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Three Jolly Boys

[ Roud 241 ; trad.]

George Spicer sang Three Jolly Boys at home in Selsfield, West Hoathly, Sussex, in 1974. This recording made by Mike Yates was published in the same year on Spicer's Topic album of traditional songs and ballads, Blackberry Fold. and in 2004 on the musical Traditions anthology of Mike Yates recordings, The Birds Upon the Tree. Mike Yates noted:

The Liverpool Spinners used to sing a version of this. Part of their text, and most of the tune, came from a publican's son in Oldham, Lancashire. The rest came from the late Eric Winter, editor of Sing magazine, who printed the song in the March 1962 edition of the magazine.

The Spinners sang Three Jolly Boys on their 2018 live album Legends. Mick Groves notes:

I got Three Jolly Boys from a young chef in Manchester. He grew up in a pub in Greenfield outside Oldham where he regularly heard three old topers singing this ditty.

Lyrics

George Spicer sings Three Jolly Boys

You're courting a milk-maid, aye, sir, aye.
You're doing the same, no, sir, no.
Is he, or is he not, aye, sir, aye.
Then you cannot deny it, no, sir, no.

Chorus (after each verse):
Oh, one says aye, the other says no,
But we're three jolly boys all in a row.
In a row, in a row, in a row, in a row.
We're three jolly boys all in a row.

This maid had a baby, aye, sir, aye.
You were the father, no, sir, no.
Was he, or was he not, aye, sir, aye.
Then you cannot deny it, no, sir, no.

You'll pay for a gallon, aye, sir, aye.
You'll do the same, no, sir, no.
Will he, or will he not, aye, sir, aye.
Then you cannot refuse, no, sir, no.

spoken: That's all I can remember of that, you know.