Pretty Polly Perkins of Paddington Green

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"Pretty Polly Perkins of Paddington Green" is the title of an English song, composed by the London music hall and broadside songwriter Harry Clifton (1832–1872),[1] and first published in 1864. It is catalogued as Roud Folk Song Index No. 430.

It was originally published with the title "Polly Perkins of Paddington Green".


It was almost universally known in England until around the mid-1980s, and was commonly taught to school children. The title refers to the district of Paddington in London. The song gained a place in the canonical Oxford Book of Comic Verse, and the original manuscript of "Polly" is now held in the Bodleian Library.

It was adapted for the USA by Clifton during the American Civil War, retitled "Polly Perkins of Abington Green". Presumably the new title referred to Abington Green, Georgia, in the United States. It was also published fairly early in its existence as "Pretty Polly Perkins of Pemberton Green".

Most of Clifton's songs adapted their tunes from old folk songs[2] and it is possible that a folk tune is also the origin of the tune for Polly—some see a resemblance to "Nightingales Sing", also known as "The Bold Grenadier". The famous Tyneside Music Hall song Cushie Butterfield (sung even today at Newcastle United matches) is sung to the same tune as "Polly" and is a parody of "Polly". Cushie Butterfield is attributed to the great Geordie comic singer George Ridley, who died in 1864; "Cushie" was first published in book form in the 1873 edition of "Allan's Tyneside Songs". Clifton's death date means that both the song and its tune are now firmly in the public domain.

The tune, with new lyrics, found its way into the Australian bush culture, among outback farmers and sheep shearers, in the song "One of the Has-beens".

In the British Royal Navy, and in the Royal Australian Navy, sailors with a surname of Perkins are traditionally given the nickname of 'Polly'.

The chorus of the song is sung by the feverish Sergeant Maxfield in the 1964 film Zulu (1964 film).

The chorus of the song is also sung by Perks the Station Master in the 1970 film The Railway Children.

The name Polly Perkins is that of the heroine in the movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

In John Mortimer's A Voyage Round My Father, it is the favourite song of the narrator's father, who sings snatches of it on the most inappropriate occasions.



  1. ^ The Kathleen Barker Collection, University of Bristol Theatre Collection, by Christopher Robinson, Published in Scenes from Provincial Stages: Essays in Honour of Kathleen Barker ed. Richard Foulkes (The Society for Theatre Research, 1994)
  2. ^ Let me make a nation's songs, and let who will make their laws, Roy Hudd, The Hiss and Boo Company, retrieved 19 May 2014

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