“Cosher Bailey's Engine”


"Cosher Bailey had an engine, It was always wanting and mending." Tall tales of Bailey, the engine (bought second-hand, and capable of "four miles an hour"), his sister, brother, daughter, education, and death

Long description

Railroader Cosher Bailey's locomotive is described, along with his sister, brother, daughter, and escapades. At least half of the verses are double entendre, in a cleaned-up sort of way -- e.g. "Cosher Bailey had a daughter/Who did things she shouldn't oughta/She was quite beyond the pale/But over that we'll draw a veil." He dies (maybe) and is refused entrance into Hell


I suspect there are verses out there considerably more bawdy than these. - PJS

As well as some of the "blatantly obviously cleaned up" variety -- witness this from the Digital Tradition:

Cosher Bailey's brother Matthew

Had a job at cleaning statues

But when he was cleaning Venus

He slipped and broke his elbow.

In fact, the notes in MacColl-Shuttle, derived from A. L. Lloyd, admit that there are many ribald verses.

According to those notes, Bailey was an ironmaster who in 1846 built the Taff Vale railroad. Legend has it that he drove the first train on the line and got stuck in a tunnel -- obviously something that invited some really dirty verses. Bailey is said to have died in 1872, by which time railroads had obviously been entirely vindicated. - RBW

Cross references


  1. MacColl-Shuttle, pp. 17-18, "Cosher Bailey's engine" (1 text (edited), 1 tune)
  2. Silber-FSWB, p. 31, "Cosher Bailey's Engine" (1 text)
  4. BI, FSWB031A


Author: unknown
Earliest date: Late 1940s (recording, Ewan MacColl)
Found in: Britain(Wales)