> Folk Music > Songs > The Soldier and the Sailor

The Soldier and the Sailor / The Topman and the Afterguard

[ Roud 350 ; Master title: The Soldier and the Sailor ; G/D 3:685 ; Ballad Index Doe277 ; GlosTrad Roud 350 ; Wiltshire 472 ; trad.]

Fred Hamer: Garners Gay Mary and Nigel Hudleston: Songs of the Ridings Roy Palmer: The Valiant Sailor Frank Purslow: Marrow Bones James Reeves: The Idiom of the People

Brigid Tunney of Co. Fermanagh sang The Soldier and the Sailor on 20 July 1952 to Peter Kennedy and Sean O’Boyle. This BBC recording 18527 was included in 2014 on the Topic anthology of traditional songs, airs and dance music in Ulster, The Flax in Bloom (The Voice of the People Volume 27).

Harry Cox of Catfield, Norfolk, sang The Soldier and Sailor’s Prayer to Peter Kennedy in October 1953. This recording was included in 2000 on his Rounder anthology What Will Become of England?.

Arthur Lenox from Aberdeen sang The Soldier and Sailor on the anthology A Soldier’s Life for Me (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 8; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1970).

George Belton sang The Soldier’s Prayer in 1967 on his EFDSS album All Jolly Fellows….

George Dunn sang a fragment of Lawyer and Parson on 14 July 1971 to Roy Palmer. This recording was included in 2000 on his Musical Traditions anthology Chainmaker. Roy Palmer noted in the accompanying booklet:

An unusual variant of The Topman and the Afterguard, of which George could unfortunately remember no more—it’s the well-known soldier-sailor dialogue song. I collected a forces’ version from a Mr Mays in nearby Warwickshire just a year before recording George Dunn. Roud has only 37 examples, but almost half of these are sound recordings—although, sadly, only one is available on CD: Harry Cox.

Cecil Sharp had a version originally learned from a singer born in 1779, and believed that the song derived from The Mare and Foal, (Cecil Sharp’s Collection of English Folk Songs, ed. M Karpeles (1974), no.276).

Roy Palmer sang The Topman and the Afterguard on his 1975 Topic album Champions of Folly. A.L. Lloyd noted:

The old dialogue song of Mare and Foal—in which the mare begins to read from the bible her curses on thieving millers, bakers, tailors, butchers and such, with the foal responding to each curse with a pious ‘Amen’—has given rise to innumerable parodies, usually involving soldiers or sailors and their cheating quartermasters. This version was adapted by A.L. Lloyd from an early 19th-century sailor song, and used in a commemorative radio play about Nelson. A number of influential folk club singers were involved in the production, and so the song went into rather general circulation, besides being printed in the magazine Sing, which is where Roy Harris found it.

Louis Killen sang The Topman and the Afterguard on the 1976 album of “songs and chanteys from the days of commercial sail”, Steady As She Goes.

Blowzabella sang The Topman and the Afterguard in 1984 on their Plant Life album Bobbityshooty.

Walter Pardon of Knapton, Norfolk, sang The Topman and the Afterguard in 1980 to Mike Yates. This recording was published in ca. 1987-89 on the Veteran Tapes cassette Horkey Load 2 and was included in 2001 on the Veteran anthology of traditional folk music from coastal England, When the Wind Blows Mike Yates noted:.

In 1911, Cecil Sharp collected a version of the song The Mare and the Foal from John Webb, a 70 year old singer from Warwickshire. Sharp thought that this song—which comprises a dialogue between the two animals—was a forerunner of the song The Sailor and the Soldier, which he had previously collected. Walter’s Topman and the Afterguard follows the same pattern and is clearly related to these two songs, although which came first is anyone’s guess!

Folk South West sang The Sailor and the Soldier in 2003 on their Fellside CD Fanfare for the South West.

Peter and Barbara Snape sang The Topman and the Afterguard on their 2008 CD Take to the Green Fields. Barbara Snape noted:

Prayer songs are rooted in the folklore history of the army and navy and over time have been intermixed and embellished. Originally from the era of Admiral Nelson, this song has journeyed through that process. Back in the 60s, Stan Kelly from Liverpool sang a version where he had written a verse or two of his own!


Walter Pardon sings The Topman and the Afterguard

A Topman and an Afterguard were walking one day,
Says the Topman to the Afterguard, “I mean for to pray
For the rights of all sailors and the wrongs of all men.
And whatever I do pray for
You must answer ‘Amen’.

“I pray for the bosun with his little stick,
He bawls out ‘all hands’ and gives us a lick.
Strikes many a brave fellow and kicks him a’main,
May the Devil double triple damn him.”
Says the Afterguard, “Amen”.

“I’ll pray for the Purser who gives us to eat
Spewburgle, rank butter and musty horse meat,
And weavley old biscuit while he gets the game.
May the Devil double triple damn him.”
Says the Afterguard, “Amen”.

“I’ll pray for the officers who hold back our due,
We’re owed three years wages and prize money too.
‘You can’t have it yet Jack try next voyage again’
May the Devil double triple damn ’em.”
Says the Afterguard, “Amen”.

“The next thing I’ll pray for is a pot of good beer,
The Lord send good liquor to fill us with cheer.
And while we have one pot may we also have ten
And never want for grog boys…”
Says the Afterguard, “Amen”.

George Dunn sings Lawyer and Parson

A lawyer and a parson they went out one day;
Said the lawyer to the parson, “Let’s kneel down and pray.”
And what they did pray for it was pretty clear:
“May the lord send us happiness and plenty of beer;
And if he sends one barrel I hope he’ll send ten.”
Said the lawyer to the parson; said the parson, “Amen”.