“The Tramp's Story”


The tramp asks to sit and rest. Tramps have to live, "though folks don't think we should." He used to be a blacksmith. Then a stranger led his love Nellie astray. She died soon after he abandoned her. The tramp intends to find and punish the stranger


This is a difficult conundrum: It is unquestionably related to "The Lehigh Valley," with which it shares a plot and occasional words. The question is, which is original?

The natural inclination, of course, is to think that "Lehigh Valley," which is more firmly traditional and, in its crude way more vigorous, is the source. And yet, "The Tramp's Story" is *so* much more feeble that it's hard to imagine "Lehigh Valley" being expurgated so far.

It is worth noting that Brown's version contains a reference to the Lehigh Valley.

Plus, this song adds the moralizing conclusion about the girl's death. It's really a bit thick -- as any half-decent songwriter would surely recognize. So I'm just not sure.

The original by Edward Hannigan is said to be from the 1882 play "Squatter Sovereignty."

Milburn prints no fewer than six songs on this theme. Obviously the plot proved popular.

For background on Edward Harrigan, see the notes to "Babies on Our Block." - RBW

Cross references


  1. Randolph 844, "The Tramp's Story" (1 text)
  2. BrownIII 358, "Tale of a Tramp" (1 text)
  3. Roud #7448
  4. BI, R844


Author: Edward Harrigan?
Earliest date: 1930
Found in: US(SE,So)