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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

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Book TitleAuthorDateNotes
Song TitleCongreve man
Roud No.12880
Collected FromMills, William
Collected ByWilliams, Alfred
Alternative Title
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 2 - Gloucestershire: Williams, A: MS collection No Gl 29
Source SecondaryWilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 13th May, 1916, p 3, Part 20, No. 1
Song Lyrics
Verse 1

Oh, I'm going to tell you a curious tale,
It happened of late, so it won't be stake;
A man went once to see a friend,
But little he thought how it would end.


Ri tol the rol ol; fol the rol ol.

Verse 2

He reached the house, knocked once, or more,
His friend not appearing he opened the door;
And feeling thirsty he thought it no sin,
To visit the shelf where his friend kept his gin.


Verse 3

A bottle he found and to his gill
He put it, determined to have his fill;
But as he drank the contents his friend walked in,
Saying, "What are you at?" "Why, I've drunk your gin."


Verse 4

"My gin?" says he, "Why none I've got,
You've made a mistake, you foolish sot!
If you've drunk that stuff, it will burn you to ashes,
'Tis a liquid for dipping of Congreve's matches."


Verse 5

He'd no sooner heard it than off he went,
For a stomach pump was his intent;
But ere he reached the doctor's shop,
He was all in a blaze from bottom to top.


Verse 6

He ran with all his might and main,
Until a pond he chanced to gain;
He threw himself in - you may think it's a lie -
But the heat of his body sucked up the pond dry.


Verse 7

He ran till he was dreadfully tired,
And every place he touched was fired;
He threw himself down in a wood for ease,
But his Congreve body burnt all the trees.


Verse 8

Now this man to London town he came,
He'd a fire proof cloak made to keep in the flame;
But he so strong of the liquid did smell,
They all thought him a gentleman of h-ll.


Verse 9

Now this man he asked for lodgings bold,
And lucky for him the host had a cold;
So he nothing of the liquid did smell,
And the fire proof cloak kept the flames in well.


Verse 10

Now he had not been to bed very long,
Before he found there was something wrong;
He awoke and was obliged to escape through the winder,
For the bed and the bedding were all burnt to a tinder.


Verse 11

Now this man he was in a terrible plight,
He was obliged to sleep in the fields all night;
And the people who saw him perceived, in a crack,
That he was none other than Spring Heel Jack.


Verse 12

Now the people they were is such a stew,
He'd frightened to death no little few;
They swore, if they caught him, for causing such shocks,
They'd grind him and sell at a ha'penny a box.


Verse 13

Now I'll tell you the last of this man's ills -
He went to Dartford Powder Mills;
He saw some powder and threw himself in it,
And blew up the place in less than a minute.


Verse 14

The people surrounded the place next day,
I'm told that one of his legs ran away;
It turned round in a blaze, and went off in a hand turn,
And 'tis called from that day the famed Jack and the Lantern.


Verse 15

Now I've told you all, as near as I can,
About this dreadful Congreve man;
Be persuaded by me, whene'er you go in
To see a friend, don't steal his gin.

Print Song Lyrics
Williams, Alfred: Ms / WGS: 'The three pieces immediately following [Genius; Mice and crumbs] I obtained of Mr Williams Mills, Ablington, Bibury, who sang them many years ago at harvest homes and other festivals. I am very pleased to be able to print them in our series since in addition to the interest of the songs themselves, is the interest attaching to the contributor. Mr Mills is the Tom Peregrine of that delightful book 'A Cotswold Village' written by the late Arthur Gibbs, who resided at Ablington Manor. The character, sayings and doings of Tom Peregrine, at home and abroad, represent a not inconsiderable feature of the charming volume. Since he was a gamekeeper to and also the intimate associate of the author, it may be taken for granted that he was directly and indirectly the source of some of the most pleasing pages of the work. To this knowledge must now be added the gratifying fact of his being a singer of folk songs and we welcome his inclusion in our list of collaborators.'

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2010.



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