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This is another of those songs that would seem to have been better known than collectors would have you believe. Versions of it are sprinkled throughout the southern and eastern counties of England, with varying names. In Oxfordshire it is “The Yorkshire Blinder” “or “When first I came to Sherborne Town”, in Suffolk “Bungay Roger” or “Muddley Barracks”, in Cornwall it is “In the Village of St Merryn”, whilst in Hampshire it is “To Portsmouth Town” or “The Bold Mariner” (pronounced mar-eye-ner). Singers always seem to want to locate the song in their own locality. Furthermore, it has usually become a vehicle for local dialect and most versions I have heard want to include the word “bugger” as many times as possible. Mr Gardner’s version is unusually bugger-free, although Jackie Booth of Stroud knew parts of the previously referred-to version, as did other Gloucestershire singers. It must have been around long enough to give rise to regional variations and yet no printed copy can be found and collected versions only date from the 1960s. The theme has echoes of the Irish “Kerry Recruit” and the broadside “The Awkward Recruit”, both of which deal with a country yokel joining the army, but neither of these songs bears any resemblance in words to our song.
Mr Gardner’s son Michael, who also sings the song wrote a further verse:
When I gets back to Gloucestershire, I’ll go whome to me village
But I could never forget thick bloody war, and the pals lost in the carnage
I’ll go to church on Sunday morn and thank the Lord in heaven
For the fields and the hills and the valleys and the trees
And that long old winding Severn, etc