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Campbell the Drover

[ Roud 881 ; Ballad Index K269 ; trad.]

Margaret Christl and Ian Robb sang Campbell the Drover on their 1976 Folk-Legacy album of traditional songs found in Canada, The Barley Grain for Me, and Ian Robb returned to it in 2021 on his and James Stephens' album Declining With Thanks. He noted:

The first song on the first recording I ever made, with Margaret Christl and Grit Laskin, for Folk Legacy Records in 1976. I’ve since compressed the song a little, I think without spoiling the great April fool’s day story. Collected in Elgin, New Brunswick by Helen Creighton, from one of her most prolific sources of great songs, Mr Angelo Dornan.


Ian Robb sings Campbell the Drover

The first day of April, I'll never forget,
Three English lassies together they met;
They mounted their horses and swore solemnly
That they would play a trick on the first man they see.
Well, Campbell, the drover, was riding that day,
And soon he encountered those lassies so gay.
They reined in their horses and he did the same,
And in close conversation together they came.

Chorus (after each verse):
And sing fol de rol laddy,
Fol de rol laddy,
Fol de rol laddy,
Sing fol de rol day.

They asked him to show them the way to the inn,
And would he drink whiskey or would he drink gin?
Then Campbell made answer and said with a smile,
“Sure, I long for to taste the strong ale of Carlisle.”
Well they called in the servants and started a dance;
They ordered the landlord to spare no expense;
They danced the next morning, 'til 'twixt eight and nine,
And they called for their breakfast, and afterwards wine.

They mounted their horses, alas and alack,
It dawned on the landlord they weren't coming back.
He said, “My dear Irishman, I am afraid
That those three English jokers a trick on you played.”
“Never mind”, says old Campbell, “If they've gone away,
I've plenty of money, the reckoning to pay.
Just sit down beside me, and before that I go,
I will show you a trick that perhaps you don't know.

“I'll show you a trick that's contrary to law:
Two kinds of whiskey from one cask to draw.”
The landlord, being eager to learn of the plan,
Straightway to the cellar, with Paddy, he ran.
He soon bore a hole in a very short space,
And he bade the landlord stick his thumb on the place.
He then bored another, “Place your other thumb there,
While I for a tumbler must run up the stairs.”

When Campbell was mounted, and well out of sight,
The 'ostler come in in a terrible fright.
He hunted the house, high up and low down;
Half dead in the cellar, his master he found.
“Go and find that bold Irishman!” loudly he cried;
“I fear he has vanished”, the 'ostler replied.
He said, “My dear landlord, I am afraid
That Campbell the drover a trick on you played.”