“The Gaol Song”


The singer describes the hard life in prison, abused by the guards, granted only the poorest food, and forced to work the treadmill and engage in other backbreaking labour. The singer, once free, vows to leave all such things behind


The treadmill was a rotating cylinder that drove machinery such as a mill or a pump. It was a set of steps on a circular gear, which meant that, once started, the convict had no way to stop it; he had to keep walking the treads until relieved. Prisoners often collapsed in agony on such machines, first installed in Sydney in 1823. - RBW

While Lloyd does not mention [this] as a work song, it certainly has the cadence of one, so I have assigned that keyword. -PJS

Cross references

  • cf. ""The County Gaol"
  • cf. "Durham Gaol"


  1. Fahey-Eureka, pp. 22-23, "The Gaol Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, p. 39, "Gaol Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Roud #1077
  5. BI, FaE022


Alternate titles: “Treadmill Song”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1906
Found in: Britain(England(South))