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The Trooper
(Roud 311)
Nora Cleary
The Hand, near Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer's home, 1976

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Nora Cleary

Oh there was an auld merchant near London did dwell,
He had a fine daughter he loved her quite well.
She was pretty and witty and could not be excelled,
And her husband he was a bold trooper.

Singing fol-dadiddle-hay, riddle-lay riddle-lay;
Singing fol-dadiddle-ay riddle-laddie i-do.

There was an auld tailor that lived nearby,
And on this pretty damsel he soon cast an eye.
Four guineas I’ll pay for my lodgings tonight,
If your husband is bound to stand duty.

Singing fol-dadiddle-hay, riddle-lay riddle-lay;
Singing fol-dadiddle-ay riddle-laddie i-do.

T'ould trooper went out and that before long,
And they up to bed and began for to fun.
They went up to bed and began for to fun,
And never since thought of the trooper.

Singing fol-dadiddle-hay, riddle-lay riddle-lay;
Singing fol-dadiddle-ay riddle-laddie i-do.

The trooper he came at the dead hour of night,
He knocked at the door which caused them great fright.
‘Oh hide me, oh hide me,’ the tailor, he cried,
‘For I hear the bold rap of the trooper.’

Singing fol-dadiddle-hay, riddle-lay riddle-lay;
Singing fol-dadiddle-ay riddle-laddie i-do.

'Oh there is an old cupboard behind the room’s door,
And there you may lie both safe and secure.
I’ll go downstairs and I’ll open the door,
And I’ll welcome my husband the trooper.'

Singing fol-dadiddle-hay, riddle-lay riddle-lay;
Singing fol-dadiddle-ay riddle-laddie i-do.

She went downstairs and let him in,
And with kisses and compliments she did begin.
‘Your kisses and compliments I don’t give a pen,
But light me some fire,’ said the trooper.

Singing fol-dadiddle-hay, riddle-lay riddle-lay;
Singing fol-dadiddle-ay riddle-laddie i-do.

‘I have no fire nor no fire stuffs,
But come into bed we’ll be warm enough.’
‘There is an old cupboard behind the room’s door,
I’ll burn it tonight,’ said the trooper.

Singing fol-dadiddle-hay, riddle-lay riddle-lay;
Singing fol-dadiddle-ay riddle-laddie i-do.

‘Oh husband, oh husband, oh grant my desire,
That useless old cupboard is too good for fire.
Besides there I do keep my game cock I admire.’
‘Show me your game cock,’ says the trooper.

Singing fol-dadiddle-hay, riddle-lay riddle-lay;
Singing fol-dadiddle-ay riddle-laddie i-do.

The trooper went up, behind the room’s door,
And there found the tailor safe and secure.
He gave him a halt in the middle of the floor,
‘Is this your game cock?’ said the trooper.

Singing fol-dadiddle-hay, riddle-lay riddle-lay;
Singing fol-dadiddle-ay riddle-laddie i-do.


"This was very popular in England as 'The Old Drover', though the villain of the piece remains the philandering tailor – always popular as disreputable figures in the oral tradition. In Nora’s version, the tailor gets off quite lightly by merely getting ‘a halt in the middle of the floor’; elsewhere he (symbolically) gets his ears cut off and is then kicked downstairs and out of the door for his cuckolding behaviour. In Ireland, it has mainly been reported as being sung in the North, notably by John Maguire of Fermanagh; John called it 'The Wee Croppy Tailor'. Norman Peacock writes of two Newfoundland versions (one entitled 'The Croppéd Tailor'):

‘Tailors are often objects of ridicule and scorn in traditional literature, perhaps that is why the cuckolded trooper exacted such an elaborate and harsh revenge. However, the castration symbolism is so obvious that I think we may safely assume that the tailor was not actually killed, merely maimed. Notice in the last verse that the trooper says "your game-cock is dead," not "your tailor is dead." Cutting off the tailor's "ears" seems to be drastic enough surgery to end his philandering career, but apparently the trooper was taking no chances and did a complete job.’”

Reference:
Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, Kenneth Peacock, National Museum of Canada, 1965.
Jim Carroll


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