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The Egloshayle Ringers

[ Roud 1163 ; Ballad Index Gund022 ; VWML SBG/2/1/154 ; Mudcat 16667 , 92773 ; trad.]

Inglis Gundry included The Egloshayle Ringers in his book of songs and dances from Cornwall, Canow Kernow (1966). According to the song notes, Sabine Baring-Gould collected it “from John Martyn, shoemaker, Milton Abbott, who learnt it from his wife’s uncle, who died in 1868 and was a ringer of St. Kew. The song can be traced back to 1810.”

Pete and Chris Coe sang The Egloshayle Ringers in 1972 on their Trailer LP Open the Door and Let Us In. They noted:

A Cornish song about a bell-ringing competition which took place in the Padstow area. Our thanks to Lar Cann and Dave Lowry for correcting our pronunciation; [we] hope it’s less hilarious than our previous attempts.

Brenda Wootton and Robert Bartlett sang The Ringers of Egloshayle in 1975 on their Sentinel album Starry-Gazey Pie and on her posthumous anthology of 1996, Brenda Wootton. They noted:

The church of Egloshayle, near Wadebridge, now boasts eight bells, but at the time of this song it had five rung by Humphrey Craddock (died 1839); John Ellery (died 1845); John Pollard (died 1825); Thomas Stive (died 1821) and John Goodfellow (died 1846). This old song goes back to the days of the bell-ringing feasts when songs about the achievements of noted ringers were very popular.

Tom and Barbara Brown sang The Egloshayle Ringers on their 2002 WildGoose CD Prevailing Winds. They noted:

Another song that came from Charlie Bate who, according to one who should know, virtually saved the song single-handed from oblivion. The team of ringers celebrated in the song reigned supreme for several years in the mid-19th Century and tradition has it that the grave of each man named can be found in Egloshayle churchyard—if you can take time out from The Earl of St Vincent pub! At the start of this new millennium, virtually every choir in North Cornwall has its own version but I recall, even back in the ’60s, a late night lock-in at The Swan at Wadebridge (when Cornish wrestling champion Sam Treglowan was landlord) when discussion turned to Egloshayle Ringers and five distinct versions from different villages were sung, compared and discussed—how I now wish I’d had a tape recorder running then!

Mike Bosworth sang Egloshayle Ringers in 2004 on his CD of songs from the Baring-Gould Collection, By Chance It Was. noted:

The ringers mentioned in the song now lie in the graveyard at Egloshayle, where their headstones can be found.

Canow Kernow lists the dates on the headstones: Humphry Craddock d. 1839; John Ellery d. 1859, aged 85; Thomas Cleave d. 1821, aged 78; John Pollard d. 1825, aged 71; John Goodfellow d. 1846, aged 80.

Bryony Griffith sang The Ringers of Egloshayle on her and Will Hampson’s 2011 CD Lady Diamond. Their version is “from the singing of Brenda Wootton with additional chorus from Tom & Barbara Brown and final verse from Mike Bosworth.” It is followed by the tune The Rose Hill from the William Vickers Collection.

Dave Lowry sang Egloshayle Ringers on his 2024 WildGoose album Songs of a Devon Man. Bill Crawford noted:

Published in Canow Kernow and collected by Sabine Baring-Gould from John Martyn of Milton Abbot [VWML SBG/2/1/154] . The song can be traced back to 1810 and the gravestones of all the ringers mentioned can be found in the Egloshayle churchyard. Charlie Bate, the Padstow accordionist and singer had his own version and we are aware of at least three others. Dave first heard it sung by Brenda Wootton at Broadclyst Folk Club held in what is now the New Inn.


The Egloshayle Ringers in Canow Kernow

Come all you ringers good and grave, come listen to my peal,
I’ll tell you of five ringers brave that lived in Egloshayle.
They bear the sway in any array where’er they chance to go,
Good music of melodious bells ’tis their delight to show.

The foreman gives the sig-na-al, he steps along with the toe,
He casts his eye about them all and gives the sign to go.
Away they pull, with courage full, the heart it do revive
To hear them swing and music bring, one, two, three, four and five.

There’s Craddock the cordwainer first, that rings the treble bell,
The second is John Ellery, and none may him excel.
The third is Pollard, carpenter, the fourth is Thomas Cleeve.
Goodfellow is the tenor man that rings them round so brave.

They went up to Lanlivery, they brought away the prize,
And then they went to San Tudy and there they did likewise.
There’s Stratton men, St. Mabyn men, St. Issey and St. Kew,
But the five lads of Egloshayle can all the rest out-do.

Now to conclude my merry task, the sovereign’s health we join.
Stand every man, I pass the flask and drink his health in wine.
And here’s to Craddock, Ellery, and here’s to Thomas Cleave,
To Pollard and the tenor man that rings them round so brave.

Bryony Griffith sings The Ringers of Egloshayle

Come all you jolly ringers and listen to my tale,
I’ll tell you of five ringers bold that lived in Egloshayle.
By ring or ray, by night and day, none with them could compare
The fame of these five ringers bold was a true delight to hear.

Chorus (after each verse):
Lanlivery men, St. Tudy men, St. Mabyn and St. Kew,
But these five boys from Egloshayle could all the rest out-do.

There was Craddock the cordwainer, he rang the treble bell.
John Ellery was the second man and few could him excel.
The third was Pollard the carpenter, the fourth was Thomas Cleeve,
And Goodfellow the tenor man he rang them round so brave.

Now Craddock was the captain, he stepped along with his toe
And casting of his eye about he commanded them where to go.
They rang so brave with courage bold; it did their hearts revive
Sweet music then was quickly heard with a one, two, three, four, five.

They went down to Lanlivery and took away the prize,
They went up to St. Tudy and they’ve done the same likewise.
There’s Stratton men, St. Mabyn men, St. Issey and St. Kew,
But these five boys from Egloshayle could all the rest out-do.

With this little core they ran so sure, no changes did they fear,
No man did ever lose his turn, ’twas a joy to see and hear.
And people all for miles around did tell o’er hill and vale
The tale of these five ringers bold that lived in Egloshayle.

Now to conclude this merry tale, the ringers’ health I’ll join.
Stand every man and pass the flask and drink their health in wine.
So here’s to Craddock, Ellery, and here’s to Thomas Cleeve,
To Pollard and to Goodfellow who rang them round so brave.

Notes and Acknowledgements

Thank you very much to Bryony Griffith for help with her lyrics.

Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novel The Nine Tailors (Victor Gollancz, 1934) has a lot of information about the art of bell-ringing.