“Old John Wallis”


John Brown had an old mare. He wasn't bid one farthing for her at Caister fair. He had a cow that gave only enough milk for his sow. His hens got in his corn; he shot at them but killed his mare. He killed another mare running her head into a tree


John Wallis's part in this song is only to ask John Brown "do you think this mare will die?" The rest of the song has to do with John Brown's misadventures. I list only a few of those in the description. He has others that I don't begin to understand. For example,

Old John Brown he went to plough,

And when he got there he didn't know how.

At every end he gave meows

He said he could plough from light to dark.


Old John Brown he had two fools

And he said he would make them lead his winter cows.

And if they didn't get back by noon,

He would eat the treacle and swallow the spoon.

I hope this is not supposed to make sense. - BS

I wonder if it isn't some sort of "song of all nonsense songs," with some garbling as the various elements came together. Roud lumps it with "Brian O'Lynn (Tom Boleyn)." I'm reminded of versions of "The Swapping Boy." Mix in a little of "Little Brown Dog" and a dead horse song, and voila! - RBW


  • Bob Brader, "Old John Wallis" (on Voice14)


  1. Roud #294
  2. BI, RcOlJoWa


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1967 (recording, Bob Brader)
Found in: Britain(England(Lond))