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Salisbury Ram, The

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Alternative title: The Derby Ram

Performer: Brazil, Danny
Place Collected: Staverton
Date collected: 1978 (5 Mar)
Collector: Davies, Gwilym
Roud Number: 126

Surely one of the most widespread of English-language songs. It is an integral part of the Derbyshire ‘Old Tup’ play, and there are many versions from that county. However, it has escaped the county boundaries and is found everywhere folk songs in English are sung, with multiple verses. It has even gone into the New Orleans Jazz repertoires as “Didn’t he Ramble”. In its time, apart from its part in the Old Tup play, it has served as a sea shanty, a Rugby Club song and a favourite with the folk revival. Bawdy versions have arisen, giving full scope to the imagination when describing the physical attributes of this magic animal.

The fantasy overtones of the song have made some commentators believe that the song derives from some ancient animal ritual. This is unlikely but the song does seem to be quite old. There is certainly evidence of the song being sung in the 18th century, and it was printed on broadsides from the early 19th century onwards, when it already had a vigorous life in oral tradition by then.

The overwhelming number of versions give the venue as Derby, but other locations do occasionally figure: Exmoor, Horsham and in Danny Brazil’s case Salisbury. However, even Danny does change to Derby later in the song.

Notes by Gwilym Davies 11 May 2015

Media & Downloads

Hear the song/tune as collected (mp3 stream):

See the song/tune as collected (PDF file)
Hear the song/tune (midi file)
Version to sing (PDF file)
Hear a version to sing (midi file)

Modern recording performed by: Shepherds Crook

Song/tune as collected (abc file)
Version to sing (abc file)