Eton Boating Song
The "Eton Boating Song" is the best known of the school songs associated with Eton College that are sung at the end of year concert and on other important occasions. It is also played during the procession of boats. The words of the song were written by William Johnson Cory, an influential Master at the school. The melody was composed by an Old Etonian and former pupil of Cory, Captain Algernon Drummond and transcribed by T. L. Mitchell-Innes. The piano accompaniment was written by Evelyn Wodehouse. It was first performed on 4 June 1863. Contrary to popular belief however, it is not the school song, that being "Carmen Etonense".
Ordinarily only the first, sixth, seventh and eighth stanzas are sung.
The traditional status of Eton as the training grounds for Britain's wealthy elite endowed the song with a peculiar cultural cachet. For instance, writer George Orwell, an Old Etonian himself, wrote in his famous autobiographical essay "Such, Such Were the Joys" that:
From the whole decade before 1914 there seems to breathe forth a smell of the more vulgar, un-grown-up kind of luxury, a smell of brilliantine and crème-de-menthe and soft-centred chocolates — an atmosphere, as it were, of eating everlasting strawberry ices on green lawns to the tune of the Eton Boating Song.
In 1939 the tune (at a quicker than usual tempo) was used as the theme for the film A Yank at Eton. In the 1960s, the tune was adopted by Coventry City as their club anthem. The lyrics were rewritten by Jimmy Hill and Derrick Robbins in order to be relevant to the club, and the song is still regularly sung by City fans today. In his appearance on Inside The Actor's Studio, Hugh Laurie, an Old Etonian, sang, with great embarrassment, the first verse of the Eton Boating Song. He also dryly commented on the homoeroticism that can be read into the phrase 'With your bodies between your knees.'
The song appears in the 1951 comedy film The Lavender Hill Mob, sung by the schoolgirls during the school scene.
A reworked version of the theme appears as the title music for the satirical 1989 horror movie Society.
In the second-to-final chapter of The Invisibles, Sir Miles Delacourt sings the song before he hangs himself from the aisles of Westminister Abbey.
During the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, the song was briefly played during the Isles of Wonder introductory film charting the course of the River Thames, as it flows past Eton.
- British Library Catalogue
- "The Eton Boating Song Sheet Music EtonCollege.com (Retrieved December 24, 2008)
- "Hugh on ITAS". YouTube. 2006-08-08. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
- Sound track collector, http://www.soundtrackcollector.com/catalog/soundtrackdetail.php?movieid=2318, retrieved 15 April 2009.
- "Eton Voting Song: Celebrating Tory Old Etonians". YouTube. 2009-06-10. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
"A.D.E.W." The Eton Boating Song London: Robert W. Ollivier 1878 & J Roberts & Co 1920. Both 9 pp folio.