Help with Howl: Rugby, Welshisms and saucepans

minnow at minnow at
Thu Mar 17 07:55:29 EST 2005

Gili wrote of the rather sweet clean version:

>I almost HOPE this is the proper song. Is the tune anything like the
>saucepan song, do you know? Minnow, could you possibly check with Diana if
>this is the song she meant? I'd love to have a footnote about it. It's just
>the sort of silly and useless but utimately fun info that I think could
>justify a footnote.

It is not a proper song.  It is a most *im*proper song.  Tut.  :-)  Yes, it
was what DWJ was refering to.

Then Gili went and found what I meant about it being improper, though I've
encountered far more risque verses tacked on to this one.

>Oooh, and look what Google's dug up, though I still don't know what the tune
>is (warning, it's quite a smutty little drinking song):

Tune?  You'll be lucky!  Even the Welsh songbirds lose it and go into
raucous chorus mode for these.  In the key of Ouch.

A classic Rugby song.  The use of the outmoded and ever-so-slightly-naughty
word "titty" is a giveaway.  Back in the early 1960s when you weren't
allowed to say Rude Words on the radio, the lads felt ever so daring using
words like that -- see Flanders and Swan, "P** P* B*ll* B*m Drw*w*rs".  :-)

The lack of proper rhyme (Sissy/titty) is another giveaway: the naughty has
been grafted onto what was probably quite innocent in its first
incarnation.  As I think it was Philip said, these are a form of filk, old
tunes with new words.

There used to be books of rugby songs, with gaps for all the naughty words:
most of such words were current in every school playground in the country,
but grown-ups weren't allowed to write them down.  SO the kids had fun
trying to work out which word went where, a sort of crossword-puzzle
activity.  It was easier if they gave an initial letter or asterisks, of
course.  DWJ knows many of these songs, if not by heart at least bits of
them (who could resist "He had three children by a mermaid, two were
kippers, one was me?"), because they are Part Of Our Culture.  (My
favourite had a list of every position played in rugby and some
characteristic thing players in that position did as part of the game, with
neat double-antendres, and started "If I were the marrying kind, which
thank the Lord I'm not Sir, the kind of man that I would wed would be a
[type of rugby player]"  -- "he'd find touch, and I'd find touch, we'd both
find touch together...")

And what's more, the one we're talking about here has, she says, two quite
distinct variations, from North Wales and from South Wales, as well as
being different every time it's sung anyhow.  Some dedicated idiots used to
carry little notebooks into which they scrawled verses they hadn't heard
before, and then couldn't read what they'd written when they had sobered up
the following day, which explains why there are (last time I counted, which
was more than thirty years ago) at least eighty verses of "Eskimo Nell" out
there, many of them anatomically improbable to the point at which the mind
boggles, and most of them rhyme-deprived in places.  Some were funny; most
were simply rude and "daring" and you needed to be very drunk.

Gili, footnote it as a reference to tribal ritual: Howl will have sung this
song (in the smutty version) when he was still playing, in the
baths/showers after the game or in the bar after a few pints after the
game, and at the reunion.  Along with "The Lighthouse Keeper" and "The
Mayor of Bayswater" and "Eskimo Nell" -- if anyone could remember all the
words of that marathon shag-in.  And "Three Maids Went Up To [fill in a
town of your choice]", aka "The Ball At [wherever]", aka "Four-and-Twenty
Virgins", which has gone in so many different directions that it's ended up
as several different songs, which have some verses in common.

And "The Good Ship Venus".

And no, I don't have words for any of these lying around, or if I do I
don't know where.


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