of the most prolific Victorian song writers, allegedly writing over five hundred songs and touring constantly—it is often said that the reason for his early death was overwork. However, Clifton left a crop of brilliant songs, and this one in particular seems to have found favour with traditional singers across the country.

Patakas (Joe and Will Sartin) sang Country Carrier in 2023 on their WildGoose EP When You’re Ready. They noted:

This song is one that we both remember being sung around the house when we were children. In contrast to the rest of the tracks, it’s a music hall song written around 1867 by an entertainer named Harry Clifton. Incidentally it was an early track of the band, The Yetties, of which the drummer Bonny Sartin is a relative. The accompanying tune is an original composition by Will.


Percy Webb sings The Country Carrier

Oh, I’m a country carrier, a noble man am I.
I whistle and sing from morn till night and trouble I’ll defy.
I’ve one to bear me company, of work she does her share.
It’s not my wife, upon my life, but the rattling old grey mare.

Chorus (after each verse):
Round goes the wheel, trouble I’ll defy.
Just jogging along together, my boys, the old grey mare and I.

Up and down the country road my mare and I we go,
The folks all kindly greet us as we journey to and fro.
The little ones they greet us, and the old folk stop and stare
And lift their eyes with great surprise at Joe and his old grey mare.

And when our roads are heavy, or travelling up the hill,
I’m by her side assisting her; she works with such good will.
And I know she loves me well, because the whip I spare,
I’d rather hurt myself than hurt my rattling old grey mare.

I would not change my station with the noblest in the land,
I would not be Prime Minister nor anything so grand.
I would not be an nobleman to live in luxury
And state, if it would separate the old grey mare and me.