> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > The Bold Gambling Boy
> Peter Bellamy > Songs > The Little Black Horse (The Penny Wager)
> Louis Killen > Songs > One Penny

The Bold Gambling Boy / The Little Black Horse / The Penny Wager / One Penny

[ Roud 393 ; Ballad Index McCST115 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang The Bold Gambling Boy in 1962 on the Topic EP Gamblers and Sporting Blades. It was reissued in the USA on the Riverside LP Champions and Sporting Blades and in 1998 on the Topic CD Bold Sportsmen All. Lloyd commented in the original EP's sleeve notes:

A simple seeming character encounters a company of slick gamblers; they try to fleece him and it is they who are shorn instead. The situation is ever successful in historical romances and Western films, and it has traditional parallels in the folk narratives known as the Jack Tales. The Bold Gambling Boy is one of the few of its kind. It has often been collected, yet only once published. It is hard to see why, for both text and tune have wit and point, and it is a song worth knowing.

Peter Bellamy sang The Little Black Horse in 1969 on his third solo LP, The Fox Jumps Over the Parson's Gate. Barry Dransfield accompanied him on the fiddle. A.L. Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

This much-loved trickster ballad was published by John Pitts, Seven Dials, London, in the opening years of the nineteenth century, and some forty years later, Kendrew of York had a big success with it. Doubtless on the strength of its broadside, the song survived well in Yorkshire, but the version published by Pitts was powerful in the West Country and both Baring-Gould and Sharp found it there. Peter Bellamy has his set of it from the singing of Bob Arnold in Oxfordshire. Arnold's ending is happy enough, but most southern versions, including the one noted by George Gardiner in Portsmouth Workhouse, are even happier, for when the gambler comes to pay his bill at the inn, all the landlady wants from him is a kiss.

George Dunn sang Little Grey 'Oss in 1972 to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. This recording was included in 2002 on his Musical Traditions anthology Chainmaker. Roy Palmer commented in the album's booklet:

This song was printed under the title The Adventures of a Penny, the earliest printing probably being that of Evans of London in the late eighteenth century. A.L. Lloyd has argued that copies issued early in the nineteenth century respectively by Pitts of London and Kendrew of York influenced oral tradition in the south and west of England on the one hand, the Midlands and Yorkshire on the other. George Dunn remembered only two verses (5 and 7), but seized gleefully on the full text I offered, which had the same interlaced refrain, and re-acquired the song.

Apart from a single Australian and two Irish entries for this song, all the rest of Roud's 38 examples come from the southern half of England—several from the SW Midlands. It also seems to have been quite a favourite amongst Travellers. Although there are six other singers who have been recorded, none but George is available on CD.

Ewan MacColl sang The Penny Wager in 1972 on his Argo LP Solo Flight.

Levi Smith sang One Penny to Mike Yates in May 1974 near Epsom, Surrey. This recording was published in 1977 on the Topic LP The Travelling Songster and in 1998 on the Topic anthology My Father's the King of the Gypsies (The Voice of the People Series Volume 11).

Louis Killen recorded One Penny in Winter 1977 at the Eldron Fennig Folk Museum of American Ephemera for his album Old Songs, Old Friends. He commented in his album's sleeve notes:

One Penny and John Barleycorn I learned, among a goodly number of other songs, from Brian Ballinger, while we were both members of the Heritage Society (in Oxford) in 1956/7.

Kate Rusby sang The Magic Penny in 2014 on her CD Ghost.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings The Bold Gambling Boy

I saddled my horse and away I ride
Till I come to an alehouse by the roadside.
Caught for a mug of beer frothing and brown
And by the fireside I sat myself down.

Chorus (after each verse):
Singing whack fol the day, whack fol the day,
And in my pocket I'd one penny

I've seen two gentlemen playing at dice,
And they took me to be a simple espy
With me cane and silk handkerchief showing so bold
They thought my pockets was lined with gold.

They said, “Come my bold fellow, would you like to play?”
“That depends on the stakes, gentleman, that you lay.”
And one said, “A guinea!”, but I said, “Five pound!”
The bet it was taken, no money laid down.

I took up the dice and I threw 'em a main
It was my good fortune that evening to gain.
If they had a-won, well, they could have cursed
When all I threw in was my empty old purse.

I stayed there all night and I left there next day
Thinks I to myself I'll be jogging away.
I asked the landlady what was me bill,
“Oh, naught but a kiss of your lips if you will.”

Peter Bellamy sings The Little Black Horse

I travelled this road from the North Country,
All a-seeking and a-seeking for good company.
But good company I never do find
Nor that which shall please me to me mind.

Chorus (after each verse):
Singing whack fol the day, whack fol the day,
And I had in my pocket but one penny

So I saddled my horse and away I did ride
Till I come to an alehouse by the wayside.
I boldly got off and I sat myself down,
And I called for a jug of good ale, it was brown.

I saw there two gentlemen playing at dice,
And they took me to be some young nobleman nice
With me swagger and rapier and countenance bold,
And they thought that my pockets was well lined with gold.

I'm a hearty good fellow that loves a good play,
And, “What lies with the stakes, pretty sirs, at your play?”
Then one said, “A guinea!”, but I said, “Five pound!”
And the bet it was took but no money laid down.

I took up the dice and I throwed them a main
And it was my good fortune that evening to gain.
If they had a-won, sir, there'd have been a loud curse
When I threw in none but a moneyless purse.

Was ever a mortal of quarter so glad
With the little of money of purse that I had.
A hearty good fellow was most men do find
I am so now good nails(?), pray pour out more wine!

Louis Killen sings One Penny

I travelled this world from the North Country,
A-seeking, a-seeking good company.
Good company, well, I always could find
But none that was pleasing to me mind.

Chorus (after each verse):
Singing whack fol a day, whack fol a dee,
I had in my pocket but one penny

I saddled my horse and away I did ride
Till I came to an alehouse all by the wayside.
I boldly went in and I sat myself down,
And I asked for a jug of good ale that was brown.

There were three gentlemen playing at dice,
They took me to be some nobleman nice
With my swagger and rapier, and countenance bold,
They thought that my pockets was well lined with gold.

“Now, hearty young fellow, come and play!” they said,
“We play for high stakes, but be sure that you're paid!”
One said, “A guinea!”, but I said, “Five pound!”,
The bet it was taken, no money laid down.

I picked up the cup and I made the dice spin,
It was my good fortune that evening to win.
If I had of lost there'd have been a loud curse
When they found that I had nowt but a moneyless purse.

I tarried the night and departed next day,
I thought it where time to riding away.
The landlady said, “Love, I'll let you go free.”
I had in my pocket five pound, three,

Final chorus:
Singing whack fol a day, whack fol a dee,
I had in my pocket five pound and three

George Dunn sings Little Grey 'Oss

Long time I've travelled the north countery,
Seeking to find good company;
Good company I always could find
But none was pleasing to my mind,
With me fal the dal ee, fal the dal ee,
I had in my pocket but one penny.

I saddled my horse and away I did ride
'Til I came to an alehouse beside the road side.
I called for a pot of strong ale that was brown,
And along with it I took myself and sat down,
With me fal the dal ee, fal the dal ee,
I had in my pocket just no money.

… 'Ee's paid for 'is beer!

I saw three gentlemen playing at dice;
I took them to be some noble knights.
They were at play and I looking on;
They took me to be some nobleman,
With me fal the dal ee, fal the dal ee,
I had in my pocket then, no money.

They asked me if I would play,
And I asked them what bets they would lay.
The one said, “a guinea”, and I say, “five pound”;
The bets they were laid but no money put down,
With me fal the dal ee, fal the dal ee,
I had in my pocket just no money.

I took up the dice and I gave them a spin;
It happened to be my good luck for to win.
If they had a-won and I had a-lost
I should have to have pawnèd my little grey 'oss,
With me fal the dal ee, fal the dal ee,
For I had in my pocket just five pound three. (repeat)

Was ever mortal man more glad
Than I with myself and the money I had?
I'm a hearty good fellow, as you shall find,
For I'll make you all drunk with the drinking of wine,
With me fal the dal ee, fal the dal ee,
I had in my pocket … five pound three.

I stayed there all night and part of the next day,
Then I thought it was time to be jogging away.
I asked the landlady what I had to pay;
She said, “Nothing, love, kiss me and go on your way.”
With me fal the dal ee, fal the dal ee,
I had in my pocket … five pound three.