The Recruiting Sergeant


As I was walking down the road
A feeling fine and larky oh
A recruiting sergeant came up to me
Says he you’d look fine in khaki oh
For the King he is in need of men
Come read this proclamation oh
A life in Flanders for you then
Would be a fine vacation now

That maybe so says I to him
But tell me sergeant dearie-oh
If I had a pack stuck upon me back
Would I look fine and cheerie oh
For they’d have you train and drill until
They had you one of Frenchies oh
It may be warm in Flanders
But it’s draughty in the trenches oh

The sergeant smiled and winked his eye
His smile was most provoking oh
He twiddled and twirled his wee moustache
Says he: You’re only joking oh
For the sandbags are so warm and high
The wind you won’t feel blowing oh
Well I winked at a cailin passing by
Says I what if it’s snowing oh

Come rain or hail or wind or snow
I’m not going out to Flanders oh
There’s fighting in Dublin to be done
Let your Sergeants and your Commanders go
Let Englishmen fight English wars
It’s nearly time they started oh
I saluted the Sergeant a very good night
And there and then we parted oh

“This is an anti-recruiting song and was composed by Seamus O’Farrell in 1915. The tune is that of The Peeler and the Goat. It was branded a ‘treason’ song by the British and anyone heard singing it in public rendered himself liable to six months’ imprisonment. Anti-recruiting songs were a great vogue in Ireland as is demonstrated by Teddy McGrath, The Kerry Recruit and Kickham’s beautiful Glen of Aherlow.”

Sleeve notes by Paddy Tunney for Dominic Behan‘s album Easter Week and After in 1959.