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When Jones' Ale was New facts for kids

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"When Jones' Ale Was New"
English Folk Song
Other name "Joan's Ale Is New", etc.
Catalogue Roud 139
Genre Drinking song
Written 1500s: England
Publisher Broadside

"When Jones' Ale Was New" (Roud 139) is an English folk song about men of various trades drinking at an ale-house or tavern. Other titles include "Joan's Ale is New" and "When Johnson's Ale Was New". Originating in the 16th century CE it has been collected frequently from traditional singers in England, and has been found occasionally in Scotland and the USA. It has evolved over the years, and is popular as a chorus song in folk clubs in England.


In the first verse "three jolly good fellows Came over the hills together" to join a "jovial crew" presumably in an inn or alehouse. They order beer and sherry "to help them over the hills so merry, When Jones' ale was new".

Then various tradesmen arrive, often with the tools or equipment associated with their occupations. Each says, or does something to represent his profession. The number of trades varies, and some versions reflect important occupations local to the singer or publisher. The order in which they arrive also varies.

The first to come in was a soldier and no captain ever looked bolder.
His gun on his right shoulder, his good broadsword he drew.
He said he’d fight with all his might
Before old England should be drunk dry;
And so they spent a rowdy night
When Johnson’s ale was new.

(Sometimes the soldier kisses the landlady's daughter "between cheek and chin", thus ensuring good service and a steady supply of ale).


Now, the first to come in was a dyer; he sat himself down by the fire,
He sat himself down by the fire for to join in the jovial crew.
And he sat himself down with a good grace
For the chimney breast was his own place,
And here he could drink and dye his old face,
When Jones's ale was new, my boys, when Jones's ale was new.

In the Copper Family version, "The Jovial Tradesmen" from rural Sussex:

The first to come in was the ploughman with sweat all on his brow,
Up with the lark at the break of day he guides the speedy plough.
He drives his team, how they do toil
O'er hill and valley to turn the soil,
When Jones's ale was new, my boys, when Jones's ale was new.

(The Copper Family version also includes verses introducing a blacksmith and a scytheman, both important occupations in an agricultural village).

Very often, one of the arrivals is a tinker, who has been a key figure since the first broadside versions:

The next to come in was a tinker,
And he was no small beer drinker (x2)
To join our jovial crew.
Have you got any old pots and pans or kettles to fettle?
My rivets are made of the very best metal,
And all your holes I will very soon settle

In some versions a mason arrives, whose "hammer needed facing" (presumably the reason for his journey). He wishes " every church and steeple would fall, So there would be work for masons all". A hatter, or a thatcher ("No man couldn't be much fatter"), also appears from time to time.

In the broadsides, the last arrival is often a rag-man, and in the last verse his bag, of rags, is often burned.

In a version commonly sung in English folk clubs there is a chorus:

And they ordered their pints of beer and bottles of sherry,
To carry them over the hills so merry,
To carry them over the hills so merry,
When Jone's ale was new, my boys, when Jone's ale was new.


Field recordings

Recordings by the Suffolk singer Spud Bailey, the Sussex singers Bob and Ron Copper, the Shropshire singer Fred Jordan, and the Norfolk singer Walter Pardon, are available online at the British Library Sound Archive. Peter Kennedy recorded Gloucestershire singer Harry Illes in 1957.

A version collected from "Sailor Dad" Hunt of Marion, Virginia, by John A Lomax in 1941 was released on a Library of Congress LP, American Sea songs and Shanties.

Recordings by revival singers and groups

A L Lloyd, Martin Wyndham-Read, John Kirkpatrick and Danny Spooner have all recorded versions.

The title of a version by The Kipper Family "When Peculiar Ale was New", may be a reference to Theakston's Old Peculiar, a popular real ale.

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