National Anthem of the Ancient Britons
|"National Anthem of the Ancient Britons"|
The Woad plant
|Composer(s)||music from Men of Harlech|
"National Anthem of the Ancient Britons", also known as "Woad" or "The Woad Ode", is a humorous song, set to the tune of "Men of Harlech". It first became popular in the 1920s as a song in the British Boy Scouts and appeared in The Hackney Scout Song Book (Stacy & Son Ltd, 1921). The author was William Hope-Jones, a housemaster at Eton, who wrote it some time before 1914, as he sang it at a College dinner at that time. "Ho Jo" appears in the M. R. James' ghost story Wailing Well (1928), in which a group of masters take the Eton Scout Troop on an ill-fated camping expedition. The song recounts the ancient British tradition of fighting naked, dyed with woad. It has also been known as "The Woad Song" and "Woad of Harlech".
- What's the good of wearing braces,
- Vests and pants and boots with laces,
- Spats or hats you buy in places
- Down in Brompton Road?
- What's the use of shirts of cotton,
- Studs that always get forgotten?
- These affairs are simply rotten:
- Better far is woad.
- Woad's the stuff to show, men.
- Woad to scare your foemen:
- Boil it to a brilliant hue
- And rub it on your back and your abdomen.
- Ancient Briton ne'er did hit on
- Anything as good as woad to fit on
- Neck, or knees, or where you sit on.
- Tailors, you be blowed.
- Romans came across the Channel
- All wrapped up in tin and flannel:
- Half a pint of woad per man'll
- Dress us more than these.
- Saxon, you can waste your stitches
- Building beds for bugs in britches:
- We have woad to clothe us, which is
- Not a nest for fleas.
- Romans keep your armours;
- Saxons your pyjamas:
- Hairy coats were meant for goats,
- Gorillas, yaks, retriever dogs and llamas.
- Tramp up Snowdon with our woad on:
- Never mind if we get rained or blowed on.
- Never want a button sewed on.
- Go it, Ancient B's.
Last-line variations include: "Go it, Ancient Britons", "If you stick to Woad", "Bottoms up to woad", "W - O - A - D", "Good for us today", "Go it Ancient Brits", "Woad for us today!" and "Bollocks to the breeze!"
The song appeared in a YHA Songbook from the Youth Hostels Association in the early 1970s. A version of the song appears in the 2009 novel Skin Overcoat by British author Skee Morif.
- The Hackney Scout Song Book (Stacy & Son Ltd, ten editions; 1921 to 1972).
- Dick and Beth Best The New Song Fest. Intercollegiate Outing Club Association, 1961. May be in 1948 and 1955 editions also.
- Anthony Hopkins Songs from the Front and Rear: Canadian Servicemen's Songs of the Second World War. 1979 ISBN 0-88830-171-5
- Skee Morif Skin Overcoat. 2009 ISBN 0-9552841-2-0
- Joe Hickerson with a Gathering of Friends Folk Legacy 2002
- Oak, Ash & Thorn Sowing Wild Oats & Out On a Limb
- "Our Pictish Heritage". 2004-12-11. Retrieved 2008-08-08.
- "National Anthem of the Ancient Britons". UK Commentators. 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2008-08-08.
- .as given in the Hackney Scout Song Book
- Burra Record Wednesday 12 June 1935
- "Sowing Wild Oats & Out On A Limb ~ Release by Oak, Ash & Thorn". MusicBrainz.org. 2012-01-05. Retrieved 2015-03-08.
[track] 24 Woad 2:13