> Frankie Armstrong > Songs > The Old Man from Over the Sea

A Dottered Auld Carle / The Old Man from Lee / The Old Man from Over the Sea

[ Roud 362 ; G/D 4:815 ; Ballad Index R066 ; trad.]

The Old Man from Lee, as sung by an unnamed singer from Coggeshall, Essex, is printed in Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd's Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (1959). They commented:

The old man's courtship is an ancient joke of which country folk never seemed to tire. In a form similar to the one we publish, the song appeared in the Musical Miscellany (London) in 1730. It seems to be widespread in Scotland, and Sharp found it common in the West Country. Versions have been reported from Yorkshire, Worcestershire, and Wiltshire. Our text is amplified from the Wiltshire version.

Jeannie Robertson sang A Dottered Auld Carle live in Edinburgh in 1958. This recording made by Hamish Henderson was published in 1984 on her Lismore album Up the Dee and Doon the Don. Another recording titled Old Grey Beard Newly Shaven can be found on the anthology Songs of Courtship (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 1; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968), and The Dottered Auld Carle on her 1963 Prestige album The Cuckoo's Nest and Other Scottish Folk Songs.

Avice Clarke sang Head-a-Nodding to Sam Richards, Tish Stubbs and Paul Wilson in between 1974 and 1976. This recording was published in 1979 on the Topic anthology Devon Tradition.

Jane Turiff of Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, sang Wi His Grey Baird Newly Shaven in 1975 to Allie Munro and Tom Atkinson. This recording was included in 1996 on her Springthyme anthology Singin Is Ma Life.

Kevin Mitchell sang The Oul' Grey Man on his 1977 Topic album of Irish traditional songs and ballads, Free and Easy.

Lizzie Higgins sang The Dottered Auld Carle in 1977 at the Jeannie Robertson Memorial Concert. This recording was included in 2006 on her Musical Traditions anthology In Memory of Lizzie Higgins.

Frankie Armstrong sang The Old Man from Over the Sea in 1966 on the Topic theme album The Bird in the Bush: Traditional Erotic Songs. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original recording's sleeve notes:

Traditionally, parents with a marriageable daughter think of material advantage, while the girl's mind runs on (let's say) spiritual things. From this situation arises a crop of songs that common people never seem to tire of. This one was already printed on a ballad-sheet in Shakespeare's time, and doubtless it wasn't new then. It's widely known throughout Britain and the USA in varying degrees of ribaldry. Perhaps it's the mixture of sardonic humour and hot indignation that makes its special appeal. Question: Who originally composed it, a man or a woman? The song on the same theme, with some such refrain as “Maids, When You're Young, Never Wed an Old Man” is separate from this one, and of later composition.

Mabs Hall of Billinghurst, Sussex, sang Old Grey Noddle on June 15, 1985 to Mike Yates. This recording was published in 1988 on the Veteran cassette Horkey Load 1 and in 2001 on the Veteran CD When the Wind Blows.

Grace Notes got The Old Man from Lee from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs and sang it in 2007 on their Fellside album Northern Tide.

Lyrics

Jeannie Robertson sings The Dottered Old Carle

A dottered aul carle cam ower the lea,
    Oh-ho, but I wouldnae hae him.
He cam ower the lea, an aa tae court me,
    Wi his grey baird newly shaven.

Ma mither telt me tae open the door;
I opened the door, and he stottered in o'er.

Ma mither telt me tae gie him a chair.
Ah-ha-ha-ha, it's I wouldnae hae him.

Ma mither telt me tae gie him some meat,
I gaed him some meat, he had nae teeth tae eat.

Ma mither telt me tae gie him a drink.
I gaed him a drink, he begun tae wink.

Ma mither telt me tae gie him a kiss,
“If ye like him sic weel, ye can kiss him yersel.”

Wi his grey baird newly shaven,
Wi his grey baird newly shaven,
“If ye like him sic weel, ye can kiss him yersel,”
Wi his grey baird newly shaven.

Frankie Armstrong sings The Old Man from Over the Sea

There was an old man come over the sea,
    Aye, but I'll not have him.
There was an old man come over the sea,
Come snivelling, snuffling, over on me,
    With his long grey beard, with his long grey beard,
    A‐shivering and shaking

My mother she told me to bid him come in,
And he giggled and dribbled all over his chin.

My mother she told me to give him a stool,
Well I gave him a stool and he sat like a fool.

My mother she told me to give him some cake,
And the silly old fool wriggled just like a snake.

My mother she told me to pass him the sugar,
And he shivvelled and shovelled it down like a bugger.

My mother she told me to take him to bed,
And the daft old devil nigh stood on his head.

My mother told me to show him what to do,
But the silly old cod couldn’t learn how to screw.

My mother she told me to bid him farewell,
Well I bid him farewell and I wished him in hell.

There was an old man came over the sea,
Came snivelling, snuffling, over on me.

Mabs Hall sings Old Grey Noddle

There was an old sailor came over the seas
    Ha-ha but I won’t have him
Came over the seas on purpose for me
    With his old grey noddle, old grey noddle,
    Old grey noddle a-shaking.

My mother told me to bring him a chair.
I brought him a chair, but he sat like a bear.

Then mother said won’t you bring him a stool.
I brought him a stool but he sat like a fool.

Then Mother she said you should cook him some tart.
I made him some tart, he said, “Thank you sweetheart.”

Then mother said will I put him to bed.
I put him to bed but I wished he was dead.

Then mother said would I hurry and wed.
I said I’d not wed—so I shot him instead.

Grace Notes sing The Old Man from Lee

There was an old man came o'er from Lee,
    Eh, but I'll not have him.
There was an old man came o'er from Lee,
A-courting me, a-courting me,
    With his old grey beard, with his old grey beard
    Just newly shaven.

My mother she told me to get him some pie.
I got him some pie and he left the crust by.

My mother she told me to hand him a stool.
I hand him a stool and he sat like a fool.

My mother she told me to give him some wine,
I gave him some wine and he drank like a swine.

My mother she told me to take him to bed.
I took him to bed and he asked me to wed.

My mother she told me to take him to church.
I took him to church but left him in the lurch.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Penguin: The Old Man From Lee.