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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

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Book TitleAuthorDateNotes
Song TitleOld church bells
Roud No.9265
Collected FromTemple, Henry
Collected ByWilliams, Alfred
Alternative Title
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 2 - Gloucestershire: Williams, A: MS collection No Gl 53
Source SecondaryWilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 8th July, 1916, p 3, Part 36, No. 1
Song Lyrics
Verse 1

O those old church bells! those merry bells!
Although they were but three,
A jolly set of ringers they,
As ringers ought to be.
It happened once upon a time,
How long I can't reveal,
Those old church ringers sallied forth,
To ring their midnight peal.


O it really is a funny thing,
The tales that I've been told,
And plainly shows what ringers were,
In the merry days of old.

Verse 2

They spent their evening hours before
In soaking well their clay,
And as they sallied forth at night,
Could scarcely find their way;
To hear them talk, and see them walk,
Along the road, 'twas rich,
The truth to tell, one old boy fell,
And tumbled in the ditch.


Verse 3

The other two they got him out,
And to the church repaired,
Unlocked the door, and on their knees,
Went scrambling up the stairs;
Doffed off their coats, and seized the ropes,
But 'twas not long before,
The big bell ringer missed his pull,
And tumbled on the floor.


Verse 4

Then, getting up he seized the rope,
But found 'twas all in vain,
For every time he tried to chime,
He would fall down again;
The other two their eyes were shut,
But still they went on ringing,
Till he cried - "Stop! Let's have a drop,
And finish up with singing."


Verse 5

The bells went off with three, two, one,
And then with one, three, two,
For ring them right that very night,
Was more than they could do;
They blowed, they lugged, they pulled, they tugged,
But could not ring at all,
Until each man had made a stand,
With his back against the wall.


Verse 6

The bells then stopped, and down they sat,
Upon the belfry floor,
They drank till all their beer was gone,
Of that you may be sure;
Then, groping back their way downstairs,
As homeward they did reel,
Each man declared he never heard,
A better midnight peel.

Print Song Lyrics
Williams, Alfred: Ms / WGS: 'An old and amusing folk song, telling of a circumstance that is not unknown in our own times. I have myself been present at the ringing of the midnight peal, and can testify to the condition under which it used sometimes to be conducted. Copy obtained of Henry Temple, Barnsley, near Cirencester; it was also known at Shilton, near Burford.'

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2010.



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