> The Watersons > Songs > Chickens in the Garden

The Chickens in the Garden

[ Roud 2552 ; Master title: The Chickens in the Garden ; Ballad Index R668 ; Wiltshire 718 ; Mudcat 49210 ; James Allan Bland (1879)]

Songs of the Ridings

Harry Green sang Treat My Daughter Kindly in 1967 to Fred Hamer. This recording was included in in the 1980s on the Veteran Tapes cassette Harry Green 1874-1968: Old Songs and Folk Songs From Essex (VT135) and in 2010 on the Veteran CD of traditional singers from Essex, The Fox & the Hare. John Howson commented in the CD’s liner notes:

This song, originally entitled The Farmer’s Daughter, or, The Little Chickens in the Garden, was written by American songwriter James Allan Bland (1854-1919) who also wrote Golden Slippers. Sheet music was published by Oliver Ditson & Co in 1883 and the cover states that it was the “Greatest success of the season with 10,000 copies sold in the first week!” Its popularity meant that it easily slipped into the tradition, particularly in America and Canada. It also found its way to these shores and it was published by the Poet’s Box in Dundee and turns up in Jimmy McBride’s collection from Donegal and Neil Lanham’s recordings from Suffolk and Essex. It was also a favourite of Norfolk singer Walter Pardon.

Putnam String County Band learned All the Little Chickens in the Garden from Arthur Smith and sang it in 1973 on their Rounder album Home Grown.

The Watersons (Mike Waterson lead with Lal and Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy on chorus) sang Chickens in the Garden in 1975 on their LP For Pence and Spicy Ale. There is another rare recording of this song on the Sounds of Yorkshire promotional LP (1985) as a second Watersons track besides Young Banker. Both tracks have been included in 2004 on the Watersons’ 4 CD anthology Mighty River of Song. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album’s sleeve notes:

Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson heard a man named Joe Udal sing this at a shepherd’s meet in the Lake District in 1974, and took a fancy to it. As well they might.

Farmstead sang Chickens in the Garden in 1977 on their Fellside album The Sheep and the Hay.

The American group Four Bricks Out of Hadrian’s Wall learned Chickens in the Garden from the singing of the Watersons. They sang it live at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas, on 6 May 1984:

Jon Boden sang Chickens in the Garden as the 7 July 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Eliza Carthy sang Chickens in the Garden on Carthy Hardy Farrell Young’s CD Laylam, referring in her sleevenotes to her family:

I associate this song completely with the Watersons, and particularly Mike. Also it makes [Eliza’s daughter] Florence laugh. Dad tells me off for “tiny little farm” instead of “tidy”. I say folk process…

Andy Turner sang Treat My Daughter Kindly as the 9 September 2017 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week. He referred in his blog especially to the Watersons’ and to Harry Green’s versions

Bob and Gill Berry sang Chickens! on their 2018 WildGoose CD Echoes of Alfred. They noted:

This song is a version of All the Little Chickens in the Garden, a lovely song collected in the Cumbria region and the singing of the Waterson family. Further research and information from Jeff Warner (USA) shows it to have been penned by African-American, James A. Bland in 1879. This version has been taken from the collected songs of Mrs E. King, Castle Eaton and a new, but strangely familiar tune from Bob. The last verse is an attempt to finish the song’s story.


Harry Green sings Treat My Daughter Kindly

I once did know an old farmer, he’s a good and a faithful old soul,
I used to work upon his farm, and round at his country home,
He only had one daughter—for to win her I did try,
And when I asked him for her, the old man he replied:

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
“Oh treat my daughter kindly, say you’ll do her no harm,
And when I die I’ll leave (will—2nd & 3rd time) to you my little stock and farm,
My horse, my plough, sheep and cow, ox, my hoe, my barn,
And all those little chickens in the garden.”

Well I loved this young girl dearly and I know that she loved me,
And many a time I’ve walked around, for her smiling face to see,
To watch her milk the brindle cow, to see it does her no harm,
And many a cup of milk I’ve drunk, before I leave the farm.

Now the old man he has given consent, and married we will be,
We’ll lead a life of happiness, in our own little country,
I’ll try and keep that promise, which the old man asked of me—
“My only child, use her well and treat her kind-erly.”

The Watersons sing Chickens in the Garden

When first I came down Yorkshire not many years ago.
I met with a little Yorkshire lass and I’d have you know,
That she was so blithe, so buxom, so beautiful and gay,
Now listen while I tell you what her Daddy used to say,

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
“Oh treat my daughter decent, don’t do her any harm.
And when I die I’ll leave you both my tiny little farm.
My cow, my pigs, my sheep, my goats, my stock, my field and barn.
And all the little chickens in the garden.”

Well first I came to court the girl she was awful shy.
She never said a blooming word when other folks was by.
But as soon as we were on our own she bade me to name the day,
Now listen while I tell you what her Daddy used to say.

Well at last I wed this Yorkshire lass, so pleasing to me mind,
And I did prove true to her so she’s proved true in kind.
We have three bairns, they’re grown up now, there’s a grandbairn on the way.
And when I look into their eyes I can hear their grandaddy say.