Subscribe to our Newsletter

I Started my Life as a Cobbler

Back to browse page
Performer: Brazil, Harry
Place Collected: Gloucester
Date collected: 1978
Collector: Smith, Rod
Roud Number: 872

Many will be familiar with the song “Dick Darby, the Cobbler” as sung by Tommy Makem, but this is one version of many. An early broadside “Dick Darling, the Cobbler” is half sung, half spoken. In the song, the eponymous cobbler is clearly Irish, and an “old fornicator”. The story then details how he beat up a customer who would not pay him and then goes on to complain about his devil of a wife and how she eventually fell in a river. Finally, he appeals for a new young wife. Collected versions have shown a remarkable variety and our Dick Darling/Darby has become Fagin, Kibosh, Dick German or Jed Hobson and in this variety of forms it has been found all over the English-speaking world.

There is a distant relation to this song, in lyrics anyway, to the bawdy “My God, how the money rolls in.”

Harry Brazil’s version has changed a lot from broadside days, but still contains the appeal for a new wife and has an added feature of adding a critique of the government.

Notes by Gwilym Davies 5 April 2015