> Folk Music > Songs > Drink Old England Dry

Drink Old England Dry

[ Roud 882 ; Ballad Index K270 ; VWML CJS2/10/2621 ; trad.]

Songs of the Ridings The Cruel Wars The Foggy Dew The Folk Handbook

Carol singers from Haxey, Lincolnshire, sang Drink Old England Dry on the BBC recording 23622 that was made by Peter Kennedy on January 6, 1953. This recording was also included on the anthology A Soldier's Life for Me (Caedmon 1961; Topic 1970).

The Trugs sang Drink Old England Dry in 1971 on their Traditional Sound Recordings album And Boldly Go to Sea.

Legend and Terry Dean sang Drink Old England Dry on the 1977 album of songs from the Blagdon Arms Folk Club, Once a Week's Enough.

Strawhead sang Drink Old England Dry in 1980 on their Traditional Sound Recordings album Songs from the Book of England.

Holme Valley Tradition sang Drink Old England Dry in Will Noble's barn in Denby Dale, Yorkshire on September 27, 1986. A recording of it was included in the following year on their EFDSS cassette Will's Barn. And Will Noble and John Cocking sang Drink Old England Dry in 2004 on their Veteran CD Yon Green Banks. This track was also included on the CD accompanying The Folk Handbook. John Howson, Will Noble and John Cocking noted:

Also known as He Swore He’d Drink Old England Dry. It dates from the early 1800s when Napoleon was threatening to invade England. The song was later adapted for the Crimean War (1853-1856). In 1936 a version of the song mentioned Lord Roberts and in the Second World War, Winston Churchill took his place. In most versions the French are the enemy, but in some later ones the enemies were the Russians.

The song was adopted by the men of Haxey in Lincolnshire, where each spring they play a game across muddy fields with a leather ball called a ‘Hood’. The game lasts all day and then at nightfall songs are sung by the ‘boggins’ in the local pub. It was from the Haxey Hood singers that Will and John learned the song.

New Scorpion Band sang Drink Old England Dry in 2000 on their CD of Songs and music of the Napoleonic Wars, The Plains of Waterloo.

Tim Radford sang Drink Old England Dry in 2009 on his CD of songs, toasts and recitations of a Hampshire gardener collected by George B. Gardiner, George Blake's Legacy. He noted:

Gardiner muss. No. 329 collected on July 16, 1906, from notebook no. 7 page 95, however, Blake only had the two verses that don’t include the normal starting verse i.e. s““Come drink, my brave boys and NE’er give o’er”.

Gardiner only collected Blake’s version in Hampshire and this appears in Purslow’s Foggy Dew, page 24, where Blake’s two verses are supplemented (and slightly amended) from a broadside from Summersides of Liverpool. The tune I sing here is very slightly different than that collected from Blake. I found it difficult to change from an older well known tune.

The song has been popular over the years and has been amended often to include the differing enemies of England as times have changed. Purslow thinks it origins are in the early 19th century, that would suggest it first involved the French. Even today it is sung every year by the Boggins at The Haxey Hood custom in Lincolnshire.

Sound Tradition sang Drink Old England Dry in 2017 on their CD Well Met My Friend.

False Lights sang Drink Old England Dry on their 2018 CD Harmonograph.

Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne sang Drink Old England Dry on the bonus CD of Stick in the Wheel's 2019 anthology From Here: English Folk Field Recordings Volume 2. He noted:

It’s one of the first songs I learnt, there was a YouTube clip of Ian Giles singing that song. I probably learnt that song when I was about 14 but I didn't sing it in public until I was 17/18. Then I got a book of songs collected by Cecil Sharp, and I found that song in there with a slightly different tune, which is the one that I sing it to now. It was found in Warwickshire [VWML CJS2/10/2621] , I'm from Birmingham, so there's a nice local connection there. A bit jingo-y isn't it? I have some mild issues with that, and also the drinking, because I don't drink… at the end the day it's an old song of its time. A historical artefact of the Crimean war.

Lyrics

Will Noble and John Cocking sing Drink Old England Dry

Now, come my brave boys, as I've told you before.
Come drink, my brave boys, and we'll boldly call for more,
For the French have invited us and they say that they will try, will try,
They say that they will come and drink old England dry.

Chorus (after each verse):
Aye dry, aye dry me boys, aye dry,
They say that they will come and drink old England dry.
(last line of chorus repeats last line of each verse)

Supposin' we should meet with the Germans by the way,
Ten thousand to one, we will show them British play.
With our swords and our cutlasses, we'll fight until we die, we die,
Before that they shall come and drink old England dry.

Then up spake bold Churchill, of fame and renown,
He swears he'll be true to his country and his crown.
For the cannon they will rattle and the bullets they will fly, will fly,
Before that they shall come and drink old England dry.

Then it's come my brave boys as I've told you before,
Come drink my brave boys 'til you can not drink no more.
For those Germans they may boast and shout but their brags are all my eye, my eye.
They say that they will come and drink old England dry.

Tim Radford sings Drink Old England Dry

Suppose we should meet the French or Dutch by the way,
We’d all hang together and show them British play,
We’d all hang together and we’d fight until we died,
Before the French would come and drink old England dry.

Chorus (after each verse):
A dry, a dry, a dry, my boys, a dry,
Before the French should come and drink old England dry.

The next was Lord Wellington of courage and renown,
He swore he had proved kind to his country and crown,
Our big guns shall rattle and our bullets quick shall fly,
Before the French shall come and drink old England dry.