A Long Time Ago


COLLECTED FROM GEORGE PATTISON

A LONG TIME AGO

Bosun Cornelius Desmond
No providence noted
Clive Carey
(* I have not been able to ascertain why this song appears in this particular manuscript collection other than the possibility Pattison learnt it off Desmond. Carey’s note also indicated March 1911 wf)

There was an old farmer in Yorkshire did dwell,
Ah………..!
He had an old wife but he wished her in hell,
A long time ago.

The two refrains together form the song Paddy Doyle’s Boots in Tozer’s Sailors Songs or Chanties. I unfortunately failed to get the words though he sang the song complete. But it is the same ballad as The Farmer’s Curst Wife.

This song is, as Carey points out, an amalgam of two songs, one maritime (A Long Time Ago) and the other a British lyrical song (The Farmer’s Curst Wife). Such refrains were very popular in the mid nineteenth century because of the widespread popularity, including Australia, of the so-called ‘Nigger Minstrel’ troupes.