When the Old Dun Cow Caught Fire

Music Hall Song (1893)

Harry Wincott (Pseud. of Alfred James Walden) 1867-1947

Some Friends and I in a public house.
Was playin’ dominoes one night,
When into the pub a fireman ran,
His face all a chalky white.
“What’s up,” says Brown, “have you seen a ghost,
“Or have you seen your Aunt Moriah?”
“Me Aunt Moriah be buggered!” says he,
“The bleedin’ pub’s on fire!”

And there was Brown upside down,
Moppin’ up the whiskey on the floor.
“Booze, booze!” The firemen cried,
As they came knockin’ on the door (clap, clap)
Oh, don’t let ’em in till its all drunk up!
And somebody shouted MacIntyre! (“MacIntyre!)
And we all got blue-blind paralytic drunk,
When the Old Dun Cow caught fire.

“Oh, well,” says Brown, “what a bit of luck,
“Everybody follow me,
“There’s booze in the cellar,
“If the fire’s not there,
“Then we’ll have a grand old spree!”
So we all went on down after good old Brown,
The booze we could not miss!
And we hadn’t been there ten minutes or more,
Till we were quite like this … (Chorus)

Then [Insert Victim’s Name Here] walked over to the port wine tub,
And gave it just a few hard knocks. (clap, clap)
Started takin’ off his pantaloons,
Likewise his shoes and socks.
“Hold on,” says Brown, “That ain’t allowed,
“Ya cannot do that in here.
“Don’t go washin’ your trousers in the port wine tub,
“When we got Bud Lite beer!” (Chorus)


image of album cover for Bounding Main Lost at Sea - click for more info about the album

Song Notes

Mainly Norfolk: English Folk and Other Good Music shares with us:  Louis Killen sang The Blind Cow Caught Fire in (1968 or 1973) on his album Sea Chanteys. A review by Stewart Mason commented:

The closing The Blind Cow Caught Fire is one of the funniest songs in Killen’s repertoire, a shaggy-dog tale of sailors taking refuge in the basement of a pub that’s burning to the ground so that they can drink the place dry before it’s destroyed. The song, like much of the rest of the album, dispels the common myth that traditional British folk music is a wan and humourless music performed by people who take themselves far too seriously.

When one reviews the lyrics to the song, however, there is nothing to indicate that sailors were involved with this adventure in any way.  The song is certainly not a “sea shanty” whatsoever, either.

Mudcat Café says, “Harry Wincott was one of the world’s best known music hall comic song writers.  He was born Alfred James Walden in Camberwell, London the son of Alfred and Charlotte Walden.”