“The Red Herring”


Song describes the uses made of various parts of the herring, e.g., "Herring's eyes, puddings and pies/Herring's head, loaves of bread."


This is essentially the same song as the American "Sow Took the Measles" [and Roud lumps them - RBW]; "The Farmer and the Crow" (also American, but also found in Sweden) marries this song to "The Carrion Crow." -PJS

Kennedy declares his "Herring Song" and "The Red Herring" to be the same. I'm not sure I agree; while the theme is the same, the lyrics and stanza form are different. But he's seen more versions than I have; I tentatively follow his lead. The danger, of course, is that Kennedy will lump anything with anything. - RBW

Cross references


  • Johnny Doughty, "Herrings' Heads" (on Voice07)
  • Mikeen McCarthy, "The Herring" (on Voice14)


  1. Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, pp. 86-87, "The Red Herring" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Kennedy 296, "The Herring Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. MacSeegTrav 118, "The Jolly Herring" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Botkin-NEFolklr, pp. 578-579, "The Herring Song" (1 text)
  5. Lehr/Best 50, "The Herring" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Roud #128
  7. BI, VWL086


Alternate titles: “The Herring's Head”; “The Herring's Heid”; “The Jovial Herring”; “The Jolly Red Herring”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1903 ("Cape Cod Dialect")
Found in: Britain(England(Lond,North,South)) Canada(Newf) Ireland