“The Bold Fusilier”


"A bold fusilier came marching down through Rochester, Off to the wars in the north country, And he sang as he marched the dear old streets of Rochester, 'Wha'll be a sodger for Marlbro' and me?'"


The currency of this song in oral tradition is rather open to debate. This is not due to any defect in the song itself, but its precise parallels to "Waltzing Matilda," which has made the history of the song rather a fetish for Australians.

The facts:

1. There are no early collections of the song, and some have judged the language inappropriate for the early seventeenth century. There do not appear to be broadside prints. (The verses quoted in the Digital Tradition are modern reconstructions by Peter Coe of the extant fragments remembered by recent informants)

2. The song clearly *refers to* events of the time of the War of the Spanish Succession, when Marlborough was the English general in chief and when the recruiting sergeant still roamed the streets sweeping up recruits.

Does this date the song to the seventeenth century? The only other alternative I've seen is a suggestion that the song was written during the Boer War (1899-1902) as some sort of parody on the Churchills. I find this hard to believe.

The question will probably never be settled to everyone's satisfaction, barring discovery of an early broadside print or the like. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1650-1727 - Life of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
  • 1701-1714 - War of the Spanish Succession, pitting France and Spain against Britain, Austria, and many smaller nations. Marlborough made a reputation by winning the battles of Blenheim (1704), Ramillies (1706), and Oudenarde (1708) (he fought a draw at Malplaquet in 1709)


  2. BI, DTcombso


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1941
Keywords: soldier recruiting