Our Goodman

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"Our Goodman"
Hame Cam Our Gudeman at E'en.jpg
"Hame Cam Our Gudeman at E'en", from The Scotish Minstrel (1823)
Published 18th century (earliest known)
Genre Broadside ballad, folksong
Songwriter(s) Unknown

"Our Goodman" (Child 274, Roud 114) is a Scottish and English humorous folk song. It describes the efforts of an unfaithful wife to explain away the evidence of her infidelity. A version of the song, "Seven Drunken Nights", was a hit record for The Dubliners in the 1960s.

History and content[edit]

The song appeared in David Herd's 1776 compilation Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs. In it a husband (goodman) comes home to find a strange horse there. When he asks his wife what the horse is doing there she calls him stupid and blind, and says that it is a milk cow her mother sent her. The man retorts that in all his travels he never saw a saddle on a cow.

Our goodman came hame at e'en,
And hame came he:
And there he saw a saddle horse,
Where nae horse should be.

O how came this horse here?
How can this be
How came this horse here,
Without the leave o' me?

A horse! quo' she:
Ay, a horse, quo' he.
Ye auld blind dotard carl,
Blind mat ye be
'Tis naething but a bonny milk cow,
My minny sent to me.

A bonny milk cow! quo' he;
Ay, a milk cow, quo' she.
Far hae I ridden,
And meikle hae I seen,
But a saddle on a cow's back
Saw I never nane.[1]

On subsequent evenings he comes home to find other strange items, such as boots, a sword and a coat, for which his wife gives him equally far-fetched explanations. Finally, he goes to bed, where he finds a "sturdy man", who his wife tells him is a new milkmaid her mother sent her, to which he replies that "long-bearded maidens I saw never nane."[1]

Another version appeared in R. A. Smith's 1823 collection, The Scotish Minstrel, as "Hame Cam Our Gudeman at E'en" ("Home came the husband at evening"). The early verses of this are much the same as in the Herd version, but in the final verse the husband finds a highland plaid, which reveals the stranger to be a refugee from the Jacobite Wars:

Blind as ye may jibe me, I've sight enough to see,
Ye're hidin tories in the house
Without the leave o' me.[2][3]

Francis James Child, in The English And Scottish Popular Ballads (1882), noted the version published by Herd (which he called A), and a different version (B) called "The Merry Cuckold and the Kind Wife", which was published as a broadside in London. In this version the cuckold, named as "Old Wichet", comes home to find, not one, but three horses, swords, boots etc.:

O I went into the stable,
and there for to see,
And there I saw three horses stand,
by one, by two, and by three.

O I calld to my loving wife,
and 'Anon, kind sir!' quoth she:
'O what do these three horses here,
without the leave of me?'[4]

Child's B version was translated into German by Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer (de) in 1789, and later spread to Scandinavia and Hungary. Child gives the first lines as:

Ich ging in meinem Stall, da sah Ich, ei! ei!
An Krippen standen Pferde, eins, zwei, drei.
(I went to my stable, there I saw, ay! ay!
At cribs were standing horses, one, two, three.)

Another, quite different version, called "Marion", was popular in France and Italy.[4]

The Roud Folk Song Index has over 400 versions of the song, with titles such as "Merry Cuckold", "Old Witchet", "Three Nights Drunk" and "Seven Nights Drunk".[5] Steve Roud and Julia Bishop described it as "an immensely widespread song, probably known all over the English-speaking world, with the wording varying considerably but the structure and basic story remaining the same."[6] Bertrand Harris Bronson listed 58 versions for which tunes exist; he found considerable variety in the tunes, which he divided into eight groups.[7] John E. Housman observed that "There is much of Chaucer's indomitable gaiety in this ballad. The questions of the jealous husband and the evasions of his wife are treated here in a humorous vein".[8]

A version of the song called "Seven Drunken Nights"[9] was a hit single for Irish folk group The Dubliners in 1967, reaching No. 7 on the UK Singles Chart.[10]

A Danish version of the song featured in the historical drama series 1864, where it was sung by soldiers before a battle. It followed Child's B version ("Three Guards' horses stood in a row / And one and two and three").[11]

A Russian version, called "The Drunk Cowboy", was recorded in 2003 by Alexander Tkachev. It consists of five parts, at the end of each the wife tells the cowboy to go to sleep. The days include a horse (cow, saddled) a hat (chamberpot, from straw), pants (rags, with a zipper), a stranger's head (cabbage with a moustache), and, finally, a baby which doesn't look like the cowboy's (a log, but one which pees).[12]


Album/Single Performer Year Variant Notes
Earl Johnson Vol. 1 1927 Earl Johnson 1927 Three Nights Experience Document DOCD-8005
Anthology of American Folk Music Vol 1. Ballads Coley Jones 1929 Drunkards Special Wife's logic fails to explain strange bedfellow to drunkard[13]
Complete Recordings Blind Lemon Jefferson 1929 Cat Man Blues JSP Record JSP7706. Contains one verse and chorus
Serenade The Mountains: Early Old Time Music On Record Gid Tanner & Riley Puckett 1934 Three Nights Drunk JSP Records JSP7780
Deep River of Song: Black Texicans Percy Ridge 1943 Western Cowboy Rounder CD 1821
Blind Boy Fuller Remastered 1935–1938 Blind Boy Fuller 1936 Cat Man Blues JSP Records JSP7735. Contains one verse and chorus
Cajun Rare & Authentic, Disc D, 1935 – 1939 Jolly Boys of Lafayette 1937 Old Man Crip (Nights 1 & 5) JSP Records JSP77115D
1947–1948 Tom Archia 1948 Cabbage Head Part 1 and Cabbage Head Part 2
The Folk Songs of Britain, Child Ballads Vol 2 Harry Cox,
Mary Connors,
Colm Keane
Our Goodman Caedmon TC 1146 / Topic 12T 161
Track composed of three fragments from different field recordings
Colm Keane's version is in Irish Gaelic
78 record Douglas Kennedy 1954 Hame Cam Oor Guidman at 'Een HMV B 10836[14][15]
Blood, Booze 'N' Bones Ed McCurdy 1956 Four Nights Drunk Elektra – EKL-108
Down and Out Blues Sonny Boy Williamson 1959 Wake Up Baby Checker LP-1437[16][17]
Morrissey and the Russian Sailor and Other Irish Songs (EP) Joe Heaney 1960 The Good Man Collector Records (UK) JEI 5[18]
Traditional Music of Beech Mountain 1 Hattie Presnell 1961 Five Nights Drunk Folk-Legacy FSA 22
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads: Vol. 1 – Child Ballads Ewan MacColl 1961 Oud Goodman (Our Gudeman, Child 274) Folkways Records FG 3509[19]
Sing Out! The Limeliters 1962 Pretty Far Out Modernized American version, Cadillac is a freezer with fins
Folk Balladeer John Jacob Niles 1965 Our Goodman or Old Cuckold Compilation LP later reissued as My Precarious Life in the Public Domain.
Single The Dubliners 1967 Seven Drunken Nights Major Minor MM506.[20]
Jack Elliott of Birtley, The songs and stories of a Durham miner Jack Elliott 1969 The Blind Fool Recorded in a club. Jack is persuaded by the audience to sing the final verse.
Ten Man Mop, or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again Steeleye Span 1971 Four Nights Drunk Pegasus PEG 9[21]
The Voice of the People Vol 13 George Spicer 1972 Coming Home Late
Digital Library of Appalachia Jenes Cottrell 1973 Four Nights Drunk Recorded at the Mountain Heritage Festival in Carter County, Kentucky.
Mrs 'Ardin's Kid Mike Harding 1975 The Drunken Tackler Updated with a Lancashire theme
Daft Ditties Alex Beaton 1987 Seven Drunken Nights
Goin' Back to New Orleans Dr. John 1992 Cabbage Head
Irish Beer Drinking Favorites The Kilkenny Brothers 1998 Seven Drunken Nights .
Digital Library of Appalachia Sheila K. Adams 1998 Four Nights Drunk Recorded at the Berea College Celebration of Traditional Music 10-22-98.
Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight Kristin Hersh 1998 Three Nights Drunk
Going Up the Missouri: Songs & Dance Tunes from Old Fort Osage Jim Krause 1999 Cabbagehead .
The Dickel Brothers Vol 1. Dickel Brothers 1999 Three Nights Experience EMPTY 376
Debasement Tapes Tom Smith 1999 Seven Drunken Nights In Space Science Fiction filk version
Морщина времени Alexander Tkachev 2003 Пьяный ковбой (The Drunk Cowboy) Russian version[22]
Underneath The Stars Kate Rusby 2003 The Goodman .
The Continuing Tradition, Vol 1: Ballads, A Folk-Legacy Sampler Max Hunter 2004 Five Nights Drunk Folk-Legacy CD75 –
The Birds Upon the Tree and other traditional songs and tunes Alice Francombe 2004 The Old Drunken Man Musical Traditions Records MTCD333


  1. ^ a b Herd, David (1776). Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, Etc. Volume 2. Edinburgh. pp. 172–5. Retrieved 21 March 2017. 
  2. ^ Carroll, Jim. "Five Nights Drunk". Songs of Clare. Clare County Library. Retrieved 21 March 2017. 
  3. ^ Smith, Robert Archibald (1823). The Scotish minstrel: A Selection from the Vocal Melodies of Scotland, Ancient and Modern. Volume 4. Edinburgh: Robt. Purdie. pp. 66–7. Retrieved 21 March 2017. 
  4. ^ a b Child, Francis James (1882). English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Volume V. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin. pp. 88–95. Retrieved 20 March 2017. 
  5. ^ "Roud No. 114". Roud Folksong Index. Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 20 March 2017. 
  6. ^ Roud, Steve & Julia Bishop (2012). The New Penguin Book of Folk Songs. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-141-19461-5. p. 450
  7. ^ Bronson, Bertrand Harris (1972). The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, Volume 4: With Their Texts, according to the Extant Records of Great Britain and America. Princeton University Press. pp. 95–129. Retrieved 21 March 2017. 
  8. ^ Housman, John E. (1952). British Popular Ballads. Harrap. p. ?. 
  9. ^ Roud Folksong Index
  10. ^ "Seven Drunken Nights". The Official Charts. Retrieved 23 March 2017. 
  11. ^ Bornedal, Ole (23 November 2014). 1864. Episode 7 (in Danish). 11 minutes in. DR1. 
  12. ^ "Лсгшйюкэмши Унярхмц.Рйювеб Юкейяюмдп Оерпнбхв. Рйювеб Юкейяюмдп Оерпнбхв". Mp3.music.lib.ru. Retrieved 2016-10-01. 
  13. ^ Smith, Harry (1952) Notes to Anthology of American Folk Music
  14. ^ "Hame Can Oor Guidman at 'Een". The Internet Archive. Retrieved 24 March 2017. 
  15. ^ Dean-Myatt, William. "Discography section 12: K" (PDF). National Library of Scotland. p. 7. Retrieved 24 March 2017. 
  16. ^ "Sonny Boy Williamson (2) - Down and Out Blues". Discogs. Retrieved 25 March 2017. 
  17. ^ "Record Reviews" (PDF). The Jazz Review. 3 (6): 34–5. July 1960. Retrieved 25 March 2017. 
  18. ^ "Joe Heaney (Seosamh Ó hÉanaí): EP Releases". The Balladeers. Retrieved 24 March 2017. 
  19. ^ "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads: Vol. 1 – Child Ballads". Smithsonian Folkways. Retrieved 24 March 2017. 
  20. ^ "The Dubliners - Seven Drunken Nights". Discogs. Retrieved 23 March 2017. 
  21. ^ "Steeleye Span: Ten Man Mop or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again". Mainly Norfolk. Retrieved 25 March 2017. 
  22. ^ "Лсгшйюкэмши Унярхмц.Рйювеб Юкейяюмдп Оерпнбхв. Рйювеб Юкейяюмдп Оерпнбхв". Mp3.music.lib.ru. Retrieved 19 October 2017.