> Folk Music > Songs > The Recruiting Sergeant
The Recruiting Sergeant / Sandbags and Trenches
[ RoudBS B310396 ; Mudcat 7739 ; Seamus O’Farrell]
Dominic Behan sang The Recruiting Sergeant in 1959 on his Topic album Easter Week and After. Paddy Tunney commented in the sleeve notes:
This is an anti-recruiting song and was composed by Seamus O’Farrell in 1915. The tune is that of The Peeler and the Goat. It was branded a ‘treason’ song by the British and anyone heard singing it in public rendered himself liable to six months’ imprisonment. Anti-recruiting songs were a great vogue in Ireland as is demonstrated by Teddy McGrath, The Kerry Recruit and Kickham’s beautiful Glen of Aherlow.
Robin Hall and Jimmie Macgregor sang The Recruiting Sergeant in 1962 on their album Two Heids Are Better than Yin!.
Barrie Roberts sang this song as Sandbags and Trenches in 1975 on Folkways’ Irish Rebellion Album. The album’s liner notes commented:
During World War I, before the Easter Rebellion and after Home Rule was proclaimed, the Irish men, as subjects to the Crown, were entitled to serve in the British Army (they would not be conscripted until 1918). To the more nationalistically aware of the Irish, the whole ideas of volunteering to go and fight for “King and Empire” was ludicrous—as ludicrous as this song about a chance meeting an Irish patriot and a recruiting sergeant for the British Army.
Tommy Dempsey and John Swift sang The Recruiting Sergeant in 1976 on their Trailer album Green Grow the Laurel.
Dominic Behan sings The Recruiting Sergeant
As I was going down the road, feeling fine and larky O,
A recruiting sergeant says to me, “Now you’d look fine in khaki O.
The King he is in need of men, come read his proclamation O.
A life in Flanders for you then would be a fine vacation O.”
“That may be so,” says I to him, “but tell me sergeant dearie O,
If I had a pack stuck upon me back, do you think I’d look fine and cheery O?
You’d make me train and drill until they had me one of French’s O.
It may be warm in Flanders but it’s draughty in the trenches O.”
The sergeant smiled and winked his eye, his smile was most provoking O.
He twiddled and twirled his wee moustache, says he, “You’re only joking O!
For the sandbags are so warm and high, the wind you won’t feel blowing O.”
Well I winked at a cailin passing by, says I, “What if it’s snowing O?
“Come rain or hail or wind or snow, we’re not going out to Flanders O.
There’s fighting in Dublin to be done, let your Sergeants and your Commanders go.
Let Englishmen for England fight, ’tis just about time they started O.”
I wished the Sergeant a very good night and there and then departed O.
Robin Hall and Jimmie Macgregor sing The Recruiting Sergeant
As I was walking down the street I was feeling light and larky O
When a recruiting sergeant says to me, “You’d look fine in khaki O.
For the King he is in need of men, come read this proclamation O.
And it’s a life in Flanders for you then, ’t will be a lovely vacation O.”
So I looked at the sergeant then says I, “Please tell me sergeant dearie O,
If I had a pack stuck upon me back would I look bright and cheerie O?
For you’d make me drill and train until you’d had me like the Frenchies O,
Oh it may be warm in Flanders but it’s draughty in the trenches O.”
Then the sergeant raised his little cane and his smile was most provoking O,
And he twiddled and twirled his wee moustache, says he, “Surely you’re joking O!
For the sandbags they are lovely and high and the wind you’d never feel blowing O.”
But I winked at a cailin passing by, says I, “What if it’s snowing O?
“O come wind, come rain, come hail, come snow, we’re not going out to Flanders O,
For there’s fighting in Dublin to be done, let your Captains and Commanders go.
And let Englishmen for England fight and it’s time that they get started O.”
And I gave that Sergeant a jolly good night and there and then we parted O.