All Around My Hat (song)

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This article is about the song. For the album, see All Around My Hat (album).
"All Around My Hat"
Written 19th century
Language English

The song "All Around my Hat" (Roud 567, Laws P31) is of nineteenth-century English origin.[citation needed] In an early version, dating from the 1820s, a Cockney costermonger vowed to be true to his fiancée, who had been sentenced to seven years' transportation to Australia for theft and to mourn his loss of her by wearing green willow sprigs in his hatband for "a twelve-month and a day," in a traditional symbol of mourning. The song was made famous by Steeleye Span in 1975.

In Ireland, Peadar Kearney adapted the song to make it relate to a Republican lass whose lover has died in the Easter Rising, and who swears to wear the Irish tricolor in her hat in remembrance in The Tri-coloured Ribbon.


A young man is forced to leave his lover, usually to go to sea. On his return he finds her on the point of being married to another man. In some versions he goes into mourning, with the green willow as a symbol of his unhappiness (willow is considered to be a weeping tree). In other versions he reminds her of her broken promise, and she dies mysteriously. In some versions he simply contemplates his lover left behind, without actually returning to find her being married. In other versions, the young man is a street hawker who is mourning his separation from his lover who has been transported to Australia for stealing.


The song has typical archetypal elements of the separated lovers, the interrupted wedding, and the inconsolable rejected lover. In the "Yellow Ribbon" variants, the adornment is a reminder of lost love, similar to Ireland's The Black Velvet Band.

Historical background[edit]

The song is found in England, Scotland and Canada, all seafaring nations. In Ireland it has been adapted to a modern conflict - the Irish Republican movement.


The Bodleian Library has a version. This version has some cockney words.

Textual variants[edit]

Sabine Baring-Gould printed a version in "A Garland of Country Song" in 1895. This version is very close to the best-known version, by Steeleye Span.[1] This is probably a more recent variant of the nineteenth-century song.

  • cf. "The Green Willow" ("All around my hat" lyrics)

Songs that refer to All Around My Hat (song)[edit]

Jasper Carrot sang a parody "It's my bloody ribbon and it's my bloody hat" at the Cambridge folk Festival in 1976.


Motifs of the song include separated lovers, a broken token, and death for love, common themes in tragic love songs.

Television and movie references[edit]

The song She Wore a Yellow Ribbon appears in John Ford's film of the same name. In the 'Watching TV' episode of British television sitcom Men Behaving Badly, Gary and Dorothy repeatedly end up singing the Steeleye Span version of the song while trying to remember the theme tune to Starsky and Hutch. Paul Whitehouse also sings the first lines of the song in an episode of The Fast Show, changing a key word in each line with "arse".


Album/Single Performer Year Variant Notes
The Voice of the People volume 6 Eddie Butcher 1955 Another Man's Wedding Eddie Butcher sings it as "Another Man Wedding" (recorded 1955) on "Voice of the People" volume 6.
Sings American and English Folk Songs and Ballads John Langstaff 1959 All Around My Hat Listed on the label as "All 'Round My Hat" and sourced from S. Baring-Gould's anthology. (Tradition Records, TLP 1009)
Now Is the Time for Fishing Sam Larner 1959–1960 Green Broom In this version, a Cockney costermonger vowed to be true to his fiancee, who had been sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia for theft and to mourn his loss by wearing green willow sprigs in his hatband for "a twelve-month and a day," in a traditional symbol of mourning.
"Maritime Folk Songs" (anthology by Helen Creighton) Neil O'Brien 1962 All Around My Hat American version.
"Mainly Norfolk" Peter Bellamy 1968 All Around My Hat
Peadar Kearney Tri-coloured Ribbon This is an adapted version of the song, where a Republican lass has a lover who has died in the Easter Rising, and who swears to wear the Irish tricolour in her hat in remembrance.[2]
From the Beggar's Mantle Barbara Dickson 1972 The Orange and the Blue This is a Scottish version. A couple vow loyalty to each other before the man goes to sea. He returns just as his "inconstant lover" is about to be married to someone else. He points out her treachery, and she dies mysteriously before the night of the honeymoon. He goes into mourning, wearing the willow for twelve months, followed by a coat of orange and blue.
All Around My Hat Steeleye Span 1975 All Around My Hat/Farewell He This electric folk group took it to number 5 on the charts, with the original version interpolated with lyrics from another early 19th Century song - "Farewell He" - which turned the song into a conversation, with the original words of constancy alternating with a sermon to young girls on the inconstancy of young men. The song has the distinction of being the only Steeleye Span song covered by a later mainstream band (viz. Status Quo).
All Around My Hat José Hoebee 1986 All Around My Hat José Hoebee (of Dutch girl group Luv') recorded a cover version of the song inspired by Steeleye Span's rendering.
Don't Stop Status Quo 1996 All Around My Hat Status Quo invited Maddy Prior (of Steeleye Span) to sing harmony on it.
Hat Trick (album) The Mollys 1997 All Around My Hat Songwriter Nancy McCallion of electric folk group The Mollys updated the song to the 20th century. The "tri-coloured ribbon" hatted singer (Catherine Zavala) ends by threatening that if absent John doesn't return before the "twelve-month and a day", she will "take the bloody lot" of various attractive guys, including one met at a bus stop.[3]
Three Quarter Ale Three Quarter Ale 2003 All Around My Hat/Farewell He Three Quarter Ale invited Lindsay Smith to sing the final verse on it.
Different Tongues Brian Peters 2003 All Around My Hat

Musical variants[edit]

Other songs with the same tune[edit]

  • "The Death of Brush"
  • "The Jolly Miller"
  • "The Death of Brugh"


External links[edit]