“Soldier Boy”


A large company of Irish soldiers must depart for India. One of them is explaining to his sweetheart that he must leave her. She (offers to come with him and is refused. She) tearfully bids him good luck and farewell.


Laws, relying on Greenleaf/Mansfield's broken version, locates the war in India. Henry (and its copy, Moylan) refers to India as a past war and has the soldiers leaving to fight the Russians.

Moylan: "As John Moulden suggests, the song is probably about the Crimean war, given the mention of Russians ..." - BS

The mention of Russians also allows for campaigns in Afghanistan -- which was, in fact, a nation created by the British to separate India from Russia. The British and Russians never really fought in Afghanistan, but there were times when conflict seemed possible. And there were plenty of other problems between Russia and Britain (mostly over Ottoman territory, but also, e.g., during the Russo-Japanese war when a Russian fleet attacked British fishermen).

But there is at least one other advantage to the Crimean War, and that is the soldier's refusal to let the girl come with him. This was, of course, a common theme in song, and one that predates the Crimean War. But it became particularly important around the time of the Crimean War, when the British military started excluding women in any capacity. Arthur Herman, _To Rule the Waves_, p. 453 footnote, notes that female sailors were "a regular feature of old navy life... one or two disguised themselves as men and served as ordinary ratings. All were expected to pitch in even in battle." He notes that two women even applied for medals for their service at Trafalgar, but were turned down -- "the precedent would prompt 'innumerable applications' from other women veterans." - RBW


  1. Laws O31, "Soldier Boy"
  2. Greenleaf/Mansfield 80, "Soldier Boy" (1 text)
  3. SHenry H244, pp. 295-296, "The Soldier Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Moylan 171, "The Soldier Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. DT 814, SOLDBOY
  6. Roud #1917
  7. BI, LO31


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1928 (Greenleaf/Mansfield)
Found in: Canada(Newf) Ireland