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Twanky-Dillo

[ Roud 2409 ; Ballad Index K286 ; Bodleian Roud 2409 ; Wiltshire Roud 2409 ; trad.]

The Watersons sang Twanky-Dillo at their club Folk Union One in Hull. This recording by Bill Leader was published in 1966 on their album The Watersons. Like all but one track from this LP, it was re-released in 1994 on the CD Early Days. It was also included in 2004 on the Watersons' 4CD anthology Mighty River of Song.

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

This is one of the songs harmonised with sweet dignity by the Copper cousins, Ron and Bob, who live in Sussex and sing in parts the way their fathers sung before them.

The song is usually found as an anthem for the blacksmith, celebrating his strong arm and brawny body. But the Watersons found these lusty, bucolic words in the Hammond collection from Dorset. The blacksmith's blowpipes are transformed into a shepherd's bagpipes, the song is taken out of the smoky forge into the open air and it ends on a ribald laugh rather than a ‘health to the king’. d'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy of 1719 contains a song about the tribulations of a rich farmer called Roger Twangdillo. There may be a connection. Or there may not!

I know of two recorded versions of Twankydillo: Bob and Ron Copper in a Peter Kennedy recording at Cecil Sharp House on the 1960 LP A Jug of Punch, and the Copper Family with John Copper singing lead on their 1995 CD Coppersongs 2: The Living Tradition of the Copper Family.

Maddy Prior sings the blacksmith version of Twankydillo on her 1999 album Ravenchild; this was later included in her anthology Collections: A Very Best of 1995 to 2005. In her original album's sleeve notes she quotes the C.html">Copper's version as source, too:

I've known this song since I first became involved in folk song and I believe it comes from the singing of the Copper Family of Sussex. I found myself humming it one day, and thought what a good song it was. But I couldn't get my head round the “Twanky” bit. For an English person familiar with the Pantomime tradition of the “Widow Twanky” in Alladin (a grotesque dame, for those unfamiliar), it made nonsense of the song. When I eventually came to look up the word it turns out to be Victorian slang for gin. So for some obscure reason I now feel happier singing it. Such are our prejudices. Ho Hum.

Lyrics

The Watersons sing Twanky-Dillo

The life of a shepherd is a life of great care
But my crook and dog Whitefoot I shall drive away fear

Chorus (after each verse):
Twanky dillo twanky dillo, twanky dillo, dillo, dillo, dillo
And he played on his merry bagpipes made from the green willow
Green willow, green willow, green willow, willow, willow, willow
And he played on his merry bagpipes made from the green willow

Well if ever my sheep go astray on the plain
Why my little dog Whitefoot it'll fetch em again

Well if ever I meet with the old shepherd's horse
I shall cut off his tail clean up to his harness

And if ever I meet with the old shepherd's daughter
I shall block up the hole where she do draw water

Maddy Prior sings Twankydillo

Here's a health to the jolly blacksmith, the best of all fellows
Who works at his anvil while the boy blows the bellows

Chorus (after each verse):
Which makes his bright hammer to rise and to fall
Here's to Old Cole and to Young Cole
And to Old Cole of all
Twankydillo, Twankydillo, Twankydillo-dillo-dillo-dillo
And a roaring pair of blow-pipes made from the green willow

Here's a health to the pretty boy, the one I love best
Who kindles a fire all in my own breast

If a gentleman calls his horse to be shoed
He'll make no denial of one pot or two

Here's a health from us all, to our sovereign the Queen
And to all the Royal family, wherever they're seen

Acknowledgements

The Watersons' version transcribed by Garry Gillard