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> Maddy Prior > Songs > Twankydillo


[ Roud 2409 ; Master title: Twanky-Dillo ; Ballad Index K286 ; VWML HAM/4/21/11 ; Bodleian Roud 2409 ; Wiltshire 992 , 993 ; DT TWNKDLLO ; Mudcat 42319 ; trad.]

The Copper Family Song Book English County Songs Everyman’s Book of English Country Songs The Constant Lovers The Everlasting Circle The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs A Song for Every Season

Bob and Ron Copper sang Twankydillo in a Peter Kennedy recording made at Cecil Sharp House on the 1960 LP A Jug of Punch, and the Copper Family with John Copper in lead sang it on their 1995 CD Coppersongs 2: The Living Tradition of the Copper Family. They also included it in their 1971 book A Song for Every Season but it didn’t make the cut to their four album box of the same name.

George Townshend from Lewes, Sussex, sang Twanky Dillo to Brian Matthews on 7 February 1960. This recording was included in 2000 on his Musical Traditions CD Come, Hand to Me the Glass. Either Brian Matthews or Rod Stradling noted in the accompanying booklet:

A popular song in southern England—but not elsewhere, according to Roud. Yet our next-door-neighbour, ‘Paddy’ Walker, regularly sang it at Christmas house-parties and sing-songs in the early ’50s—and he was a Lancastrian!

We know of 27 instances, including two other sound recordings: the Copper family and ‘Gabriel’ Figg, of East Chiltington. The Hammond Collection has some quite rude verses—which suggests the song might have had a more risqué life than some of the published versions suggest. It is the sort of song that new verses can be easily added to (like Cosher Bailey).

The Watersons recorded Twanky-Dillo live at their club Folk Union One in Hull. This recording by Bill Leader was released 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’ 4 CD anthology Mighty River of Song. A.L. Lloyd noted on the original album:

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 [VWML HAM/4/21/11] . 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!

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 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.


George Townshend sings Twanky Dillo

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

Chorus (after each verse):
Which (for it) makes my bright hammer to rise and to fall.
Here’s to old Cole and to young Cole and to old Cole of all.
Twanky dillo, twanky dillo, twanky dillo, dillo, dillo, dillo,
A roaring pair o’ bagpipes made of the green willow.

If a gentleman calls, his horse for to shoe,
He makes no denial of one pot or two …

Here’s a health to King Charlie and likewise his Queen
And to all the Royal little-ones where’er they are seen …

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

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


The Watersons’ version was transcribed by Garry Gillard