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The Workhouse Boy

[ Roud 29495 ; Ballad Index R802 ; trad.]

The Halliard sang the grim song The Workhouse Boy on their album The Halliard : Jon Raven which was originally published in 1968 and reissued on CD in 1997. Later, this recording was also included in the Halliard’s CD Broadside Songs.


The Halliard sing The Workhouse Boy

The cloth was laid in the workhouse halls,
The greatcoats hung on the whitewashed walls;
The paupers all were blythe and gay,
Keeping their Christmas holiday.

Chorus (repeated after each verse, twice at the end):
And we all of us say it and we say it with sneers:
That Jamie’s been murdered by the overseers.

When the master he said with a murderous leer:
“You’ll all get fat on your Christmas cheer.”
And each by his looks he seemed to say:
“I’ll have more soup on this Christmas day.”

At length all of us to bed were sent;
A boy was missing and in search we went.
We sought him high and we sought him low,
We sought him with faces of grief and woe.

We sought him that hour and we sought him that night,
We sought him in fear and we sought him in fright.
When I heard a young pauper who then did cry:
“We’ll all have to starve till we find that boy.”

At length the soup copper repairs did need;
The coppersmith came and there he seed:
A pile of bones lay a-sizzling there
And the leg of the breeches the boy did wear.


The song lyrics are from the Mudcat Café. Thanks to Garry Gillard.