> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Rocking the Cradle
> Trevor Lucas > Songs > A Wee One
> Mike Waterson > Songs > The Charlady's Son

Rocking the Cradle / Rocking Me Babies /
A Wee One / The Charlady's Son

[ Roud 357 ; Ballad Index R393 ; Bodleian Roud 357 ; trad.]

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang Rockin' the Cradle in 1963 on their Transatlantic album This Is the Ian Campbell Folk Group.

Joe Heaney sang The Old Man Rocking the Cradle in a recording made by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in their home in Beckenham in 1964. This was published in 2000 on Heaney's Topic anthology The Road from Connemara.

Isla Cameron sang Old Man Rockin' the Cradle in 1966 on her eponymous Transatlantic album Isla Cameron.

Paddy Tunney sang The Old Man Rocking the Cradle on his 1966 Topic album The Irish Edge and on the Topic anthology Come Let Us Buy the License (The Voice of the People Series Volume 1; Topic 1998). He recorded it again ten years later for his Topic LP The Flowery Vale.

This song came to Australia from Ireland where it is also known as Baby Lie Easy. A.L. Lloyd sang it as Rocking the Cradle in 1966 on his album First Person. He was accompanied by Alf Edwards on concertina and Dave Swarbrick playing fiddle. The track was reissued in 1994 on the Australian CD The Old Bush Songs. It was also sung by Isla Cameron on her self-titled album Isla Cameron and by Trevor Lucas as A Wee One on his album Overlander. Bill Whaley & Dave Fletcher sang Baby Lie Easy and Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton sang The Wee One on the album Song Links: A Celebration of English Traditional Songs and their Australian Variants.

A.L. Lloyd commented in his album's sleeve notes:

It seems to have begun life in Ireland, originally perhaps a lullaby purporting to be sung to the Christ Child by disgruntled Joseph (in mystery plays and carols Joseph is often presented as a dour peasant very suspicious of the parentage of his wife's baby). It has undergone many changes, as a cowboy song in the USA and a mildly bawdy piece among students everywhere in the English-speaking world, besides flourishing in a number of variants (mostly deriving from the same broadside print) among folk singers. Our version here is substantially that sung by an outstanding Australian traditional singer, Mrs Sally Sloane of Teralba, New South Wales. Mrs Sloane has a large stock of family songs, many of them inherited from her grandmother who came to Australia from County Kerry in the 1840's, but Rocking the Cradle is not one of those, for she learnt it in her young days from a neighbour in the small-farming country around Parkes. She begins the song: “I am a young man cut down in my blossom.” I altered it to “I am a young man from the town of Kiandra” because I knew a Kiandra fellow whose plight was similar to that of the man in the song.

Mike Waterson sang The Charlady's Son in 1977 on his eponymous LP Mike Waterson. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

Two songs have come together here and married happily enough. Rocking My Babies To Sleep was a music-hall piece of the 1860s, beginning: “Oh, show me the lady that never would roam / Away from her fireside at night.” The other song was older, seemingly Irish in origin, The Wee One, or Rocking a Baby That's None of My Own. Both are on the same theme: the young wife is off on the ran-tan, leaving the henpecked husband as baby-sitter. The Irish song is said to have evolved as a parody of a sacred original, The Christ Child's Lullaby. New light on the role of Joseph? Mike had the song from Mick Taylor.

Nic Jones sang this song as Oh Dear, Rue the Day in a life performance recorded prior to 1982 that was included in 2001 on his anthology Unearthed,

Jon Boden sang this as Rocking Me Babies as the December 30, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Damien Barber and Mike Wilson sang The Charlady's Son in 2011 on their CD The Old Songs, giving their source in their liner notes:

A song we've been having fun singing for a good while now. From the singing of one of, if not the, Greatest of the Greats of the English Folk Song Revival of the 1960's, Mike Waterson. Mike got his song from Mick Taylor of Hawes in Wensleydale.

Peter Knight's Gigspanner sang Rocking the Cradle on their 2017 CD The Wife of Urban Law.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings Rocking the Cradle Trevor Lucas sings A Wee One

I am a young man from the town of Kiandra,
I met a young woman to comfort me home.
She goes out and she leaves me and cruelly deceives me
And leaves me with the baby that's none of me own.

I am a young man cut down in my blossom,
I married a young girl to cheer up me home.
But she goes out and leaves me and cruelly deceives me
And leaves me with a wee one that's none of me own.

Chorus (after each verse):
Oh dear, rue the day ever I married,
How I wish I was single again.
With this weeping and wailing and rocking the cradle
And rocking a baby that's none of me own.

Chorus (after each verse):
Oh dear, rue the day ever I married
Oh, how I wish I was single again.
For this weepin' and wailin' and rockin' the cradle
And rockin' a wee one that's none of me own.

While I'm at work me wife's on the rantan,
On the rantan with some other young man.
She's out drinking and cursing while I'm at home nursing
And rocking this baby that's none of me own.

Now while I'm at work and me wife's on the rantin'.
She's rantin' and dancin' with some other young man.
Well, she's drinkin' and swearin' while I'm at home carin'
And rockin' a wee one that's none of me own.

Come all you young men with a fancy to marry,
Beware you sure leave them flash girls alone.
Or by the Lord Harry, if one you should marry,
She'll leave you with a baby that's none of your own.

Now all you young men with the mind for to marry,
Beware of them flash women, leave them alone.
For by the Lord Harry, if one you should marry
She'll leave you with a wee one that's none of your own.

Mike Waterson sings The Charlady's Son

I'm a charlady's son and I'm just thirty-one
And me wife's ten years younger than me;
And I don't like to roam cos I likes to stay home
But me wife she goes out on the spree.

She leaves me behind the babies to mind
And me house in good order to keep,
But with the fire burning bright I could sit half the night,
Rocking me babies to sleep.

And it's, “Lady, lady, hush-a-bye babe
Mammy'll be coming back bye and bye.”
But with the fire burning bright I could sit half the night,
Rocking me babies to sleep.

Last Saturday night I went out for a stroll
After rocking me babies to sleep,
Well at the bottom of our street, well who d'you think I met
But my wife with a soldier six feet.

Well she sobbed and she sighed and she damn nearly died,
She says, “Lad, I've been thinking of thee.”
But with the fire burning bright I could sit half the night,
Rocking me babies to sleep.

And it's, “Lady, lady, hush-a-bye babe
Mammy'll be coming back bye and bye.”
But with the fire burning bright I could sit half the night,
Rocking me babies to sleep.

Acknowledgements

Lyrics copied from Australian Folk Songs and adapted to the actual singing of A.L. Lloyd and Trevor Lucas. Mike Waterson's version was transcribed by Garry Gillard

See also the Mudcat Café thread Chord Req: Town of Kiandra.