Johnny Todd

Traditional: Collected by Frank Kidson
Arranged: Stan Kelly

© 1961 Heathside Music


Johnny Todd he took a notion
For to cross the ocean wide.
There he left his true love a-weeping
Waiting by the Liverpool tide.

For a week she wept full sorely,
Tore her hair and wrung her hands
Till she met with another sailor
Walking on the Liverpool sands.

O fair maid why are you weeping
For your Johnny gone to sea?
If you'll wed with me tomorrow
I will kind and constant be.

I will buy you sheets and blankets,
I'll buy you a wedding ring.
You shall have a gilded cradle
For to rock you baby in.

Johnny Todd came home from sailing,
Far across the ocean wide,
There he found that his fair and false one
Was another sailor's bride.

So, all you lads who go a-sailing
For to fight the foreign foe.
Never leave your true love like Johnny,
Marry her before you go!


Collected as a children's play (skipping) song in Liverpool, the words
were filled out by Frank Kidson, who collected it from a singer
of deficient memory. The verse about sheets and blankets crops
up in one form or another in many songs and the first verse is
often sung:

Johnny Todd he took a notion
For to cross the raging tide,
And he left his true love behind him
Weeping on the Liverpool side.

(the Liverpool side of the river, that is, not the Birkenhead
side). Another version of the tune was passed from Ewan McColl
to Marlene Dietrich, who sang it in cabaret for a while.
Much later, the song was re-immortalised when Fritz Spiegel,
sometime flautist with the Liverpool Philarmonic Orchestra, and
his ex-wife, Bridget Fry, arranged the melody as the signature tune
for the television series "Z-cars." The effect aimed at was that
of the fife-and-drum band playing in an Orangeday parade. The
section of the Liverpool Phil that recorded the tune found some
difficulty in playing the "off" notes.

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