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Poison Beer

[ Roud 3369 ; Mudcat 71963 ; trad.]

Fred ‘Pip’ Whiting of Kenton, Suffolk, sang Poison Beer in 1984 to John Howson and Mike Yates. The song was printed in the same year in John Howson’s book Songs Sung in Suffolk and was included on the Home-Made Music album Who Owns the Game?. This album was reissued on CD in 2001 on Howson’s Veteran label. He noted:

Another one of Fred’s apparently unique songs. He usually dedicated this one to the landlord of the pub where he was singing. The source of the song was a sheep-shearer from Redlingfield called Cockfer Harvey, who taught it to Fred’s father.

Andy Turner sang Poison Beer as the 26 October 2014 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.


Fred Whiting sings Poison Beer

I stood there on the village green and heard what the preacher said;
He said, “If you go on drinking beer you’ll very soon all be dead.”
He told us, “Beer is poison and it is the devil’s brew;
If you carry on drinking that poison beer, It’ll be the death of you.”

Chorus (after each verse):
Well now, fancy them calling it poison,
Nasty names called poison beer;
With them I can’t agree.
For I’ve drunk barrels and barrels of beer,
And it never did poison me,
No, it never did poison me.
For I’ve drunk barrels and barrels of beer,
And it never did poison me.

My wife she listened to what he said, and she turned and said to me,
“There’s no more beer for you, my lad, stay out of the Chestnut Tree!
I heard just what preacher said, and in case it might be true,
I don’t want to be a widow yet and have to bury you.”

I asked my neighbour what he thought; he said, “If you’d like to know:
If beer is really poison, well, it must be awful slow.
For you remember my old father? Well, and between just you and me,
He drank his beer for many a year and he died at ninety-three.”