> John Kirkpatrick > Songs > The Rambling Comber

The Rambling Comber

[ Roud 1473 ; Ballad Index PECS013 ; Bodleian Roud 1473 ; trad.]

John Kirkpatrick sang The Rambling Comber in 1972 on his Trailer album Jump at the Sun. and in 1998 on Brass Monkey's third album, Sound and Rumour. He commented in his album's sleeve notes:

Collected by Hammond in Dorset and published in the Dorset Volume of Sharp's Folk Songs of England.

And Martin Carthy commented in the latter album's notes:

An Acre of Land has the sort of archaic tune, and The Rambling Comber the sort of loping 5/4 tune that was by no means uncommon among country singers at the turn of the century—but not so common now (except with people like us).

Chris Wood sang The Rambling Comber in 1999 on his and Andy Cutting's CD Knock John.

Steve Tilston performed The Rambling Comber in 2006 on his DVD Guitar Maestros and sang it in 2008 on his CD Ziggurat.

Eddy O'Dwyer sang Rambling Comber in 2012 on his CD Go and 'List for a Sailor.

The Dovetail Trio sang Rambling Comber in 2015 on their CD Wing of Evening. Matt Quinn commented in their liner notes:

This version is one that I learnt from the singing of John Kirkpatrick on the album Sound and Rumour by Brass Monkey. In 5/4, this timing is considered (by many) to be the most ‘natural sounding’ of all time signatures and it certainly works wonders for a lot of songs in the English tradition.


John Kirkpatrick sings The Rambling Comber

You combers all both great and small
Come listen to my ditty
For it is ye and only ye
Regard my form with pity
For I can write read dance and fight
Indeed it's all my honour
My failing is oh I love strong beer
For I'm a rambling comber

Now it's on the tramp I'm forced to stamp
My shoes are all a-tatter
My hose unbound they trail the ground
And I seldom wears a garter
I have a coat scarce worth one groat
And I sadly want for another
But it's oh my dear how I love strong beer
Oh I'm a rambling comber

Now I have no watch and I have a patch
On both sides of my breeches
My hat is torn and my wig's all worn
And my health is all my riches
Would that I had some giggling lass
My coat all for to border
With straps and bows oh I would hold those
I would hold them all in order*

Now a tailor's bill I seldom fill
And I never do take measure
I make no debt which doth me let
In the taking of my pleasure
Nor ever will till I grow old
When I must give it over
For then old age will me engage
For being a rambling comber

So a pitcher boy I'll now employ
While I have cash or credit
I'll rant and roar and I'll call for the score
And I'll pay them when I have it
For this is always on my mind
Let me be drunk or sober
A bowl of punch my thirst to quench
And a quart of old October
For it's oh my dear how I love strong beer
I am a rambling comber

Cf. the Bodleian Library document with the broadside version: thanks, Malcolm Douglas!

*The printed version is not concerned with "giggling lasses", as JK's comber apparently is. In the broadside he is more interested in some gay lace:

Would that I had some gay gold lace
My clothes for to embroider
Tis fops and beaux that do wear those
I hold them all in scorn sir


Transcribed by Garry Gillard.