> Folk Music > Songs > The Rambling Royal / The Belfast Shoemaker

The Rambling Royal / The Belfast Shoemaker

[ Roud 982 , 3022 ; Laws J15 ; G/D 1:82 ; Ballad Index LJ15 ; trad.]

Frank Harte sang The Bold Belfast Shoemaker in 1967 on his Topic album Dublin Street Songs.

John Faulkner sang The Rambling Royal on his and Sandra Kerr's 1969 Argo album John & Sandra. The album's sleeve notes commented:

Ranking high in the repertoire of army songs, this lively and pugnacious broadside ballad tells of a young Liverpool Irishman who enlists in the Royal Marines while drunk. His service is short, however, and his return to sobriety causes him to desert and make a hasty but eventful journey back to his broken-hearted girl-friend in Birkenhead.

Rod Stradling sang The Rambling Royal at Oak's gig at the Cheltenham Folk Club on October 24, 1971. This recording was included in 2003 on their Musical Traditions anthology Country Songs and Music. The album's booklet commented:

This boastful song is likely to be a modern re-write of the Irish Belfast Shoemaker which, although widely printed as a broadside, has never, as far as Roud knows, been collected from the oral tradition in these islands—although it has in north America. As The Rambling Royal, it was collected—by Roy Palmer, from Phil Colclough, of Crewe, Cheshire, who may have done the re-write. Rod learned it from Dave Robbins of Exeter, in 1963.

Lyrics

Oak sing The Rambling Royal

I am a rambling Royal,
From Liverpool town I come,
And to me sad misfortune,
I enlisted in the Marine.
But being drunk when I enlisted
And not knowing what I done,
Until me sober senses
Returned to me again.

I had a girl in Liverpool,
And a true friend, so it seemed;
It broke her heart and made it smart,
To see me in the Marine.
She says, “If you’ll desert, me boy,
Then quickly let me know,
And I’ll hide you in me own room,
If you should choose to go.”

Well it was early the very next morning,
As our officer give command,
That me and me loyal comrades,
That night on guard should stand.
But the night being dark and cold and wet
Did not with me agree;
So I knocked out the guard-room corporal
And I ran for liberty.

And I rambled all that livelong night,
Until I lost me way.
Then I crept into a farmer’s barn,
To sleep all in the hay.
Oh, but when I awoke, it was no joke,
For there, all at me feet.
Well, the sergeant and the corporal
And four bloody squaddies stood.

And we had a murderous fight of it,
And I damn-nigh beat them all.
Yes, I made me cowardly comrades
In agonies to bawl.
But they took me to the guard house,
There me sorrows to deplore,
With four men at the window
And another four at the door.

Well, it was early the very next morning
As I paced me cell around,
I leapt out from the window and
Dashed four of ‘em to the ground.
The Provost and his bullies,
They was quickly after me,
But I legged it off to Birkenhead,
And so gained me liberty.

For I am a rambling Royal
James Cronin is me name.
I can fight as many corporals
As you’ll find in the Marine.
I can fight as many Orangemen
As ever banged a drum,
And I’ll make ‘em fly before me
Just like bullets from a gun.