One of the great fascinations with Irish folk songs is that they almost certainly went through numerous versions, towns and even countries before emerging in the form we know them today.
The Wild Rover is a good example. We’ve already looked at how it may have begun life as an anti-drinking song.
Now I’m grateful to Mike Walton of the Worcester Folk Club in England who’s alerted me to an English song with a similar theme to the Wild Rover, albeit with a raunchier ending.
The song is called The Green Bed and was collected from Benjamin Arnold in 1909.
Mike points out that it follows a similar theme to The Wild Rover. The first three verses feature a sailor returning from a journey, going to an ale house, looking for a beer and a bed for the night.
He then tells the landlady that he was shipwrecked and so has no money. Her attitude becomes hostile. She refuses him beer and says the beds are all taken.
Then, as with The Wild Rover, the sailor draws “handfuls of gold” from his pocket and the atmosphere changes completely. In this version of the song, however, the sailor is offered more than just something to drink.
When Molly, the landlady’s daughter, hears the sound of his money, she rushes downstairs to greet him.
At the jingle of his money, young Molly flew downstairs
She huddled him and cuddled him and called him her dear
“The green bed is empty, and has been all week
Where you and young Molly can take your sweet sleep”
“Before I would lie in your green bed, I know,
I’d rather lie out in the rain and in the snow,
For if I’d no money, out of doors I’d be turned,
And it’s you and your green bed deserve to be burned”
As Mike points out, the sailor’s rejection of Molly is an indictment of the landlady for rejecting him when she thought he had no money. There is an element of this in The Wild Rover too, although it is not as strong as in The Green Bed.
Thanks again to Mike for telling us about The Green Bed. We’re always keen to hear about different versions of the great songs, or songs which simply have similar themes.
Please let us know if you have any alternative versions of The Wild Rover, or any of the other great Irish songs for that matter.