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Jolly Tinker / Tinker's Song

[ Roud 863 ; Ballad Index K177 ; trad.]

Thomas Moran, a farmer of 79 years from Mohill, Co. Leitrim, sang the bawdy The Jolly Tinker to Seamus Ennis in December 1954. This BBC recording was included in the anthology Songs of Seduction (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 2; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968). The Rounder CD reissue of this album made in 2000 has an additional version played by Michael Gorman on fiddle.

Davie Stewart sang The Highland Tinker to Alan Lomax in his London apartment in 1957. This recording was included in 2002 on his Rounder CD Go On, Sing Another Song.

Trevor Lucas sang Tinker's Song in Richard Rodney-Bennett's soundtrack of John Schlesinger's 1967 movie Far From the Madding Crowd (after the novel by Thomas Hardy) and on the BBC Radio LP Through Bushes and Briar.

The Clancy Brothers with Louis Killen sang The Jolly Tinker in 1973 on their Vanguard album Greatest Hits.

Billy Bolton from Suffolk sang The Jolly Tinker in 1977 to Keith Summers. This recording was published in 1978 on Summers' Topic album of traditional songs and music from Suffolk, Sing, Say and Play.

Martin Carthy learned Jolly Tinker “by osmosis” and recorded it for his 1979 album Because It's There. This track was included in 2003 on The Definitive Collection. He was accompanied by John Kirkpatrick on concertina and Howard Evans playing trumpet. They also did this song in the augmented Martin Carthy Band (which eventually became Brass Monkey), e.g. at the 18th Cambridge Folk Festival in 1982. A short extract of this performance had been available as YouTube video some time ago but is gone now. I don't know if this recording is commercially available, and would be very grateful if anyone would let me know the details if so.

Mary Delaney of Co. Tipperary sang another version called Donnelly on the 2003 Musical Tradition anthology of songs of Irish Travellers in England collected by Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie, From Puck to Appleby. It seems to have been recorded in between 1973 and 1985. Carroll and Mackenzie commented in the album's booklet:

This is one of the many songs in the tradition telling how the underdog turns the tables on his/her supposed superiors by using their sexual prowess.

An early version of this appeared in 1616 in a collection entitled Merry Drollery, as Roome for a Jovial Tinker or Old Brass to Mend; it was later included in John Farmer’s Merry Songs and Ballads [1897, privately printed].

The ‘box of pepper’ in Mary’s first verse refers to a practice once carried out by unscrupulous horse dealers, of livening up a docile horse for sale by applying pepper or mustard to the appropriate part of the unfortunate animal’s anatomy.

This video shown Eliza Carthy and Nancy Kerr singing The Jolly Tinker at the Albert Hole, Bristol, on February 4, 1994:

Lyrics

Thomas Moran sings The Jolly Tinker

As I went down a shady lane, at a door I chanced to knock.
The servant she came to the door and axed me could I stop,
Or could I mend a rusty hole that never had a drop?

Chorus
Well, indeed, I could, don't you know I can?
To me right-fol-looral-laddy, well, indeed, I can.

She brought me through the kitchen, and she brought me through the hall,
And the servants cried, “The Devil! Are you going to block us all?”
Well, indeed, I'm not, don't you know I'm not? …

She brought me up the stairs for to show me what to do.
She fell on the feather bed, and I fell on it, too.
Well, indeed, I did, don't you know I did? …

She took up the frying pan, and she began to knock,
O then for to let the servants know that I was at me work.
Well, indeed, I was, don't you know I was? …

She put her hand into her pocket and she pulled out fifty pound,
Sayin', “Take this, me jolly tinker, and we'll have another round.”
Well, indeed, I will, don't you know I will? …

She put her hand into her pocket and she pulled out her gold watch,
Sayin', “Take this, me jolly tinker, for I know you are no botch.”
Well, indeed, I'm not, don't you know I'm not? …

Now I'm a jolly tinker this forty years or more,
And such a rusty hole as that I never blocked before.
Well, indeed, I didn't, don't you know I didn't? …

Trevor Lucas sings Tinker's Song

As I strolled down a shady lane at a door I chanced to knock,
“Have you any pots or kettles, ma'am, with rusty holes to block?”

Chorus (after each verse):
Well, indeed I have, don't you know I have,
With me rightful ti-ra-laddie, well, indeed I have.

The missus she came to the door and she asked me to come in,
Saying, “Welcome, jolly tinker and I hope you brought your tin.”

She let me through the kitchen and she let me through the hall,
And the maids all cried, “The devil! has he come to black us all”

She let me up the stairs, me lads, to show me what to do,
And then she fell on the feather bed, then I fell on it too.

Chorus: Well, indeed I did, ...

She then picked up the frying pan and she began to knock,
For to let the servants know, me lads, that I was at me work.

Chorus: Well, indeed I was, ...

She put her hand into a pocket, lads, to take out twenty pounds,
Saying, “Take this, jolly tinker, and we'll have another round.”

Chorus: Well, indeed we did, ...

I'd been a jolly tinker now for forty years or more,
But such a rusty hole as this I never blocked before.

Chorus: Well, indeed I haven't, ...

Martin Carthy sings Jolly Tinker

A noble London lady she loved a tinkerman
But she couldn't get in his company but a little now and then.

Chorus:
And you know she would,
Rum to the diddle, rum a diddle work a day

A noble London lady she used her ink and pen,
She wrote a letter to the jolly tinkerman.
And you know she did, …

She wrote to him a letter, she sealed it with her hand,
Saying, “Oh how I love you now my jolly tinkerman.”
And you know she did, …

She wrote to him another, she sent it with a friend,
Saying, “O my jolly tinker, my kettle needs a mend.”
And you know she did, …

As he came running down the lane and at the door he knocked,
Saying, ”Where's the rusty kettle with the hole I've got to block.”
And you know he did, …

Lady come downstairs, opened up the door,
She spied the jolly tinker standing naked on the floor.
And you know he was, …

She led him through the kitchen, she led him through the hall,
And the servants said, “The devil, has he come to block us all.”
And you know he had, …

She led him up the stair to show him what to do;
She fell on the feather bed and he fell on it too.
And you know he did, …

She picked up the frying pan and she began to knock
Just to let the servants know my boys she was hard at work.
And you know she was, …

Ran unto her pocket, she pulled out twenty pound,
“Take this my jolly tinker and we'll have another round.”
And you know we will, …

Mary Delaney sings Donnelly

There was a jolly knacker* and he had a jolly ass,
And he stuffed his box of pepper up the jolly asses arse.
Oh then, “Brave done Donnelly, good enough,” says she,
Oh then, “Well done Donnelly, and you're my man,” says she.

There was an old woman in the corner over eighty years or more.
And, “For God Almighty's sake”, she says, “will you solder my old po?”
Oh then, “Well done Donnelly, good enough”, says she.
Oh then, “Well done Donnelly, and you’re my man”, says she.

I soldered in the kitchen and I soldered in the hall,
And when I finished soldering I done the ladies and all.
Oh then, “Brave ould Donnelly, good enough”, says she.
Oh then, “Brave ould Donnelly, and you’re my man”, says she.

She sent me up the stairs for to dress the tinker’s bed,
The jolly knacker followed after me and tripped me on the leg.
Oh then, “Well done Donnelly, good enough”, says she.
Oh then, “Well done Donnelly, and you’re my man”, says she.

If you’re an honest woman as I took you for to be,
You’d have a basket on your arm and a kid belonging to me,
Oh then, “Well done Donnelly, good enough”, says she.
Oh then, “Well done Donnelly, and you’re my man”, says she.

I am a jolly tinker oh, for ninety years or more;
And a divil a finer job, me lad, I never done before.
Oh then, “Brave ould Donnelly, g’out that sir”, said she.
Oh then, “Well done Donnelly, and you’re my man”, said she.

* knacker: originally a horse for slaughter but also used for tinsmith; often now a general word for traveller.

Acknowledgements

Martin Carthy's version was transcribed by Wolfgang Hell. Thomas Doran's and Mary Delaney's versions were copied from the respective album booklets.