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The Wild Rover

[ Roud 1173 ; G/D 7:1480 ; AFS 99 ; Ballad Index MA069 ; Bodleian Roud 1173 ; Wiltshire Roud 1173 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang The Wild Rover in 1958 on the Wattle LP Across the Western Plains. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:

In the nineteenth century, this popular street ballad was issued over and over again on broadsheets by Catnach, Such, Bebbington and other stall-ballad printers. An older song, The Green Bed, describing the adventures of a sailor in an uncharitable boarding house, seems to be the parent of Wild Rover. It appears to have survived better in Australia than in the country of its origin. As late as the early thirties it was quite common along the Bogan and Lachlan Rivers, and presumably elsewhere. I heard two or three tunes for it, but this version learned in the Condobolin district in 1929, from a South Australian named E. Barratt, is the best I know. I never heard in the bush the tune used by Burl Ives but that's not to say it wasn't sung. Other versions are to be found in Ashton's Modern Street Ballads, Creighton's Songs and Ballads from Nova Scotia, Paterson's Old Bush Songs, likewise in Old Bush Songs ed. Stewart and Keesing.

David Lumsden sang The Wild Rover in 1963 on his, Brian Mooney and Martyn Wyndham-Read's Australian album Moreton Bay. And Martyn Wyndham-Read or Phyl Vinnicombe sang The Wild Rover in 1967 on their and Peter Dickie's Australian album Bullockies, Bushwackers and Booze.

Concerning “survived better in Australia”—of course just a few years later in 1964 the Dubliners had a huge hit with The Wild Rover. They learned it from Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl's Seeger's 1960 book The Singing Island, who themselves collected it at the end of the 1950s from Sam Larner. His version was published in 1961 on his Folkways album Now Is the Time for Fishing.

Cyril Tawney sang The Wild Rover in 1962 on his HMV EP Baby Lie Easy: Songs from the West Country. All tracks of this EP were included in 2007 on his anthology The Song Goes On. Peter Kennedy commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Learned contagiously from a National Serviceman of Irish extraction on board a floating electrical school in Plymouth harbour. He sang it “in a beautiful piping Irish tenor voice” at one of the Naval singing parties held in the Cornish side of the water in one of those old wooden hulks that lie there for the purpose. We hope no interfering official has taken them away, otherwise we never, no never, can go there any more.

Louis Killen sang Wild Rover in a midnight concert in May 1963 in London. This concert was publish on the Decca LP Hootenanny in London. Nearly ten years later he sang in with the Clancy Brothers in a live recording from the Bushnell Auditorium in Hartford, Connecticut on their LP Live on St. Patrick's Day.

Sandy Denny recorded The Wild Rover on November 7, 1966 for the BBC broadcast “The Johnny Silvo Folk Four”. I don't know of any official publication or bootleg of this recording.

And Wild Rover No More is the title track on Jimmy McBeath's 1967 Topic album Wild Rover No More.

The Halliard (with Nic Jones) sang The Wild Rover in 1967 on their album It's the Irish in Me.

Robin and Barry Dransfield sang The Wild Rover in 1971 on their Trailer album Lord of All I Behold.

Jim and Sylvia Barnes sang Wild Roving No More in 1979 with their group Kentigern and in 1985 with their trio Scotch Measure; both eponymous albums were on the Topic labels.

Brian Peters and Gordon Tyrrall sang The Wild Rover in 2000 on their duo CD The Moving Moon. They commented in their liner notes:

The Wild Rover had a vigorous life as an English country song before becoming the tub-thumping anthem of Irish singing groups in the 1960s. We base our rather more reflective version on a set collected in Hampshire in the 1900s.

Bob Davenport sang The Wild Rover in 2004 on his Topic CD The Common Stone.

Jim Causley sang Wild Rover in 2007 on his WildGoose CD Lost Love Found. He commented in his sleeve notes:

This more reflective, melancholic version of the somewhat tired old rover was collected from a sailor in Plymouth by the late, great Cyril Tawney. I do love finding interesting versions of songs that have a groan-factor when you so much as mention their names, if only to remind folks that the reason they've been done-to-death is simply because they're fantastic songs.

Andy Turner learned The Wild Rover from the singing of Sam Larner and sang it as the June 5, 2012 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Belinda O'Hooley and Heidi Tidow sang The Wild Rover in 2015 on their CD Summat's Brewin'. They commented in their booklet:

Learned from she singing of Belinda's dad, Seamus. A stereotypical Irish drinking song, though its origins are contested…

Sam Lee sang The Wild Rover on Stick in the Wheel's 2017 anthology of English folk field recordings, From Here.

Ted Kemp and Laura Smyth sang The Wild Rover on their 2017 CD The Poacher's Fate. They noted:

Whilst commonly considered a rousing drinking song, this version learnt from Peter Kennedy’s 1954 recording of Alec Bloomfield of Framlingham, Suffolk, reflects the song's temperance roots.

This video shows them at the Green Note, Camden, on November 25, 2013:


A.L. Lloyd sings The Wild Rover

I've been a wild rover for a number of years
I've spent all me money on whisky and beer
Now I save up me wages, keep money in store
And I never shall play the wild rover no more

Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
And I never will play the wild rover no more

I went to a pub where I used to resort
I told the landlady me money was short
I asked for to trust me, her answer was nay
Such custom as yours we can get any day

So save up your wages, keep your money in store,
Don't you never play the wild rover no more

Put me hand in me pocket so manly and bold,
And down on the table threw a handful of gold.
Here's beer and here's whisky, saying, Bob you're good bloke,
And it's don't you take no notice I was having a joke.

Never mind about your wages nor your money in store,
And you can be a wild rover ever more

You can keep all your whisky and your beer likewise too,
For not another penny I'm spending with you.
For the money I've got mine I'm taking good care
And I never will play the wild rover no more.

Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
And it's never will I play the wild rover no more

I'll go home to me parents and I'll tell what I've done
And ask them to pardon their prodigal son.
And if they'll forgive me as they've done before
Oh, it's never will I play the wild rover no more.

Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
No never will I play the wild rover no more

Ted Kemp and Laura Smyth sing The Wild Rover

Well I've been a wild rover for many long years
And I've spent all my money on tobacco and beer.
But I've given up wild roving, put my money in store
And I never will play the wild rover no more.

Chorus (after each verse):
Wild rover, wild rover no more,
And I never will play the wild rover no more.

I went to a alehouse that I used to frequent
And I told the landlady my money was spent.
I asked for a glass and she answered me, “Nay,
Such a customer as you I can find any day.”

I put my hand in my pocket and from it I drew
A handful of notes on the counter I threw.
Now I could have had whisky or brandy galore
But I never will play the wild rover no more.

I'll go to my father, tell him what I've done
And hope that he'll forgive his prodigal son.
I'll go to my mother and there I'll remain
And I never will play the wild rover again.

And its no nay never, no never no more,
And I never will play the wild rover no more.

Acknowledgements and Links

A.L. Lloyd' version transcribed by Reinhard Zierke. Compare to this the version on Mark Gregory's Australian Folk Songs website.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins of The Wild Rover.