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Brave Wolfe / Bold Wolfe

[ Roud 961 ; Laws A1 ; Ballad Index LA01 ; Mudcat 5072 ; trad.]

Karl Dallas: The Cruel Wars Edith Fowke: The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs

Martin Carthy sang Brave Wolfe in 1966 on his Second Album. He noted:

The death of General Wolfe on the plains of Abraham during the taking of Quebec provided the ballad-mongers with a great subject which they seized gladly. This text contains the curious idea that Wolfe and the French general Montcalm walked together chatting like brothers before retiring their own lines to let battle commence. This song (not to be confused with Bold General Wolfe) has not been found in England, but in America, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, from where this version comes, it is widespread. Learned more or less from Cyril Tawney.

Gordon McIntyre sang Brave Wolfe on the 1968 album Soldiers and Sailors (Folksingers of Australia Volume 2). He noted:

After weeks of futile attempts to take Quebec by first bombarding the town, then by trying to force the French, led by Montcalm, from their position near the town, Wolfe and about 4000 men—all that was left from his original 8000 troops—landed at night about two miles upstream. They climbed the Heights of Abraham and next morning drew up in battle array behind the French. Montcalm sent his army to “smash the English”. However, the English held their fire until their foes were within forty yards range, completely routing the French. Within minutes the battle was over. Wolfe, who was mortally wounded in the battle, was reported as saying as he breathed his last, “I shall die happy”. Montcalm, who was also killed, is not reported as saying anything!

Dave Burland sang Brave Wolfe in 1975 on his Rubber Records album Songs and Buttered Haycocks.

Crows sang Bold Wolfe in 1981 on their eponymous Dingle’s album Crows, and on their 2016 WildGoose compilation Time to Rise.

Oyster Band sang Bold Wolfe on their 1983 album English Rock ’n’ Roll.

Karina Knight sang Bold Wolfe on her 2020 album of songs learned from her parents, From the Knee.


Martin Carthy sings Brave Wolfe

Come all ye young men all let this delight you
Come all ye young men all let nothing fright you
Never let your courage fail when you’re brought to trial
Nor let your fancy move at the first denial

This brave undaunted youth have crossed the ocean
To free America was his intention
He landed at Quebec with all his party
The city to attack being brave and hearty

Bold Wolfe drew up his men in a line so pretty
On the Plains of Abraham before the city
The French came marching down in hopes to meet them
With a double number round resolved to beat him

Montcalm and this brave youth together walked
Between two armies they like brothers talked
Till each one to his post then did retire
Twas then those numerous hosts commenced their fire

The drums did loudly beat and the colours flying
The purple dawn did stream and men lay dying
And shot from off his horse fell that brave hero
We’ll long lament his loss in tears of sorrow

He lifted up his head when the guns did rattle
And to his army said, How goes the battle?
Quebec is all our own none can prevent it
Oh then, replies bold Wolfe, I die contented


Martin Carthy’s Brave Wolfe was transcribed by Garry Gillard.