Wild Rover

Traditional | Roud 1173, Ballad Index MA069

Lyrics:

I’ve been a wild rover for manys a year
And I spent all me money on whiskey and beer
Now I’m returning with gold in great store
I never will play the “Wild Rover” no more

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay, never, no more
Will I play the “Wild Rover”
No, never, no more

I went to an alehouse I use to frequent
I told the landlady my money was spent
I asked her for credit, she answered me, “Nay
Such a custom as yours, I could have any day”

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay, never, no more
Will I play the “Wild Rover”
No, never, no more

 I took from me pockets, ten sovereigns bright
And the landlady’s eyes opened wide with delight
She said, “I have whiskeys and wines of the best
And the worst that I told you were only in jest”

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay, never, no more
Will I play the “Wild Rover”
No, never, no more

I’ll go home to my parents, confess what I’ve done
And ask them to pardon their prodigal son
And when they’ve caressed me as oftimes before
I never will play the “Wild Rover” no more

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay, never, no more
Will I play the “Wild Rover”
No, never, no more

Additional Verses

You can keep all your money and your beer likewise too
For not another penny am I spending with you
For the money I’ve got, I’m taking good care
And I never will play the Wild Rover no more

She reached up behind her to grab a glass from the shelf
And I says, “Aha,” just laughing to myself
She said, “But, dear sir, your whiskey is poured”
I said, “Keep/Stick your bad whiskey, you bloody old fraud”

There was Katy and Nancy and Margaret and Sue
And three or four more who belonged to our crew
We’d stay up ’til midnight and make the place roar
I’ve been a wild boy but I’ll be one no more

Collected by Francis James Montgomery Collinson
If I had all the moeny that I had spent here
It would buy me a big house, my fam’ly to rear
It would buy me a big house, it would patch me a barn
It would buy me a new coat to keep my back warm

I’ll go home to my father, and get me a wife
And never return to this prodigal life
I’ll go home to my mother and there I’ll remain
And I ne’er shall be called the wild rover again

From Bod9835
Let nobody tempt you to draw out your gear
There’s ruin in tasting the weakest of beer
And if you would value heart, sole, purse, or mind
Come down to the pump—leave the alehouse behind

From Songs and Ballads from Nova Scotia
Now I’m resolved to lead a new life
I’ll settle me down and marry a wife
And to keep those wild, ravenous wolves from the door
I ne’er shall be called the wild rover no more

From the singing of The Corries-
So I pulled from my pocket, a handful of gold
And upon the round table, it glittered and rolled
She said, we have whiskey and beer of the best
What I told you before was only in jest

Written by Adam Summerhayes-
So I bought from her whiskey and wines of the best
And then lay on my back with a knife in my chest
As she took from my pockets, the rest of my gold
Then she stood there and laughed as my body went cold

Lyrics from an Early 1800s Broadside

Bodleian Bod3810
Published between 1817-1828 by T. Batchelar, 115, Long Alley, Moorfields, London

I have been a wild rover these dozen long years
I have spent all my money in ale, wine, and beer
Therefore will I lay up my money in store
And I never will be a wild rover no more

Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
And never will be a wild rover no more

From alehouse to alehouse I have spent all my pay
I have spent all my money and good time away
Therefore will I lay up money and good time
And never will be a wild rover no more

Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
And never will be a wild rover no more

I went to an alehouse where I used to resort
And called for some beer, my cash they thought short
I’d ask them to trust me, their answer was nay
Such customers as you I can have every day
Therefore will I lay up my money in store
And never will play the wild rover no more

Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
And never will be a wild rover no more

I pulled out my handful of silver straightway
It was only to try them and hear what they’d say
They said I was welcome to liquor of the best
For all that they said was just only in jest

Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
And never will be a wild rover no more

O no, sir, said I, now that never can be
I’ll see you all hang’d if I spend one penny
Therefore will I lay up my money in store
And never will play the wild rover no more

Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
And never will be a wild rover no more

Lyrics from a Broadside

Bodleian Bod9832
From the Charles Harding Firth (1857-1936) collection. Date unknown.

When I was a young man I rov’d up and down
Through every city and fine market town
Alehouses and taverns I made them to roar
But now I will play the wild Rover no more

It was in Edinburgh city I first did begin
With cunning girls there I spent many a pound
And the landlady slily [sic] would double the score
But now I will play the wild Rover no more

It was next town to Glasgow I now took my way
With Nancy and Sally I spent the whole day
I met with young Molly as bright as the sun
She brought me repentance before it was long

She agreed with me in the chamber of lie
I thought I had got a sweet armful of joy
But when I was sleeping I found she was gone
My money and clothing had also put on

This impudent girl having used me so base
I applied to the whiskey my spirits to raise
For a glass of good liquor our spirits will cheer
It drowns all our sorrows and drives away care

By Stirling to Pert as I marched along
My heart was as light as the whiskey was strong
I lov’d it so dearly, I pawn’d all my clothes
Which brought me to limbo in spite of my nose

Then I went to an alehouse which I did frequent
Where many a pound I had foolishly spent
I ask’d her to trust me, but her answer was No
Your word is a bauble, it’s not worth a straw

This usage so base, from a woman so bad
Makes thousands of things run round in my head
It opened my eyes which were quite shut before
But now I will play the wild Rover no more

You brave soldiers and sailors, and tradesmen also
Take care of your money wherever you go
Take warning by me who have tried so before
But now I will play the wild Rover no more

Lyrics Sung by Mary Anne Carolan

I’ve been a wild rover for many a long year
And I spent half my money drinking strong ale and beer
Ah, but now for the future I will take better care
In case that misfortune may come to my share

Wild roving I’ll give over, wild roving I’ll give o’er
And I never shall be called a wild rover no more

I went into the alehouse where I used to resort
And I told the landlady that my money was short
But when she heard my story these words she did say
I can get many customers like you any day

Wild roving I’ll give over, wild roving I’ll give o’er
And I never shall be called a wild rover no more

I put my hand in my pocket some money to find
And I pulled out the full of my two hands five times
When she saw I had money and money galore
When she saw I had money she called me her stór
And she said, I have liquor, and that of the best
“These words I have spoken were only in jest”

Wild roving I’ll give over, wild roving I’ll give o’er
And I never shall be called a wild rover no more

If I had all the money that I left in your care
It would till all my land and my family rear
It would thatch all my houses and build me a barn
It would buy me a coat for to keep my back warm

Wild roving I’ll give over, wild roving I’ll give o’er
And I never shall be called a wild rover no more

Lyrics from Modern Street Ballads (1888)

Published in John B. Ashton’s 1888 book Modern Street Ballads.

I’ve been a wild rover these seven long years
I’ve spent all my money in ale and strong beers
But the time has come my boys, to take better care
Unless poverty happens to fall to my share

So therefore I’ll lay up my money in store
And I never will play the wild rover any more
Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
And then I will play the wild rover no more

I went to an ale house where I used to resort
I began for to tell them my money got short
I asked them to trust me, but their answer was nay
Such customers as you we may have every day

So therefore I’ll lay up my money in store
And I never will play the wild rover any more
Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
And then I will play the wild rover no more

Then my hands from my pockets I pulled out straightway
Pulled a handful of gold out to hear what they’d say
O! Here’s ale, wine, and brandy, here’s enough of the best
It was only to try you, I was but in jest

So therefore I’ll lay up my money in store
And I never will play the wild rover any more
Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
And then I will play the wild rover no more

Begone you proud landlord, I bid you adieu
For the devil of one penny will I spend with you
For my money I’ve got boys, I’ll take better care
And I never will play the wild rover no more

So therefore I’ll lay up my money in store
And I never will play the wild rover any more
Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
And then I will play the wild rover no more

So now I’ll go home to my sweet loving wife
In hopes to live happy all the days of my life
From rambling and roving, I’ll take better care
Unless poverty happens to fall on my share

So therefore I’ll lay up my money in store
And I never will play the wild rover any more
Wild rover, wild rover, wild rover no more
And then I will play the wild rover no more

Australian Lyrics

Published in Douglas Stewart and Nancy Kessing’s 1957 book Old Bush Songs and Rhymes of Colonial Times from the collection of Dr. Percy Jones with additional stanzas collected by Russel Ward from Mrs. Byrnes.

I’ve been a wild rover this many a year
And I’ve spent all my money on whisky and beer
But now I’m returning with gold in great store
And I never shall play the wild rover no more

No, no, never, never no more
Never never again shall I play
The wild rover no more

I dropped into a shanty I used to frequent
And I told the landlady my money was spent
I asked her for credit she answered me nay
Such a custom as yours I can get every day

No, no, never, never no more
Never never again shall I play
The wild rover no more

Then I drew from my pocket ten sovereigns bright
And the landlady’s eyes opened wide with delight
Said she I have whisky and wines of the best
And the words that I told you were only in jest

No, no, never, never no more
Never never again shall I play
The wild rover no more

There was Kitty and Betsy and Margaret and Sue
And three or four more that belonged to our crew
We’d sit up till midnight and make the place roar
I’ve been the wild boy but I’ll be so no more

No, no, never, never no more
Never never again shall I play
The wild rover no more

So now I’m a prisoner to “Nugget” was sent
On a bed of cold straw to lie and lament
At last I have got what so long I looked for
I’ve been a wild boy but I’ll be so no more

No, no, never, never no more
Never never again shall I play
The wild rover no more

I’ll go home to my parents confess what I’ve done
And I’ll ask them to pardon their prodigal son
And if they will do so as often before
Then I never shall play the wild rover no more

No, no, never, never no more
Never never again shall I play
The wild rover no more

Hybridization - Spencer the Wild Rover

Hybridization of “Spencer the Rover” and “Wild Rover” sung by The Kipper Family.

This song was compos-ed for many’s the year
While travelling through England on whisky and beer
It had been much reduc-ed, my gold in great store
And I’ll never play Spencer the wild rover no more

In Yorkshire near Rotherham, with Ivy I went
Me mind was on travelling, me money was spent
By the foot of yon mountain she said to me nay
For bread and cold water I can get any day

With night fast approaching, without sovereigns bright
With Woodbines and Ivy opened wide with delight
But I drank on sighing with wines of the best
Go home to your family, it was only in jest

Well his children gathered round him,
Told him what they’d done
With prittle- prattling stories about the prodigal son
I’m as happy as those as oft times before
Like bees in one hive, I’ll go roving no more

Parody by Hamish Imlach & Iain MacKintosh

A comedic re-write by Hamish Imlach & Ian MacKintosh.

We’ve both been folksingers for twenty-five years
We will sing half the night for the fun and free beers
But now that we’re older we both know the score
No we never will play the Wild Rover no more

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay never, no more
Will I play the wild rover
No, never, no more

I know it’s a song one that pleases the folk
But I have to admit that it just makes me choke
A night with a sore tooth is more fun to me
Than to sing even one verse, never mind two or three

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay never, no more
Will I play the wild rover
No, never, no more

It’s a song that’s requested again and again
If I hear it once more it’ll drive me insane
The words all sound stupid it just makes me wild
And the tune could be learnt by a two-year old child

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay never, no more
Will I play the wild rover
No, never, no more

I’ll go to a folk club, take a shotgun along
And I’ll shoot the first bastard who asks for that song
And the hangman will say as I fall through the floor
Now you never will play the Wild Rover no more

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay never, no more
Will I play the wild rover
No, never, no more

Parody - Wild Major

Written by Les Barker

I’ve been John Major for many a year
Don’t know where I’m going and talk through my rear
I have my advisors; there’s Kenneth and Chris
I know my own mind, but not where it is

No yes maybe
No yes maybe no what?
I think I’m John Major
Or maybe I’m not

Not at this moment; not in this form
Maybe in the future; you’d better ask Norm
In the fullness of time; when I judge it right
I might if I have to; but no, not tonight

No yes maybe
No yes maybe no what?
I think I’m John Major
Or maybe I’m not

The leaders of Europe sit in conference
The others have armchairs; I have the fence
Delors is dismayed at the way I demur
They all understand me; I always say “Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”

No yes maybe
No yes maybe no what?
I think I’m John Major
Or maybe I’m not

I get quite upset when they say that I’m grey
I’ve got half a mind… but then that’s what they say
I will not be pushed you won’t shake my resolve
I know the way forward-, I’m going to revolve

No yes maybe
No yes maybe no what?
I think I’m John Major
Or maybe I’m not

Parody - The Hard Drinker

I’ve been a hard drinker for many a year
And I always fall over on ten pints of beer
So now when I drink I sit on the floor
And I never will risk falling over no more

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay, never no more
Will I drink and fall over
No never no more

I went to a bar that I used to frequent
Despite having sworn that I’d give up for Lent
I asked for two pints but the barman said, “Nay!
“You’ll only fall over like you did yesterday!”

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay, never no more
Will I drink and fall over
No never no more

I’d pulled from my pocket two shiny gold pounds
And I managed to do that without falling down
The barman said, “Sir, please choose from this list
“And I’m sorry if just now I thought you were pissed”

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay, never no more
Will I drink and fall over
No never no more

I think that I’ll stick now to stiff drinks and shorts
Like whiskey and punch and Pernods and ports
Cut down on the volume and all that I drink
Then at least when I throw up I won’t block the sink

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay, never no more
Will I drink and fall over
No never no more

I’ll go back to my girlfriend; confess what I’ve done
And if she should hit me I won’t turn and run
I’ll promise to give up; but if I should fail
I’ll meet you next Monday for ten pints of ale!

And it’s no, nay, never
No, nay, never no more
Will I drink and fall over
No never no more

Parody - I've Been A Hell's Angel for Many's the Year

I’ve been a Hell’s angel for manys the year
And spent all me money on black leather gear
Now me bike it is rusty me arse it is sore
And I never will play the hell’s angel no more

And it’s no nay never
No nay never no more
Will I play the hell’s angel
No never no more

I went to a garage I used to frequent
And told the mechanic my crankshaft was bent
I asked him to fix it he answered me nay
Saying that there’s a Moulton we stock B.S.A.

And it’s no nay never
No nay never no more
Will I play the hell’s angel
No never no more

Out from me pocket me Hitler Youth Knife
His eyes opened wide in the fear of his life
He said “I was joking please take what you like”
I said “Ta very much mate, I’ll have a new bike”

And it’s no nay never
No nay never no more
Will I play the hell’s angel
No never no more

The bike needed greasing, I got down underneath
His mates came along, they kicked me in the teeth
I lay on the floor, Lord I thought I was dead,
There were six pairs of boots all lined up round my head.

And it’s no nay never
No nay never no more
Will I play the hell’s angel
No never no more

And when I awoke with my head in a cast
I swore that was my first fight I’ll make it my last
and when I am off this intensive care floor
I never will play the Hell’s angel no more

And it’s no nay never
No nay never no more
Will I play the hell’s angel
No never no more

Featured On:
Me Grief and Tears to Smother

• More Recordings •






About the Song:

Ignoring the irony of trying to pin down the history of a song titled “Wild Rover”, it’s roots has been traced back to around 1645 with the first known publication of Thomas Lanfiere’s song “The Goodfellow’s Intentions; or, The Bad Husband’s Return From His Folly” (goodfellow being slang for a drinking partner) by Brian Peters in his 2015 article “The Well-Traveled ‘Wild Rover’” published in Folk Song Journal, Vol. 10 by the English Folk Dance & Song Society. “Goodfellow’s” as a song wasn’t particularly unique, sharing themes of temperence and moral debauchery with other ballads like “The Alewives Invitation”, forming a subset of Alehouse ballads dubbed “Bad Husband Ballads” by Brian Peters. While songs like “The Alewives Invitation” also make contenders for Wild Rover’s roots, “Goodfellow’s” is the only one referencing the protagonist lying to the landlady about how much money he has.

Over time, Lanfiere’s 13-verse “Goodfellows” was condensed to just a few and picked up a chorus. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, this version found its way into oral traditions in England, published in American songsters [1] [2], and became extremely popular in Australia, with A. L. Lloyd describing it as being “issued over and over again on broadsheets by Catnach, Such, Bebbington and other stall-ballad printers” in the liner notes of his 1958 album Across the Western Plains. Interestingly, Lloyd also notes that, while his anecdotal evidence isn’t definitive, he never heard the song sung with melody used by Ives. By the late 19th century, the “prodigal son” verse grew in prominence, and by the early 20th, the “No, nay, never” chorus completely dominated both published and oral versions.

We owe the song’s contemporary staying power to The Dubliners with their 1963 recording. Luke Kelly, The Dubliners’ singer, learned the song from Louisa Killen, English folk singer and trans queen, who learned his version from a 1940’s BBC radio program and padded it with verses from the melodically distinct recording of the Norfolk fisherman and source singer Sam Larner. Despite learning the song from Killen, Kelly instead opts to use lyrics popular in Australia. Brian Peters suggests Burl Ives’ late 1950s recording as a strong contender for where Kelly got the lyrics. The Clancy Brothers also learned the song from Kelly, even introducing it as of Australian oirign on the debut episode of Pete Seeger’s 1965 TV show, Rainbow Quest.

Parent Song: “The Goodfellow’s Intentions; or, The Bad Husband’s Return From His Folly” (Thomas Lanfiere)

Alternate Titles: No, Nay, Never; Wild Rover No More

Related songs: I Have Been A Wild Boy, The Green Bed