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> Dave Swarbrick > Songs > When I Was a Little Boy

When I Was a Little Boy / A Lying Tale / As I Set Off to Turkey

[ Roud 1706 ; G/D 8:1701 ; Ballad Index VWL101 ; trad.]

Roy Harris sang this boasting ballad from The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs on his 1975 LP Champions of Folly. Martin Carthy played guitar on this track and Bobby Campbell mandola.

And Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick recorded it for their 2006 album Straws in the Wind. Carthy commented in the sleeve notes:

There are the clearest echoes of the beautiful Jean Ritchie family song Nottamun Town in When I Was a Little Boy. They're called “songs of lies” and are a very old idea—an idea assumed with huge effect by Bob Dylan in his epic Hard Rain's Gonna Fall. It's from just about as far north as you can get in Scotland without drowning and the singer, John Stickle from Baltasound on Unst in the Shetlands, who sang may beautiful and unusual songs for Patrick Shuldham-Shaw, was also possessed of a wonderful repertoire of fiddle tunes.

Jo Freya sang a variant called As I Set Off to Turkey in 1992 on her Saydisc album Traditional Songs of England. The liner notes commented:

Collected by George Gardiner from David Marlow of Basingstoke, 1906. This is a hyperbolic song of the The Derby Ram genre and Gardiner says that it was current among young people about 1830-40 when Mr Marlow was a boy.

Lyrics

Martin Carthy sings When I Was a Little Boy

When I was a little boy to London I did go,
But now I've turned a roguish blade, my courage it will show.
My feet was on the table, my head was hanging down,
And I jumped over Kingston Hill and never touched the ground,
My tooral laddy whack fol laddy tooral looral ling.

Oh, I bought myself a little bull about three inches high;
People all admired me, all for to hear him cry.
People all admired me, he made such an awful sound,
That he made the steeple of St Paul's Church come a-tumbling to the ground,
My tooral laddy whack fol laddy tooral looral ling.

Oh, I bought myself a flock of sheep and most of them were wethers;
Sometimes they brought me wool, sometimes they brought me feathers.
They were as fine a flock, sir, as anyone could possess,
For every month or six weeks they brought me six lamb apiece,
With my tooral laddy whack fol laddy tooral looral ling.

Oh, I bought myself a little hen, and of her I took great care;
I set her on a mussel shell, she hatched me out a hare.
The hare grew to a milk-white steed about eighteen yard high,
And if anybody tell you a bigger story, I'll tell you it's a lie,
With my tooral laddy whack fol laddy tooral looral ling.

And I bought myself a little box about three acres square;
Stowed it in my breeches' pocket, guineas they were there.
People all admired me, thanked me for what I'd done,
And they gave me a portion of silver and gold about ten thousand ton,
My tooral laddy whack fol laddy tooral looral ling.

Jo Freya sings As I Set Off to Turkey

As I set off to Turkey I travelled like an ox
And in my breeches' pocket I carried my little box.
My box was four foot high, my box was four foot square,
All for to put my money in when guineas are so rare,
To my right tol lol le riddle riddle lol, to my right tol lol li day.

Then I bought me a little dog, his collar was undone,
I learned him to sing and dance, to wrestle and to run.
His legs were four feet high and his hears were four feet wide,
And round the world in half a day all on my dog I'd ride.
To my right tol lol le riddle riddle lol, to my right tol lol li day.

Then I bought me a flock of sheep, their wool it was so sleek,
And every month at the full of the moon they had six lambs apiece.
Then I bought me a little hen, on her I took much care,
I sat her on a mussel shell and she hatched me a hare.
To my right tol lol le riddle riddle lol, to my right tol lol li day.

The hare it proved to be a white steed about fifteen hands high,
And they as can tell a bigger jest, oh dear, oh dear, what a lie.
To my right tol lol le riddle riddle lol, to my right tol lol li day.

Acknowledgements

Lyrics taken from The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, ed. Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd, Penguin, 1959:101, and adapted to the actual singing of Martin Carthy by Garry Gillard.