This song was written by the English composer and singer Joseph Bryan Geoghegan (1816-1889), originally from Salford. He was responsible for several songs that have gone into oral tradition, namely John Barleycorn was a hero bold, Rock the Cradle John, Johnny I hardly knew you and this one which he originally entitled They all have a mate but me.
It has been collected several times. This version turned up in Gloucestershire by a circuitous route. Fred Archer of Ashton-under-Hill knew of the song but not the whole text, which was given to him by Margaret and Len Gleed of Cedar Lodge, Torrington Lane, East Barkwith, Lincolnshire. It was passed to Gwilym Davies by Elvyn Blomfield.