When the Old Dun Cow Caught Fire is a music hall song written by Harry Wincott in 1893, and is most associated with Harry Champion. It’s also become a real folk club Standard.
I’ve arranged it for banjo playing in a two-finger thumb lead style. The banjo is my mid nineteen-thirties Clifford Essex Clipper, strung with nylon strings and tuned to fCFAC which is open G but tuned down by two frets.
Some pals and I in a public house
Was playing dominoes one night
When all of a sudden in the potman runs
With a face all chalky white
‘What’s up?’ said Jones ‘Why you silly old fool,
Or have you seen old Aunt Mariah?’
‘Me Aunt be buggered,’ then the potman cried
‘The bleeding pubs on fire.’
‘On fire!’ said Brown, ‘What a bit of luck!
Come along with me ‘ shouts he.
‘Down in the cellar, if the fire ain’t there,
We’ll have a fair old spree.’
So we all goes down ‘long with good old Brown
The booze we couldn’t miss,
And we hadn’t been there ten minutes or more
When we was just like this.
And there was Brown, upside down
Licking up the whiskey off the floor
‘Booze, Booze, ‘ then the firemen cried
As they came knocking at the door
‘Don’t let ’em in till it’s all mopped up’
Someone said to Mackintyre
So we all got blue blind, paralytic drunk
When the old Dun Cow caught fire.
Old Johnson flew to a port wine tub
And he gave it just a few hard knocks
He then starts taking off his pantaloons
Likewise his shoes and socks
‘Hold hard’ said Brown, ‘If you want to wash your feet
There’s a barrel full of four ale here
Don’t put your trotters in the port wine Jack
When there’s more old stale beer’
Just then there was such a dreadful crash
Half the bloody roof gave way
We were almost drowned with a fireman’s hose
But still we were all gay.
For we found some sacks, and some old tin tacks
Shoved ourselves inside
And we sat there getting bleary-eyed drunk
When the old Dun Cow caught fire
At last the fireman got inside
And found us all dead drunk
But like true heroes there they stood
They did not do a bunk
They saw the booze upon the floor
And gave a sudden yell
They took their helmets off and then
Upon their knees they fell.
‘At last! At last!’ the firemen cried
‘At last we know the news’
‘Come on! Come on! ‘ us lads all cried
‘Come on and have a booze.’