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The Codfish
(Roud 149)
Vincie Boyle
Mount Scott, Mullagh
Recorded November 2003

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Vincie Boyle

Oh there was a little man and he had a little horse,
He bridled him and saddled him and threw his leg across,
Mister raddle-um-a-daddle-dum,
Hi mister-raddle-um-a-daddle-um-a-day.

He rode and he rode till he came to a brook
He spied a jolly fisherman, fishing with a hook.
Mister raddle-um-a-daddle-dum,
Hi mister-raddle-um-a-daddle-um-a-day.

‘Fisherman, fisherman, fisherman,’ said he,
Have you a little codfish that you would give to me?’
Mister raddle-um-a-daddle-dum,
Hi mister-raddle-um-a-daddle-um-a-day.

‘Yes sir, yes sir, yes sir,’ said he,
I have a little codfish that I will give to thee.’
Mister raddle-um-a-daddle-dum,
Hi mister-raddle-um-a-daddle-um-a-day.

He caught the little codfish by the backbone,
He threw it across his shoulder and rode away home
Mister raddle-um-a-daddle-dum,
Hi mister-raddle-um-a-daddle-um-a-day.

When he got home, sure he couldn’t find a dish,
So he put it in the pot where the wife she used to piss.
Mister raddle-um-a-daddle-dum,
Hi mister-raddle-um-a-daddle-um-a-day.

The wife she got up in the middle of the night,
She made for the pot, sure she got an awful fright.
Mister raddle-um-a-daddle-dum,
Hi mister-raddle-um-a-daddle-um-a-day.

She sat in the pot for to make what she had,
The codfish he caught her by the Glory be to God!
Mister raddle-um-a-daddle-dum,
Hi mister-raddle-um-a-daddle-um-a-day.

‘Oh husband, oh husband, the devil is in the po,
He has me by the leather and he won’t let me go.’
Mister raddle-um-a-daddle-dum,
Hi mister-raddle-um-a-daddle-um-a-day.

One caught the poker, and the other caught the broom,
They chased the little codfish all around the room.
Mister raddle-um-a-daddle-dum,
Hi mister-raddle-um-a-daddle-um-a-day.

They kicked him in the belly, and they kicked him in the side,
They kicked him up in t’arse till the poor ould devil died.
Mister raddle-um-a-daddle-dum,
Hi mister-raddle-um-a-daddle-um-a-day.


"First appearing in print in Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscripts in 1643 as 'The Sea Crabb', this is claimed to be one of the oldest surviving songs in English. As old as the song is, it was reported 363 years earlier as a tale, in an account of a traveller in Russia, possibly in 'The Book of Marco Polo', though it was said to be Italian rather than Russian. The earliest text describes the wife as being pregnant - hence her desire for crab - and it presents us with a scene of high farce by having the creature hanging from her nether parts, reaching out and grabbing the rescuing husband’s nose, thus:

'Alas', quoth the good man, 'that ever I came hither,
He has joined my wife’s tayle and my nose together.'

It has appeared in print on several occasions, though often heavily censored, either by the singer or by the collector. Pregnancy as a reason for the wife’s request for seafood survived right into the early twentieth century when Cecil Sharp noted the song from the exuberant Mrs Overd from Langport in Dorset in 1904. Its consistency as a text is underlined by the verse:

'Oh husband, oh husband, the devil is in the po,
He has me by the leather and he won’t let me go.'

Mrs Overd's version, 110 years ago:

'Oh husband, oh husband, I pray thee come hither,
For the devil’s in the pot and he’s got me by the leather.'

We recorded an extremely bawdy version from Wexford Traveller, ‘Pop’s’ Johnny Connors and an American collector once wrote that Seamus Ennis sang a similarly bawdy one at a house party in New York, but we’ve never been able to find a recording of it. As 'The Lobster', it was, and possibly still is, a popular favourite during boozy sporting nights out and was included in several published collections of rugby songs."

References:
Cecil Sharp’s Collection of English Folk Songs, Maud Karpeles (ed.), 1974.
Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscripts: Loose and Humorous Songs, Frederick J Furnival (ed.), 1868.
Jim Carroll

See also:
The Codfish sung by Nora Cleary


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