Bold English Navvy / Navvy Boots (More versions) There are many versions of ‘The Bold English Navvy’ / ‘Navvy Boots’ and it would be impossible to cover them all here. A selection of those which appear to be significantly different have been chosen. As Newcastle-on-Tyne features in many of these versions of this song it would appear that the songs refer to a railway navvy rather than a canal navvy but it would be churlish to exclude this popular song on that basis. Jimmy McBeith The Spinners Jon Wilks Version by Jimmy McBeith (1967) I’m a bold English navvy that works on the line An’ the best place I met wis Newcastle-on-Tyne I wis tired, sick and weary while working all day To a cot down on the hillside I’m makin’ my way I first had a wash and then had a shave For courting my true love I was highly prepared The moon in the skies, and the stars, they shone down And I hit for the road wi’ my navvy boots on I knocked on my love’s window, my knock she did know And out of her slumbers she woked so slow I knocked her again and she says: “Is that John?” “Yes, indeed, it is me with my navvy boots on” She opened the door and then let me in It was to her bedroom she called me then Well the night being warm and the blankets rolled down So l jumped into bed with my navvy boots on Early next morning at the break of the day I says to my true love: “It’s time to go away” “Sleep down, sleep down, for you know you’ve done wrong For to sleep here all night with your navvy boots on” Six months being over and seven months being past This pretty fair maid she grew stout round the waist Seven months being over and nine come along And she hands me a young son with his navvy boots on Come all you pretty fair maids take heed what I’ve said Never let a navvy come into your bed For when he gets warm he'll take a leap on And he’ll jump on your bones with his navvy boots on Version by The Spinners (1966) I'm a bold English navvy that fought on the line The first place I met was Newcastle-on-Tyne I've been tired, sick and weary through working all day To a cut down by the hillside I'm making my way Well, I first had my supper and then had a shave For courtin' this fair maid I highly prepared The stars in the sky and the moon it shone down And I head for the road with my navvy boots on I knocked at my love's window, my knock she did know And out of her slumber she wakened so slow I knocked her again and she said, "Is that John?" And I quickly replied, "With my navvy boots on" So she opened the window and then let me in 'Twas to her bedroom she landed me then The night being warm and the blankets rolled down So I jumped into bed with my navvy boots on Well then early next morning at the dawn of the day Says I to my true love, It's time to go away Sleep down, sleep down, you know you've done wrong For to sleep here all night with your navvy boots on So I bent down my head with a laugh and a smile Saying, What could I do, love, in that length of time And I know if I done it I done it in fun And I'd do it again with my navvy boots on Well now, six months being over and seven after this This fair pretty maid she grew stout round her waist Then eight months being over, the ninth comes along And she handed me a young son with his navvy boots on So come all you pretty fair maids, take heed what I say And never let a navvy come into your bed For the night being warm and the blankets rolled down Sure he'll jump on your bones with his navvy boots on The above version is as recorded by the Spinners. It is much the same as the version below which is from the Peter Kennedy book 'Folksongs of Britain and Ireland'. I'm a bold English navvy that fought on the line The first place I met was Newcastle-on-Tyne I being tired, sick, and weary of working all day To a cut down by the hillside I'm making my way A digging and a-picking as I was one day The thought of my true love it led me astray. The day it was gone and the night coming on And I hit for the road with my navvy boots on. Oh I first had me supper and then had a shave For courtin' this fair maid I highly prepared Th'ould stars in the sky as the moon it shown down And I hit for the road with my navvy boots on I knocked at my love's window: my knock she did know And out of her slumber she wakened so slow I knocked there again and she said, "Is that John?" And I quickly replied, "With me navvy boots on" Oh she opened the window and then let me in 'Twas into her bedroom she planted me then Th'ould night being cold and the blankets rolled on So I slipped into bed with my navvy boots on Oh then early next morning at the dawn of the day Said I to my true love, "It's time to go away" "Sleep down, sleep down, you know you've done wrong Sure the child will be born with his navvy boots on" Oh he bent down his head with a laugh and a smile Saying, "What could I do love in that little while And I know if I done it, I done it in fun And I'll do it again with my navvy boots on" Oh then six months being over and seven at the last When this pretty fair maid grew stout round the waist For eight months being over when nine comes along And she handed him a young son with his navvy boots on "Oh come all you pretty fair maids, take a warning," she said "Don't ever leave a navvy get into your bed For when he'll get warm and think upon you Sure he'll jump on your bones with his navvy boots on." The following version is from 'Songs of the Midlands', edited by Roy Palmer; EP Publishing Ltd, 1972. It was collected from the singing of Eileen Hannoran, an Irish traveller, at Pelsall Common, Staffordshire, by members of the Birmingham and Midland Folk Centre, 1st October 1967. The pentatonic tune is a variant of Green Bushes. The video below shows a 2018 recording by Jon Wilks. I'm a bold Irish navvy. I worked on the line I worked in a place called Newcastle-on-Tyne My journey was long, I'd no moon out to shine, I was caught by the hillside with my navvy boots on. I went to her window, my knocks they were low; I knocked at her window, my knock she did know; I knocked there again and she said, "Is that John?" And I quickly replied, "With my navvy boots on." Early next morning in the scarce break o' day, I says to my maid, "Now I must be away." "Lay down there," she said, "don't you know you done wrong, You have slept here all night with your navvy boots on." He held down his head with a laugh and a smile, Saying, "What could I do in that length of time? Whatever I done, I just done it for fun, And I'll do it again with my navvy boots on." Six months is over and three had to leave When this pretty maid she got stout round the waist, Six months being over and three just being gone Then she gave him a young son with his navvy boots on Let all youse young maidens take a warning by me, Do never let that navvy get into your bed. When the nights they'll blow stormy and the blankets roll on, Then he's bound to play tricks with his navvy boots on.
Jimmy MacBeath (1894–1972) was an itinerant worker and singer of Bothy Ballads from the north east of Scotland. He was a source of traditional songs for singers of the mid 20th century Folk Revival in Great Britain. Like most traditional singers, Jimmy never stopped learning songs, nor was he much worried where he found them. He picked up this one in 1966 while singing on Merseyside - maybe from The Spinners?
The Spinners were a folk group from Liverpool, England, that was active from 1958 to 1989. They produced over 40 albums, and their concerts and TV appearances did much to bring 'folk' music to a wider audience in the 1970s. Their version of the song must have contributed significantly to its popularity.
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