The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Arthur McBride and the Sergeant

For Christmas Morning

Words and Music: Unknown

I once had a brother called Arthur McBride
And he and I wandered adown the seaside;
Our pleasure and pastime a-watchin' the tide,
And the weather was pleasant & charmin'.

So gaily and gallant we went on a tramp,
We met Sergeant Napier & Corp'ral Demant,
'And the neat little drummer that roused all the camp
And beat row-de-dow-dow in the mornin'.

"Good morning, young fellows," the sergeant did cry
"The same to you, sergeant," we made a reply.
Was nothing more spoken, we made to pass by
It was all on a Christmas Day mornin'.

"Come, come, my fine fellows, I pray you enlist
Ten guineas in gold I will slap in your fist
And a crown in the bargain to kick up the dust
For to drink the king's health in the morning

"Oh no, Mister Sergeant, we are not for sale
We make no such bargain, your bribe won't avail.
We're fond of our country, & care not to sail
Tho' your offers look pleasant & charmin'."

"Ha, if you insult me without other words
I swear by the devil we'll draw out our swords
And thrust thro' your bodies as strength us affords
And leave you to die without warnin'."

We beat the bold drummer as flat as his shoe
We made a football of his row-de-dow-do;
And the sergeant and corporal we knocked down the two
O, we were the boys in that mornin'.

The two little weapons that hung at their side
As we trotted away, we threw into the tide,
"And the devil be with you," said Arthur McBride
"For delayin' our walk in the mornin."

Editor's Notes:

This venerable old anti-recruiting song has also been characterized as a protest song and an anti-war song. It is set on Christmas morning, and comes from the 18th century, or perhaps earlier. There are numerous variations of the song ─ McBride is also a comrade, a cousin, and perhaps a first cousin ─ and a number of tunes. It occurs on several early Broadsides, and one of the earliest printed versions comes from the 19th century. It's areas of origin include East Anglia, Ireland (specifically Donegal), and Scotland.

This version is said to be a favorite of A. L. Lloyd according to a posting at Mudcat Cafe, "I Once Had A Brother." Another version at the Mudcat Cafe, "I Once Had A Comrade," was described as coming from Gavin Grieg's "Songs of Northeast;" it was recorded on David Jones on his LP "Easy and Slow," and Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick on their LP "Prince Heathen."  The sheet music below, "I Had A First Cousin" comes from that page:

There are several YouTube offerings including Paul Brady's 1977 version "Arthur McBride," Bob Dylan's "Arthur McBride (Remastered)," and Planxty's "Arthur McBride."

There's a Wikipedia article on the song, Arthur McBride, and numerous web pages that discuss the song, its variants, and those who have recorded one version or another. Your search will bring up a more current list that we could post here.

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