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23rd July 2003Come on! sing along.....
By Dave Nolan
Pretty Polly Perkins
(Harry Clifton, 1832-1872)

I am a broken-hearted milkman, in grief I'm arrayed
Through keeping of the company of a young servant maid.
Who lived on board and wages the house to keep clean
In a gentleman's family near Paddington Green.

She was as beautiful as a butterfly
and proud as a Queen,
Was pretty little Polly Perkins
of Paddington Green.

She'd an ankle like an antelope and a step like a deer,
A voice like a blackbird, so mellow and clear,
Her hair hung in ringlets so beautiful and long,
I thought that she loved me but I found I was wrong.

When I'd rattle in the morning and cry "Milk below!",
At the sound of my milk cans her face she did show,
With a smile upon her countenance and a laugh in her eye.
If I'd thought that she loved me I'd have laid down to die.

When I asked her to marry me she said 'Oh what stuff',
And told me to drop it, for she'd had quite enough.
Of my nonsense -- At the same time, I'd been very kind,
But to marry a milkman she didn't feel inclined.

"The man that has me must have silver and gold,
A chariot to ride in and be handsome and bold.
His hair must be curly as any watch-spring,
And his whiskers as big as a brush for clothing."

The words that she uttered went straight through my heart
I sobbed and I sighed, and I straight did depart.
With a tear on my eyelid as big as a bean
I bid farewell to Polly and to Paddington Green.

In six months she married, this hard-hearted girl,
But it was not a Wi-count, and it was not a Nearl,
It was not a 'Baronite', but a shade or two wuss,
It was a bow-legged conductor of a tupenny bus.


23rd July 2003Diana Blackwell
Thanks for digging up the actual lyrics. I had no idea this was a real song.
23rd July 2003Peter Ewart
"SHUDDUPP, you cripple!!!"

(Or words to that effect, if memory serves me right!)

A typically lovely, sentimental music hall song of the period - one can picture Maxfield in the stalls of the music hall in his days as a young private, gawping at the actor singing it & no doubt ogling the mawkish trollop in gaudy dress who would have played to perfection the part of PPP to a house full of drunks.

(If he'd been allowed in, of course - "They gave a drunk civilian room, but hadn't none for me ...")

24th July 2003Barry Iacoppi N.Z.
I raised the question once in the past as to what would have been popular in the way of music with British soldiers in 1879. No doubt there were many old favourites but what were the “hit” songs of the day? Still on topic I managed to pick up an old 45 record of “Zulu Stomp” by John Barry. My family are already sick of it and I am only allowed to play it when I have the house to myself.
24th July 2003Ian Woodason

Marling, an officer in the 60th Rifles, refers to the regiment singing 'My Grandfather's Clock' on campaign in the First Anglo Boer War. It was published in 1876 so was probably sung during the AZW too.

24th July 2003Peter Ewart

According to Trooper Fred Symons, Natal Carbineers, one of the tunes played by the band of the 1/24 between Pietermaritzburg & Helpmekaar on their march through Natal on the way to war was "Nancy Lee." (Ian Knight, The Sun Turned Black, p45).

This was a sea shanty composed in 1876 (tune by Stephen Adams, lyrics by Fred E Weatherley, the same chap who wrote the words to Danny Boy, Roses of Picardy & The Old Brigade) and was an extremely popular song of the time, apparently selling 70,000 copies in the first 18 months. Despite the absence from England of the battalion during this period, it is not surprising that the band got hold of the music in S Africa.

Info on the song at
from which I've lifted the above details. Full words - & other sites provide sheet music.

24th July 2003Martin Everett
Dear All,
As always there is a book - Songs & Music of the redcoats (1642-1902) by Lewis Winstock pulbished by Leo Cooper 1970 ISBN 0 85052-003-7
26th July 2003Adrian Whiting
Here's a verse to the tune of "The girl I left behind me"

Oh, I took my dear old mother-in-law,
A-bathing in the ocean,
And the way she kicked and splashed about,
It caused a great commotion.
Oh how I laughed, ha, ha, ha, ha,
And goodness, how I gloated,
For one of her legs was made of cork,
And the wrong way up she floated.

Not sure of this one's provenance but I've heard it a few times - the book Martin refers to is an excellent reference on the history of its subject - there was an album (record) produced to accompany it with the same title, which is very good too.
26th July 2003Peter Ewart
Almost forgot - on my shelves I have "The Rambling Soldier" edited by Roy Palmer & sub-titled "Life in the lower ranks 1750-1900 through soldiers' songs & writings." (Kestrel Books/Penguin, 1977. ISBN - 0 7226 5294 1).

Highly recommended. The bibiography & further reading list is also very useful too.

31st March 2004Bryan S D PORTER
Our cat Polly[sometimes called p perkins] went missing around last xmas and i could only think of the 2nd. verse. She returned a week later a little worse for wear and thinner.We cried and cried and she was grounded for two months. Glad to find words to shew my wife.Thankyou.N.B. 'A Voyage Round My Father' N.N.B. If you find this mawkish then try losing{or being lost from} one you really love.