View Full Version : Help me make sense of an old song my nan taught me?

08-07-2001, 06:16 AM
When I was a very young child, my nan often sang songs for me. They were mostly Irish ditties about Paddy McGinty's goat and a thrupenny bit falling down a hole and so on.I loved them and I remember almost all of them, but one sticks in my mind particularly, because it seems to make no sense. I realised a few years ago that it contains many names of places where things occurred during the Boer War, but I think many of the names have been mangled through the years. I asked my nan where she learnt this song, and she said her own mother sang it to her as a girl (in rural Ireland). I'd be greatful if anyone could shed some light on any names that have been mangled, and I'd be even more thrilled if anyone had a vague idea where this song comes from or could find any other examples of it. I've had no luck so far.

This is the song, transcribed as it is sung:

Oh, the baby's name is Kitchener can, mattu a Cape Midge White, keronji plumer, pal majumer, kattica, wanza, cleanser, krujer... Cape Town Mafiking French, Kimberly Ladysmith Bobs, the union jack inviting Mac and little Victoria B(l)obs.


08-07-2001, 06:45 AM
I'm on the case...

I'm here at home waiting for The Littlest DoperTM to wake up. When I get to work, I'll check out some lyric sites and get back to you.

Is it right or left at Gibralter,

08-07-2001, 07:13 AM
The Baby's name is Kitchener Carrington
Methuen Kekewich White,
Cronje Plumer Powell Majuba
Gatacre Warren Colenso Kruger
Cape Town Mafeking French
Kimberley Ladysmith Bobs
The Union Jack & the Fighting Mac
Lyddite Pretoria Blogs.

08-07-2001, 07:25 AM
Thank you very much for that link, bibliophage - it's nice to see my nan didn't just make it up. Also, it's very interesting to see how much the words got mangled after only 3 generations. Who'da thunk "wanza" = "Warren Colenso". And is this a person or a place? Two seperate things?

I am left puzzled still - that page doesn't seem to give a reference as to where it's from, who wrote it, and what it was used for (if anything) and what the words refer to. I like to think it was a drinking song during the Boer Way, but maybe that's just me.


08-07-2001, 09:26 AM
I still don't know about the origin of the song, but I managed to track down most of the references at the South African War Virtual Library (http://www.bowlerhat.com.au/sawvl/index.html)

KITCHENER, Horatio, Herbert, F-M 1st Earl, of Khartoum and Broome (1850-1916): British military leader
CARRINGTON, Major-General Sir Frederick (1844-1913): South African military leader
METHUEN, 3rd Baron (1845-1932): British military leader
KEKEWICH, Major-General Robert George (1854-1914): British military leader
WHITE, F-M Sir George Stuart (1835-1912):British military leader
CRONJÉ, General Pieter Arnoldus (1835-1911): Boer military leader
PLUMER, F-M 1st Viscount, of Messines (1857-1932): British military leader
Powell: BADEN-POWELL, Lt-Gen 1st Baron (1857-1941) : British military leader
Majuba [Hill]-battlesite
GATACRE, Major-Gen Sir William (1843-1906) : British military leader
WARREN, General Sir Charles (1840-1927): British military leader
Colenso: battlesite
KRUGER, Stephanus Johannes Paulus (1825-1904) : Boer political leader
Cape Town -place
Mafeking -site of a siege
FRENCH, F-M 1st Earl of Ypres (1852-1925) : British military leader
Kimberley-site of a siege
Ladysmith-site of a siege
Bobs ROBERTS, F-M 1st Earl ["Bobs"] (1832-1914): British military leader
Lyddite-a type of explosive
Pretoria -place
Spion Kop- battlesite

08-07-2001, 09:33 AM
well, I get to work and find that bibliophage has done incredible work for you. Once agian, I doff my cap to bibliophage.


08-07-2001, 09:48 AM
Another possiblity for 'Colenso' is J.W. Colenso, an Anglican bishop who was posted to Africa in the mid-1800's. In the course of translating the Bible into Zulu, he discovered he didn't believe much of it, published his ideas, and was
tried for heresy by the church to much publicity.

08-07-2001, 09:57 AM
I read Bertrand Russell's account of Colenso's tribulations as a missionary. When he translated the Bible in to Zulu, he wanted to say "God is Love" but he confused the Zulu word for love with the word for butter, and the Zulus were very fond of butter, so when he said "God is Butter" he converted them in droves. But then they read in the Pentateuch that the hare chews its cud. They went to him and said, "Look, you can't fool us. Everyone knows the hare does not chew its cud." He responded that if the Bible said so, it must be true. They sat him down and had him watch a hare for hours, and finally he had to admit it really doesn't chew its cud. He reported this back to headquarters, and that's what got him in trouble.

08-07-2001, 10:06 AM
Originally posted by Francesca
I am left puzzled still - that page doesn't seem to give a reference as to where it's from, who wrote it, and what it was used for (if anything) and what the words refer to. I like to think it was a drinking song during the Boer Way, but maybe that's just me.


Since they're all names from around that era, I'd guess that you're probably right. That website that bibliophage (who could probably make a fortune as a researcher, based on what he came up with here) quoted would seem to indicate it's a song called "The Tommies Marching Home", but a google search doesn't turn up any other references.

08-07-2001, 11:24 AM
Many and much thanks bibliophage - you're a star.

Tevalla - the tune also sounds like it would be sung in pubs, so I'll continue believing that. My great-grandfather worked for the Guiness brewery in Tipperary - maybe he picked it up there :)

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