> Eliza Carthy & Nancy Kerr > Songs > An Old Man Came Courting

An Old Man Came Courting Me / Never Wed an Old Man

[ Roud 210 ; Ballad Index K207 ; Bodleian Bod2113 ; Wiltshire Roud 210 ; trad.]

Mrs Powell of Minster, Sheppey sang An Old Man He Courted Me to George Butterworth in August 1910. This version was printed in 1977 in the EFDSS book of songs collected by Butterworth, The Ploughboy's Glory.

Jeannie Robertson sang Never Wed an Old Man to Alan Lomax in Aberdeen in November 1953. This recording was included on the anthology Songs of Seduction (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 2; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968), in 1961 on the Tradition Records LP Heather and Glen and in 1998 on the Rounder CD The Queen Among the Heather. She also sang this song as An Old Man Came Courting Me live on August 13, 1967 in The Angus Hotel, Blairgowrie, Perthshire, at the Festival at Blairgowrie. This recording, made by Bill Leader, was also included in 1998 on the Topic anthology Come Let Us Buy the Licence (The Voice of the People Volume 1). The festival album's sleeve notes commented:

Among the many songs of warning to young maidens never to wed an old man, this is perhaps the most popular and widespread of all. Versions are known throughout the English-speaking world.

Nancy Whiskey sang An Old Man Came A-Courting in 1957 on her Topic EP Nancy Whiskey Sings.

Sam Larner sang Maids When You're Young, Never Wed an Old Man in a recording collected by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger between 1958 and 1960 on his Folkways album Now Is the Time for Fishing. The accompanying notes commented:

The miseries of marrying an old man have frequently provided a theme for Scots songs, as instance by What Can a Lassie Do wi' an Auld Man?, Auld Rob Morris, Auld Robin Gray, and Carle Cam' O'er the Craft. They are not quite so common in the English tradition and Sam Larner's song may well be an anglicised version of a Scots song. In the appendix to the 1751 edition of Herd's Scottish Songs there is a fine version, a remarkably close parallel to Mr Larner's, and Edith Fowke has recently collected an even fuller version from Mrs. O.J. Abbott of Ottawa.

Other versions: Kidson, p. 90; JFS Vol. II, p. 273

Danny Brazil sang An Old Man Come Courting Me to Peter Shepheard at Over Bridge, Gloucester, on May 12, 1966. This recording was included in 2007 on the Brazil Family's Musical Traditions anthology Down By the Old Riverside. The accompanying booklet commented:

This was also sung by Harry [Brazil]. With only 62 Roud entries, this song obviously wasn't as popular in the tradition as it is in the revival—thanks, no doubt, to recordings by Jeannie Robertson and Belle Stewart. It also appears to be far more popular in England (with 21 named singers) than in Scotland (with only four).

Peggy Seeger sang this song in 1968 on the Critics Group's album The Female Frolic, where it is classified as Canadian.

Jo Freya sang Maids When You're Young Never Wed an Old Man in 1992 on her Saydisc album Traditional Songs of England.

Eliza Carthy learned An Old Man Came Courting from the singing of Jeannie Robertson and sang it in 1993 on her and Nancy Kerr's eponymous first album Eliza Carthy & Nancy Kerr. The record's sleeve notes commented:

An Old Man Came Courting is from the singing of Jeannie Robertson, possibly the greatest traditional singer in the British isles.

Sheila Stewart sang Never Wed an Auld Man to Doc Rowe in Blairgowrie in 1999. This recording session was released a year later on her Offspring CD … And Time Goes On …. She also sang Maids When You're Young in March 2002 on the Scottish Women tour (released on CD in 2004) and, in May 2003 or 2004, at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife. The latter's recording was included in 2005 on the festival CD Here's a Health to the Company (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 1). The album notes commented:

A traditional folksong widely known throughout the British Isles often under the title of An Old Man Come Courting Me that tells a tale of a young maid married to an old man and her escape into the arms of a handsome young man. Sheila has only recently started singing this song which she inherited from the singing of a great friend, singer, piper and storyteller, the late Willie McPhee of Perth.

Emma Jane Hopkins sang An Old Man Came Courting Me to George Gardiner in Axford, Hampshire, in 1907. Hazel Askew recorded her version in 2009 for the WildGoose CD The Axford Five.

Rosie Hood sang this as Maids When You're Young in 2011 on her eponymous EP Rosie Hood.

Lucy Ward sang Maids When You're Young in 2011 on her CD Adelphi Has to Fly. It was nominated for best traditional track at the BBC Folk Awards 2012. This video shows Lucy, Linde Nijland and Bert Ridderbos in the Netherlands:

Mairi Morrison and Alasdair Roberts sang Never Wed an Old Man in 2012 on their CD Urstan.

Co-cheòl sang Never Wed an Old Man on their 2016 CD Stay a While. According to their liner notes, their “arrangement of this cheeky traditional Irish song came out of many late nights and a lot of laughter”. This video shows them at the AUS-ACA National Championship at Ormond Hall, Village Melbourne on September 6, 2014:

A cunning linguist in the Mudcat Café thread falorum and dingdorum noted that

“Falorum” is the genitive plural of the Latin “phallus” and should be more correctly spelled “phallorum”.

“Dingdorum” is the genitive plural of the Latin “dingdus” which transmuted over the centuries to the more modern “dong”.

Of course, it is immediately obvious to any Latin scholar than the use of the genitive plural case is grammatically wrong, and that the line in Maids When You're Young should read “He's got no phallum, he's lost his dingdum”, i.e. the accusative singular case would have been more correct.

Lyrics

Jeannie Robertson sings Never Wed an Old Man Eliza Carthy sings An Old Man Came Courting

For a' old man came courting me, hi-doo-a-darrity,
For a' old man came courting me, hi-doo-a-day,
For a' old man came courting me, hi-doo-a-darrity,
But maids, when you're young, never wed a' old man.

Well an old man came courting me, hi-doo-a-darrity,
An old man came courting me, me being young
An old man came a-courting me, fain would he marry me
Maids when you're young never wed an old man

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
For he's got no falorum, faliddle-aye-orum
Got no falorum, faliddle-aye-ay
Got no falorum, and he's lost his dingdorum
So maids when you're young, never wed an old man

For when we went to the church, I left him in the lurch,
When we went to the church, me being young,
When we went to the church, I left him in the lurch,
Maids, when you're young, never wed a' old man.

When that we went to church, hi-doo-a-darrity,
When we went to church, me being young
When that we went to church, he left me in the lurch
Maids when you're young, never wed an old man

But when we got to oor tea, he starts a-teasing me,
When we got to oor tea, me being young,
When we got to oor tea, he starts a-teasing me,
Maids when you're young, never wed a' old man.

When that we went to tea, hi-doo-a-darrity,
When we went to tea, me being young
When that we went to tea, he started teasing me
Maids when you're young never wed an old man

When we got to our bed, he lies as he was dead,
When we got to our bed, me being young,
When we got to our bed, he lies as he was dead,
Maids when you're young, never wed a' old man.

When that we went to bed, hi-doo-a-darrity,
When we went to bed, me being young
When that we went to bed, he neither done nor said
Maids when you're young never wed an old man

When that he went to sleep, hi-doo-a-darrity,
When he went to sleep, me being young
When that he went to sleep, out of bed I did creep
Into the arms of a jolly young man

And I found his falorum, faliddle-aye-orum
I found his falorum, faliddle-aye-ay
I found his falorum and he's got my dingdorum
So maids when you're young never wed an old man

An old man came courting me, hi-doo-a-darrity,
An old man came courting me, me being young
An old man came a-courting me, fain would he marry me
Maids when you're young never wed an old man

Sheila Stewart sings Maids When You're Young Danny Brazil sings An Old Man Came Courting

An old man come a-courtin me, hi-doo-a-darrity,
An old man come a-courtin me, hi-doo-a-day;
An old man come a-courtin me, hi-doo-a-darrity,
Maids when you're young, never wed an auld man.

For an old man come courting me, hi down dearly day,
For an old man come courting me, hi dearly day;
For an old man come courting me, promised he'd marry me,
Girls for your sake never wed an old man.

For when we went to our tea, he started a-teasin me,
When we went to our tea, me being young;
When we went to our tea, he started squeezin me,
Maids when you're young never wed an auld man.

For it's when we got home to tea, hi down dearly day,
For when we got home to tea, hi dearly day;
For when we got home to tea, nothing there could I see,
Girls for your sake never wed an old man.

For when we went to the church, I left him in the lurch,
When we went to the church, me being young;
When we went to the church, I left him in the lurch,
Maids when you're young, never wed an auld man.

For it's when it struck eight o'clock, hi down dearly day,
For it's when it struck eight o'clock, hi dearly day;
For it's when it struck eight o'clock, all the doors he did lock,
Girls for your sake never wed an old man.

For when we went to our bed, he lay as he was dead,
When we went to our bed, me being young;
When we went to our bed, he lay as he was dead,
Maids when you're young, never wed an auld man.

For it's when we got into bed, hi down dearly day,
For it's when we got into bed, hi dearly day;
For it's when we got into bed, he fell like a lump of lead,
Girls for your sake never wed an old man.

For he had no toural, nor right fal da doural o,
He had no toural, nor devil-the-one;
He had no toural, to fill my faloural,
So maids when you're young, never wed an auld man.

But when he fell fast asleep, out of bed I did creep,
When he fell fast asleep, me being young;
When he fell fast asleep, out of bed I did creep,
Into the arms of a handsome young man.

For it's when he went fast asleep, hi down dearly day,
For it's when he went fast asleep, hi dearly day;
For it's when he went fast asleep, out of bed I did creep,
Into the arms of a jolly young man.

For he had a toural aye right fal da doural o,
He had a toural, a hell-of-a-one;
He had a toural that filled my faloural,
So maids when you're young, never wed an auld man.

So there we played pitch-and-toss, hi-doo-a-darrity,
There we played pitch-and-toss all the night long;
There we played pitch-and-toss, my maidenheid I lost,
Maids when you're young, never wed an auld man.

For a young man is my delight,
Kiss and court all the night,
Girls for your sake never wed an old man.

Rosie Hood sings Maids When You're Young

An old man came courting me, hey dingdorum down,
An old man came courting me, me being young.
An old man came courting me, fain would he marry me.
Maids when you're young never wed an old man.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Because he's got no falorum, faliddle-aye-orum,
He's got no falorum, faliddle-aye-ay.
He's got no falorum, he's lost his dingdorum,
So maids when you're young never wed an old man.

When we went to church, hey dingdorum down,
When we went to church, me being young.
When we went to church he left me in the lurch,
Maids when you're young never wed an old man.

When we went to bed, hey dingdorum down,
When we went to bed, me being young.
When we went to bed he lay like he was dead,
Maids when you're young never wed an old man.

Threw my leg over him, hey dingdorum down,
Threw my leg over him, me being young.
Threw my leg over him, damn well near smothered him,
Maids when you're young never wed an old man.

When he went to sleep, hey dingdorum down,
When he went to sleep, me being young.
When he went to sleep, out of bed I did creep
Into the arms of my handsome young man.

Last chorus:
Because he's got his falorum, faliddle-aye-orum,
He's got his falorum, faliddle-aye-ay.
He's got his falorum, I found his dingdorum,
So maids when you're young never wed an old man.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of Eliza Carthy by Kira White.