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The Lancashire Lads

[ Roud 588 ; G/D 1:89 ; Ballad Index GrD1089 ; Bodleian Roud 588 ; trad.]

LaRena Clark sang The Rifle Boys in 1965 on her Topic album of folksongs from the Province of Ontario, A Canadian Garland. Edith Fowke noted:

This song has all the earmarks of a fairly old British ballad, but I have so far failed to locate its ancestor. The attraction that the soldier holds for young girls is a common enough theme, but this song does not stem from any of the familiar families. The Canadian form probably dates from either the War of 1812 or the Fenian Raids of 1866 when Ontario lads marched off to fight for the Crown. It may have been inspired by the Queen's Own Rifles, a Toronto regiment formed at the time of the Fenian raids. Mrs Clark learned it from her father, and she thinks he learned it from his father.

Frankie Armstrong sang The Lancashire Lads in 1968 on the Critics Group's album Waterloo:Peterloo: English Folk Songs and Broadsides 1780-1830.

Mike Harding sang The Lancashire Lads in 1972 as the title track of his Trailer LP A Lancashire Lad.

Jon Raven sang The Lancashire Lads in 1973 on his Trailer LP with Nic Jones and Tony Rose, Songs of a Changing World. This track was also included in 1997 on the CD reissue of his and The Halliard's 1968 album The Halliard : Jon Raven. A 2005 re-recording by The Halliard is on their CD Broadside Songs.

Canterbury Fair sang The Lancashire Lads on their eponymous 1977 album Canterbury Fair. They noted:

How often have young women had to watch their lovers march away to war? How many times have mothers tried to dissuade girls from what they considered ‘a bad match’? This is once again the theme in this song by the girls. This particular version is related to a number of similar songs, including The Lowlands of Holland and The Spermwhale Fishery. A version of this song appeared as a broadside in the 1820s and the tune is reminiscent of the humorous King Arthur's Servants.

Old Blind Dogs sang The Lancashire Lads in 1995 on their Lochshore album Legacy. Ian F. Benzie noted:

I imagine this song to be about The Lancashire Regiment but I don't know for sure as I paid more attention to Scottish history at school than I did to English but I like the song with its Morris dance feel. Learned from a cassette by English singer Nic Jones.

Dave Burland sang The Lancashire Lads and Going for a Soldier, Jenny in 1996 on his CD Benchmark. He noted:

The Lancashire Lads and Going for a Soldier, Jenny were broadsides which were reworked by a group called The Halliard, which had in its members Dave Moran and Nic Jones. Nic wrote the tune to Going for a Soldier, Jenny and Dave wrote the tune to The Lancashire Lads.

See also the related song The Rout of the Blues (Roud 21098).

Lyrics

The Halliard sing The Lancashire Lads

It was last Monday morning, as I have heard them say:
Our orders came that afternoon, we were to march away.
Oh the Lancashire lads have gone abroad, whatever shall we do
Leaving many a pretty maid to cry, “What shall I do?”

Says the mother to her daughter, “What makes you talk so strange
To want to be a soldier's wife, the whole wide world to range.
Oh the soldiers they are rambling boys and have but little pay;
Can they maintain a wife and child on thirteen pence a day?”

Says the mother to her daughter, “Well, I'll have you close confined,
Oh, you'll never see that Lancashire Lad, he'll be no son of mine.”
“Oh, if you confine me seven long year and after set me free,
Well, I'll go and search for my Lancashire Lad when I gain my liberty.”

“My love he's dressed in scarlet, aye, he's turned up with the blue;
In every town that he goes through, my sweetheart he'll be true.”
Oh, the Lancashire lads have gone abroad, whatever shall we do?
Leaving many a pretty maid to cry, “What shall I do?”

We've got sweethearts enough, brave boys, and girls to please our mind,
But we'll never forget sweet Manchester and the girls we've left behind.
Oh, the Lancashire lads have gone abroad, whatever shall we do?
Leaving many a pretty maid to cry, “What shall I do?”

Old Blind Dogs sing The Lancashire Lads

It was last Monday morning as I have heard them say,
Our orders came this afternoon, we're bound to march away.

Chorus (after each verse):
For the Lancashire lads have gone abroad, whatever shall we do?
They're leaving many's a pretty fair maid to cry, “What shall I do?”

Said the mother to the daughter, “What makes you talk so strange
That you want to marry a soldier lad and the whole wide world to range?

“For the soldiers they are ramblin boys and they have but little pay.
Can they maintain a wife and child on fifteen pence a day?”

Said the father to the daughter, “I'll have you close confined,
You'll never marry a soldier lad. he'll be no son of mine.”

“Well if you confine me seven long years and after set me free
I'll go and follow my soldier lad when 1 gain my liberty.

“For my true love's dressed in scarlet and turned up with the blue
And every place that he goes in, my sweetheart is true.”

Well we've gotten sweethearts enough, brave boys, and girls to please our minds,
But we'll never forget sweet Manchester and the girls we left behind.