“Paddy Backwards”


Singer rides to market on a cow, which dirties his clothes and shoes. He looks up the magistrate, asking if he knows the place; when he arrives, he sees nothing but a thousand potatoes growing on a pear tree. Chorus: "Sing down, all you paddies, lay down"


MacColl & Seeger lump this and other "marvels" songs with "Nottamun Town," but as the tunes, structures wonders cited are different I prefer to keep them separate. - PJS

This is another "Oh, dear." Looking at the version in the Digital Tradition, the plot is quite distinct from what is listed here, and it shares lyrics and a metrical pattern with "Nottamun Town" -- so much so that I almost filed *it* with Nottamun Town and called the MacColl/Seeger text a separate piece. Definitely a case of continuous texts, but with divergent extremes. - RBW

Greenleaf/Mansfield says "this is a variant of 'Paddy's Ramble to London' a favorite slip and broadside song of the first half of the nineteenth century."

Leach-Labrador agrees with Greenleaf/Mansfield in that "an English broadside, 'Paddy's Ramble to London,' early nineteenth century, is probably the ancestor of this and of the various songs found in America with titles like 'Nottingham Fair,' 'Nottamun Torn.' It was a popular minstrel song.

If you follow this through the Bodleian archives, be careful not to be misled by broadsides with similar titles like "Paddy's Ramble THROUGH London" or "Paddy's VISIT to London" which are among the many country-bumpkin-comes-to-town-and-reveals-how-foolish-things-are-in-the-city broadsides. Bodleian includes "Paddy's Ramble to London" printed at Seven Dials between 1802 and 1844, shelfmark 2806 c.18(233). You can see a similar text as "Paddy's Ramble"["Says Paddy in Ireland no longer I'll stay"] printed in London between 1802 and 1819, shelfmark Harding B 16(198a).

Here is a Long Description of "Paddy's Ramble to London":

This is addressed to tars looking for a fight between wars, without swords or guns but arms "to kill all our friends that will do no harm."

Paddy has too much money and so can't pay his debts and decides to go to London, pass for a Lord, with his head under his arm, his wig and broad sword.

[The third and fourth verse are a clear source for Paddy Backwards]: He leaves Dublin for Manchester "next Michael last" where "My horse standing still throw'd me down in the dirt Daubed my Body and bruised my shirt, I being of good courage I mounted again, My ten toes I tripp'd over the plain, Where my knapsack and all I throw'd to the ground And away then I steer'd to fair London town"

At London "not a soul could I see" because the crowd was so thick so I stood still but my feet were worn and shoes were lame.

I choked on the dust in the day-long rain, had a quart "to drive gladness away" and since I had no money to pay with I took a coach and walked away.

[Lines from the next two verses also survive in Paddy Backwards]:"As I was a going through St. Jame's Park, In the middle of winter when noon it was dark, I met three making of hay in the middle of winter, One Midsummer's Day. To find out the place I was sad at a loss, When shutting my eyes on safe Charing Cross Where the King set on horseback all on the cold stone There was thousands all round him but troth never a one."

I'll play cards at the Ball and court a rich Lady worth nothing. At the marriage drum will ring, bells beat and fiddle sing.

I'll marry a Blackamoor Lady, the "fairest of creatures" and buy her a silver cup of horn.

Since I favor splitting "Paddy's Ramble to London" from "Paddy Backwards" I think it pays to compare the two more precisely. Among the four Newfoundland texts, the version of "Paddy Backwards" that is closest to the "Paddy's Ramble to London" broadside is on the _MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada_ site. The broadside has 20 couplets and the site has 14. They share five. The five couplets shared are the only ones found in Greenleaf/Mansfield (3 couplets out of 12), Leach text A (4 out of 13 1/2) and Leach text B (3 1/2 out of 8). - BS

Cross references


  1. Greenleaf/Mansfield 110, "Paddy Backwards" (1 text)
  2. Leach-Labrador 110, "Paddy Backwards" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  3. Creighton-NovaScotia 82, "Paddy Backwards" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Creighton/Senior, pp.140-141, "Paddy Backwards" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
  5. MacSeegTrav 119, "Paddy Backwards" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Roud #1687
  8. BI, McCST119


Alternate titles: “All You Paddies Lay Down”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1921 (Greenleaf/Mansfield)
Found in: Britain(England) Canada(Mar,Newf)