“I'm a Rover and Seldom Sober”


The singer is seldom sober but on a starless night he can find his way to his lover. He goes to her window. He is "drenched to the skin." She lets him in and they lie together until cock crow. Then he gets up because he must be early at the plow.


The description is from Ewan MacColl, "I'm a Rover" (on Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, "Bothy Ballads of Scotland," Folkways Records FW 8759 (1961))

MacColl's notes: "This night-visit song is almost certainly related to The Grey Cock (The Lover's Ghost), a ballad in which a girl is visited by the ghost of her dead lover. As A.L. Lloyd has observed: 'Generally the song is found either with the bedroom-window theme or the cockcrow theme but not the two together. In this version the bedroom-window theme is clearly established and what remains of the cock-crow theme has lost its supernatural significance."

Tom Newman's version on Voice13 leaves out enough detail to hide the connection to "Mary's Dream," "The Ghostly Lover" and other ghostly night-visit ballads. Its description is

Singer is a drunk rover. At break of dawn in Galway he falls in love with Molly Bann. That night he goes to her window. He answers her complaint saying he is her lover, tired after a long journey, and wants to come in. "I'm soaking love, unto the skin"

The only connection to, say, "Mary's Dream" is the "soaking" line. - BS

Cross references

  • cf. "Rise Up Quickly and Let Me In" (two verses) and references there


  • Tom Newman, "I'm Often Drunk and I'm Seldom Sober" (on Voice13)


  2. Roud #3135
  3. BI, DTimarov


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1955 (recording, Tom Newman)
Found in: Britain(Scotland(Bord))