Mudcat Café message #2437762 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #114305   Message #2437762
Posted By: Joe Offer
11-Sep-08 - 05:47 PM
Thread Name: DTStudy: Drink Old England Dry
Subject: DTStudy: Drink Old England Dry
This is an edited DTStudy thread, and all messages posted here are subject to editing and deletion.
This thread is intended to serve as a forum for corrections and annotations for the Digital Tradition song named in the title of this thread.

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I heard Holdstock and MacLeod sing this at their CD release concert last week, and they sang a lot more verses that the two I found in the Digital Tradition. I wonder if we can find other versions with more verses than what we have.
Except for one word that I've crossed out, the DT version is a transcription of what you'll find in Peter Kennedy's Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, #270:

DRINK OLD ENGLAND DRY

Now come, me brave boys, as I've told you before
Come drink, me brave boys, and we'll boldly call for more
For the French they've invited us and they say that they will try
Will try
They say that they will come and drink old England dry

Aye, dry, aye dry, me boys, aye, dry
They say they will come over and drink Old England dry.

Supposin' we should meet with the Germans by the way
Ten thousand to one we will show them British play
With our swords and our cutlasses, we'll fight until we die
We die
Before that they shall come and drink old England dry

From Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, Kennedy
Collected from Rowland Whitehead, 1953
@drink
filename[ DRNKENGL
TUNE FILE: DRNKENGL
CLICK TO PLAY
RG
apr96

Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song:

Drink Old England Dry

DESCRIPTION: Singer calls on his companions to drink, for the English are at war with the French (Germans, Russians). The singer vows to show the enemy "British play": "We'll fight until we die/Before that they shall come and drink old England dry."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1890 (Rev. J. Broadwood, "Sussex Songs")
LONG DESCRIPTION: Singer calls on his companions to drink, for the English are at war with the French (Germans, Russians). The singer vows to show the enemy "British play"; "With our swords and with our cutlasses, We'll fight until we die/Before that they shall come and drink old England dry." A national hero (Lord Raglan, Lord Roberts, Churchill) swears he shall be true to his country and crown, and that cannons will rattle and bullets fly before they drink old England dry
KEYWORDS: promise fight violence war drink France Germany Russia nonballad patriotic ritual
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South,North))
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Kennedy 270, "Drink Old England Dry" (1 text, 1 tune)
Browne-Hampshire, pp. 43-45, "Drink Old England Dry" (1 text, 1 tune)
DallasCruel, pp. 148-149, "Drink Old England Dry" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT, DRNKENGL*

Roud #882
RECORDINGS:
Rowland Whitehead & chorus, "Drink Old England Dry" (on FSB8)
NOTES [273 words]: Anne Gilchrist dates the original of this song to the time of the Napoleonic Wars. It was sung by a group known as The Boggens who would go around the village of Haxey (Lincolnshire) during the week preceding the day of the Hood Game, a combat ritual game. - PJS
The Napoleonic date is of course possible, but I personally think it's older. The British have, of course, fought the French for as long as both nations existed. But the reference in Kennedy's text to fighting the *Germans* "with our swords and our cutlasses" argues against such a date -- and postponing to the World Wars hardly helps.
Personally, I'd guess (very tentatively) that this dates to one of the "Succession Wars" of the eighteenth century. During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), for instance, Britain was allied with Austria against France (e.g. Battle of Dettingen, 1743), and sometimes Prussia (which started the war, then backed out, then went back in). It therefore fits the situation better than the Napoleonic era.
The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713) doesn't fit quite as well, since the German states were mostly on the same side as England in opposing France -- but it has the advantage of bringing in a Churchill before Winston (and note that the Kennedy text does not refer to *Winston* Churchill, merely "Churchill"): The Duke of Marlborough's name was John Churchill.
This, of course, is not to deny that the song could be adapted to later wars, as in the version collected by Cecil Sharp, which was adapted to the Crimean War by the insertion of Lord Raglan (the British commander on the Black Sea front) into the song. - RBW
Last updated in version 5.0
File: K270

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