Taffy was a Welshman

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"Taffy was a Welshman"
Roud #19237
Written by Traditional
Published c. 1780
Written England
Language English
Form Nursery rhyme

"Taffy was a Welshman" is an English language nursery rhyme with anti-Welsh lyrics, which was popular in England between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19237.

Lyrics[edit]

Versions of this rhyme vary. Some common versions are:

Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief;
Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of beef;
I went to Taffy's house, Taffy wasn't in;
I jumped upon his Sunday hat and poked it with a pin.
Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a sham;
Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of lamb;
I went to Taffy's house, Taffy was away,
I stuffed his socks with sawdust and filled his shoes with clay.
Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a cheat,
Taffy came to my house, and stole a piece of meat;
I went to Taffy's house, Taffy was not there,
I hung his coat and trousers to roast before a fire.[1]

Origins and history[edit]

The term "Taffy" may be a merging of the common Welsh name "Dafydd" (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈdavɨð]) and the Welsh river "Taff" on which Cardiff is built, and seems to have been in use by the mid-eighteenth century.[2] The rhyme may be related to one published in Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book, printed in London around 1744, which had the lyrics:

Taffy was born
On a Moon Shiny Night,
His head in the Pipkin,
His Heels upright.[1]

The earliest record we have of the better known rhyme is from Nancy Cock's Pretty Song Book, printed in London about 1780, which had one verse:

Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief;
Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of beef;
I went to Taffy's house, Taffy wasn't home;
Taffy came to my house and stole a marrow-bone.[1]

Similar versions were printed in collections in the late eighteenth century, however, in Songs for the Nursery printed in 1805, the first signs of violence were evident, ending with:

I went to Taffy's house, Taffy was in bed,
I took the marrow bone and beat about his head.[1]

In the 1840s James Orchard Halliwell collected a two verse version that followed this with:

I went to Taffy's house, Taffy was not in;
Taffy came to my house and stole a silver pin.
I went to Taffy's house, Taffy was in bed;
I took up a poker and threw it at his head.[3]

This version seems to have been particularly popular in the English counties that bordered Wales, where it was sung on Saint David's Day (1 March) complete with leek-wearing effigies of Welshmen.[1] The image of thieving Welshmen seems to have begun to die down by the mid-twentieth century, although the insulting rhyme was still sometimes used along with the name "Taffy" for any Welshman.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 400-1.
  2. ^ M. Stephens The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales (Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 569.
  3. ^ J. O. Halliwell, The Nursery Rhymes of England (London, 1846), p. 19.