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Origins/ADD: Old Grimes / Bohunkus


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(origins) Origins: Two sons were brothers (39)

GUEST, 03 Aug 01 - 10:16 AM
Brian Hoskin 03 Aug 01 - 10:39 AM
Malcolm Douglas 04 Aug 01 - 09:33 AM
Liz the Squeak 04 Aug 01 - 06:02 PM
GUEST,banjoman15 21 Aug 08 - 02:20 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 21 Aug 08 - 03:24 PM
Jim Dixon 31 Jul 10 - 11:13 AM
GUEST,Bre Couch 06 Feb 11 - 03:34 AM
peregrina 06 Feb 11 - 03:49 AM
Joe Offer 06 Feb 11 - 04:21 AM
Joe Offer 18 Oct 12 - 01:06 AM
GUEST 17 Nov 14 - 05:53 PM
GUEST 17 Nov 14 - 06:06 PM
GUEST,Chip Tefft 24 Aug 16 - 07:23 PM
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Subject: Old Grimes
From: GUEST,
Date: 03 Aug 01 - 10:16 AM

Many years ago -- in the 1920s and '30s -- my mother used to sing a brief ditty to the tune of Auld Lang Syne that went:
    Old Grimes is dead, that good old man,
    We ne'er shall see him more.
    He used to wear an old brown coat
    All buttoned down before.
Does this ring any bells anywhere? It's apparently not related to the folk-song "Bill Grimes," even though the phrase "Old Grimes is dead" appears in both.

My mother's early years, until 1893, were spent in Manitoba, and she later was house mother at an Episcopal orphanage in Chicago. She might have picked up the ditty in either of those two places... or anywhere in between.

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Subject: RE: Old Grimes
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 03 Aug 01 - 10:39 AM

I just put the first line of the rhyme into the Google search engine and came up with a few references, for instance this


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Subject: RE: Old Grimes
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 04 Aug 01 - 09:33 AM

Iona and Peter Opie (The Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes, 1951) have this to say:

"Old Abram Brown is dead and gone,
You'll never see him more;
He used to wear a long brown coat
That buttoned down before.

In the combats traditionally enacted by the mummers, one of the champions is usually slain; he is then either magically cured, or sometimes, as on the Elizabethan stage, his body is disposed of by being carried out.  In the play performed at Camborne, near Redruth in Cornwall, Father Christmas and the two Merrymen carry the Turk out, singing:

This poor old man is dead and gone,
We shall never see him more,
He used to wear an old grey coat
All buttoned down before.

In the version performed at Overton in Hampshire the nursery-preserved name of the poor old man is recovered when King George says:

Oh dear, oh dear, see what I've been and done,
Killed my poor old Father Abraham Brown.

It seems clear that the nursery rhyme is a relic of the folk-plays."

(References:  James Orchard Halliwell, The Nursery Rhymes of England, revised and enlarged edition of 1853; R.J.E. Tiddy, The Mummers' Play, 1923; Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes, L.E. Walter, 1924, Old Grimes; Big Book of Mother Goose, (James and Jonathan Co., Wisconsin), 1946.)

Texts of both the Mummers' plays mentioned can be seen at the  English Folk Play Research Home Page,  compiled by Peter Millington of the National Centre for English Cultural Traditions And Language at the University of Sheffield.

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Subject: RE: Old Grimes
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 04 Aug 01 - 06:02 PM

Our version went:

Old Abr'am Brown is dead and gone, You'll never see him more. For what he thought was H2O Was really SO4.

That's chemistry for you!


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Subject: RE: Old Grimes
From: GUEST,banjoman15
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 02:20 PM

My dad used to recite a poem to me that went this way:

Old father Grimes was a good old man
whom we'll never see any more
He wore a long, swallow-tail coat,
that buttoned down before

Now this old man, he had two sons,
and these tow sons were brothers.
Josephus was the name of one,
Bohunkus was the other.

Now, these two boys they had a mule,
a mule of wonderous kind.
Joshephus rode in front,
and Bohunkus rode behind.

These two boys a fishin' went,
a fishin' in the slew.
Josephus caught a mackerel (hands slightly apart)
and Bohunkus caught one too (hands fully extended apart, to show a whopper of a lie)

Now these two boys, their story told,
and they told it very well.
Josephus went to Heaven,
Bohunkus went to.....catch the mule!!!!!

Isn't that just the nicest little ditty? I was always so happy to hear that story....asking him to do it again and again!!!

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Subject: RE: Old Grimes
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 03:24 PM

You might like to look at this thread: Origins: Two sons were brothers


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Subject: Lyr Add: BOHUNKUS
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 31 Jul 10 - 11:13 AM

A shorter version of this song was previously posted in the thread The Song Nobody Knows, but since BOHUNKUS didn't seem to be the song that was originally requested in that thread, it didn't seem wise to continue the discussion there. I think this song deserves its own thread.

From Yale Songs, compiled and edited by Frank B. Kellogg* and Thomas G. Shepard (New Haven, Conn.: Shepard & Kellogg, 1882), page 43:


1. There was a farmer had two sons,
And these two sons were brothers.
Bohunkus was the name of one.
Josephus was the other's.

2. Now, these two boys had suits of clothes,
And they were made for Sunday.
Bohunkus wore his every day;
Josephus his on Monday.

3. Now, these two boys to the theatre went,
Whenever they saw fit.
Bohunkus in the gallery sat;
Josephus in the pit.

4. Now, these two boys are dead and gone.
Long may their ashes rest!
Bohunkus of the cholera died;
Josephus, by request.

5. Now, these two boys their story told,
And they did tell it well.
Bohunkus, he to heaven went;
Josephus he to—Sing-sing.

Note.—It is customary for the leader to "line off" the words, two lines at a time, always ending with "Sing."

[* The title page identifies Kellogg as "President of the Yale Glee Club of '83." I wondered if this could be the same Frank B. Kellogg (1856-1937) who was U.S. Secretary of State 1925-29, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929 for negotiating the Kellogg-Briand Pact. However, Wikipedia says this Kellogg began practicing law in 1877, which makes the identification doubtful.]

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Subject: RE: Old Grimes
From: GUEST,Bre Couch
Date: 06 Feb 11 - 03:34 AM

I have on hand an old book of poems called "Poems I Remember," compiled by John Kieran. In it, there is the poem "Old Grimes" by Albert G. Greene. It goes, "Old Grimes is dead, that good old man,-/We ne'er shall see him more;/He used to wear a long black coat,/all buttoned down before." There are several more verses, the last being, "Thus undisturbed by anxious cares/His peaceful moments ran;/And everybody said he was/A fine old gentleman."
Albert G. Greene lived from 1802-68, and here is the link to the online format of the original book.

(Google Books - click here)

I hope this helps! Good luck!

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Subject: RE: Old Grimes
From: peregrina
Date: 06 Feb 11 - 03:49 AM

Old Grimy at the Yorkshire Garland; tune: Auld Lang Syne

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Subject: ADD: Old Grimes
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Feb 11 - 04:21 AM

I think I kinda like Old Grimes. Here's the poem, as printed in Cyclopædia of American Literature, Volume 2 By Evert Augustus Duyckinck, George Long Duyckinck (C. Scribner, 1856), p. 338.

(Albert C. Greene)

Old Grimes is dead; that good old man
    We never shall see more:
He used to wear a long, black coat
    All buttoned down before.

His heart was open as the day,
    His feelings all were true;
His hair was some inclined to grey,
    He wore it in a queue.

Whene'er he heard the voice of pain,
    His breast with pity burned;
The large, round head upon his cane
    From ivory was turned.

Kind words he ever had for all;
    He knew no base design:
His eyes were dark and rather small,
    His nose was aquiline.

He lived at peace with all mankind,
    In friendship he was true:
His coat had pocket holes behind,
    His pantaloons were blue.

Unharmed, the sin which earth pollutes
    He passed securely o'er,
And never wore a pair of boots
    For thirty years or more.

But good old Grimes is now at rest,
    Nor fears misfortune's frown;
He wore a double-breasted vest;
    The stripes ran up and down.

He modest merit sought to find,
    And pay it its desert;
He had no malice in his mind,
    No ruffles on his shirt.

His neighbors he did not abuse,
    Was sociable and gay;
He wore large buckles on his shoes,
    And changed them every day.

His knowledge, hid from public gaze,
    He did not bring to view,—
Nor make a noise, town-meeting days,
    As many people do.

His worldly goods he never threw
    In trust to fortune's chances ;
But lived (as all his brothers do)
    In easy circumstances.

Thus undisturbed by anxious cares,
    His peaceful moments ran;
And every body said he was
    A fine old gentleman.

    ALBERT G. GREENE, The author of the popular ballad of " Old Grimes," a poet of cultivation, and an ardent prosecutor of the historical literature of Rhode Island, is a native of that state, where he was born at Providence, February 10, 1802. He is a graduate of Brown University, a lawyer by profession, and has for a number of years filled the offices of Clerk of the Municipal Court of the city of Providence, and Clerk of the Common Council.
    Mr. Greene's fugitive poems have never been collected, and a portion of them, of which the reputation has got abroad, are still in manuscript.
    Among these is a quaint comic poem, entitled The Militia Muster, a remarkable thesaurus of the Yankee dialect, and of the vulgarisms of New England. One of the longest of Mr. Greene's serious poems, a ballad entitled Canonchet, is published in Updike's History of the Narraghansett Church.
    Mr. Greene has been a curious collector of American poetry, of which he has a large library; and it is understood, contemplates a publication on the subject.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req/Add: Old Grimes
From: Joe Offer
Date: 18 Oct 12 - 01:06 AM

This song appears in a number of threads, in a number of forms. I guess the primary name is "Old Grimes," but a case could also be made for "Bohunkus." Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song. See crosslinked threads for other versions:

    Bohunkus (Old Father Grimes, Old Grimes Is Dead)

    DESCRIPTION: Old Grimes, "the good old man," was always dressed in a long black coat and was widely respected. He had two sons, (Tobias) and Bohunkus. "They has a suit of clothes... Tobias wore them through the week, Bohunkus on a Sunday."
    AUTHOR: Words: Albert Gorton Greene?
    EARLIEST DATE: 1822 (Providence Gazette)
    KEYWORDS: father children death clothes humorous
    REFERENCES (9 citations):
    Belden, pp258-259, "Old Grimes is Dead" (1 text, 1 tune)
    Randolph 428, "Old Father Grimes" (1 short text, 1 tune)
    BrownIII 321, "Josephus and Bohunkus" (2 texts plus a fragment)
    Gardner/Chickering 194, "Old Grimes" (1 fragment)
    Botkin-NEFolklr, pp. 576-577, "Old Grimes" (1 text)
    Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 83-84, "Bohunkus" (1 text)
    Spaeth-WeepMore, pp. 150-151, "Old Grimes" (1 text)
    JHCox 170, "Old Grimes" (1 text, with an "Old Grimes" first verse and the rest unrelated)
    Pankake-PHCFSB, pp. 156-157, (No title listed) (1 text, tune referenced)

    ST R428 (Full)
    Roud #764
    Ernest V. Stoneman, "Josephus and Bohunkus" (Victor, unissued, 1927)
    cf. "Auld Lang Syne" (tune)
    NOTES: This piece seems to fall into two parts, one describing Old Grimes, his clothes, and the respect with which he was treated (so, e.g., in Spaeth's Weep Some More and Botkin's New England Folklore).
    The other describes the humorous exploits of (Tobias/Josephus) and Bohunkus (so in Speath, Read 'Em and Weep; also the "B" text and perhaps the "C" fragment in Brown), who shared almost everything, usually with one brother having rather the better of the distribution. In Randolph's version, for instance, Tobias gets the clothes for six days out of seven.
    On the other hand, in Spaeth, when they went to the theatre, Bohunkus was in the gallery and Josephus in the pit; Bohunkus died of cholera but Josephus "by request"; Bohunkus went to heaven and Josephus to Hell (or, in one book, "Sing Sing"!). This version was printed at least as early as 1913 in Songs That Never Grow Old, and is listed there as anonymous.
    Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House in the Big Woods, chapter 10) has a different sort of a plot, in which Grimes's wife is so stingy with cream that he blows away in the wind.
    Based on the notes in Brown, it appears that Green wrote only the "Old Grimes" text, with the rest coming from elsewhere. But this does not solve the matter, for it appears that Greene was not responsible for the first verse of "Old Grimes"; when he confessed authorship in 1833, he denied writing the opening stanza.
    Spaeth's "Old Grimes" text is so feeble that it's hard to believe such a thing could enter tradition. And, indeed, no traditional form similar to the printed versions from Spaeth and Botkin seems to have turned up; they all add some sort of comic ending (see Randolph, Cox, Wilder; Brown "A").
    My feeble guess is that "Old Grimes" did not become traditional until it picked up some sort of humorous element, perhaps from "Bohunkus," and circulated only in that form. "Bohunkus" very possibly did not enter tradition at all on its own; although the Pankakes have a text which may have come from oral tradition, it is so short that it could be a fragment of a Grimes/Bohunkus conflation. But it's probably best if you examine the matter yourself.
    This should not be confused with the piece called "Old Roger is Dead (Old Bumpy, Old Grimes, Pompey)" in this collection, which also goes under the title "Old Grimes." - RBW
    Opie-Oxford2 6, "Old Abram Brown is dead and gone" is the usual first verse for this song: "Old Abram Brown is dead and gone, You'll never see him more; He used to wear a long brown coat That buttoned down before." - BS
    Last updated in version 2.6
    File: R428

    Go to the Ballad Search form
    Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
    Go to the Bibliography
    Go to the Discography

    The Ballad Index Copyright 2012 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.

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Subject: RE: Origins/ADD: Old Grimes / Bohunkus
Date: 17 Nov 14 - 05:53 PM

I work every year at the Laura Ingalls Wilder festival in Pepin, WI, doing traditonal music. So to my mindset, this is a "Pa Ingalls" song. There is conjecture, I believe, that many of the songs may have been added to the series of books by Rose Wilder Lane, so the age of the songs in the "Little House" books is uncertain.

I think it's in "Little Town On the Prairie," that Pa sings, "Grimes's wife made skim milk cheese, old Grimes, he drank the whey. A north wind came up from the south, and blew old Grimes away." and other verses about Grimes and his wife.

There is a fiddle tune, "Old Grimes," and the tunes I have heard could be sort of an inversion or an improvisation off the melody of Auld Lang Syne, which Old Grimes can be sung to. I'd be interested to know more about this piece and how it relates to Old Grimes the tune.

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Subject: RE: Origins/ADD: Old Grimes / Bohunkus
Date: 17 Nov 14 - 06:06 PM

No it's Chapter 10 of Little House in the Big Woods, referenced above.

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Subject: RE: Origins/ADD: Old Grimes / Bohunkus
From: GUEST,Chip Tefft
Date: 24 Aug 16 - 07:23 PM

Here are verses my step Grandfather taught me who grew up in the territory of Oklahoma, went to the univ of Arkansas, and was a Colonel in WWI

There was a man who had two sons
And these two sons were brothers
Josiah was the name of one
Bohunkus was the others

Now these two boys got into a boat
And went on down the river
Josiah caught cold in the throat
Bohunkus in the liver

Now these two boys they went to war
And in the midst of battle
Josiah hid behind a stump
Bohunkus he skedaddled

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