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Origins: I wish there were no prisons

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(origins) Info: I Wish There Was No Prisons (1) (closed)


GUEST,Kipling 18 Oct 02 - 10:22 AM
Sorcha 18 Oct 02 - 10:29 AM
GUEST,ossonflags 18 Oct 02 - 11:32 AM
Malcolm Douglas 18 Oct 02 - 12:26 PM
GUEST,Matthew Edwards 18 Oct 02 - 02:35 PM
GUEST,Kipling 19 Oct 02 - 04:03 AM
John MacKenzie 21 Mar 10 - 01:30 PM
Long Firm Freddie 21 Mar 10 - 01:54 PM
Anglogeezer 21 Mar 10 - 02:02 PM
Valmai Goodyear 21 Mar 10 - 02:04 PM
John MacKenzie 21 Mar 10 - 04:14 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Mar 10 - 04:15 PM
Howard Jones 22 Mar 10 - 04:39 AM
Jim Dixon 22 Mar 10 - 10:25 AM
Martin Graebe 23 Mar 10 - 09:16 AM
Steve Gardham 23 Mar 10 - 04:33 PM
Steve Gardham 23 Mar 10 - 05:12 PM
Jim Dixon 24 Mar 10 - 10:31 PM
GUEST,anonymoose 23 Apr 19 - 07:36 PM
Joe Offer 23 Apr 19 - 08:11 PM
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Subject: Lyr req- 'I wish there were no prisons'
From: GUEST,Kipling
Date: 18 Oct 02 - 10:22 AM

Does anyone know the words to a song which i believe is called I wish there were no prisons. I heard it sung from an old red-faced man in Birmingham, UK.

It refers to stealing spuds or potatoes from babies in prams and I think the chorus goes:

I wish there were no prisons,
I do, don't you?
I wish there were no prisons,
with me hands, with me fists, with me maulers.

I think he said it wa swritten by a well known gypsy from Hull. Ayone else know of it?
Kipling


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Subject: RE: Lyr req- 'I wish there were no prisons'
From: Sorcha
Date: 18 Oct 02 - 10:29 AM

Found this:

English: 51 of 98
prev. table next   I wish there were no prisons

I first heard "I wish there were no prisons" on Wally Whyton's Folk Music Broadcast in September 1984 along with Brian O'Lynn as described above. It's a delightful cheery ditty about a kleptomaniac who is quite happily capable of stealing potatoes from twin babies whilst lying within the safety of their pram.
"I wish there were no prisons" has been recorded by:
[Amazon:      ] [CD] Various Artists on "Troubles They Are But Few"

from:http://www.grainger.de/music/songs/iwish.html

but no lyrics........


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Subject: RE: Lyr req- 'I wish there were no prisons'
From: GUEST,ossonflags
Date: 18 Oct 02 - 11:32 AM

It can be found on jim eldons LP called "I wish there were no prisons"

He is the well known gypsy from hull you are thinking of,except he isnt.


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Subject: RE: Lyr req- 'I wish there were no prisons'
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 18 Oct 02 - 12:26 PM

Usually called I Wish There Was No Prisons, the song was in the repertoire of the Sussex singer George Spicer, and can be heard on the Topic record Troubles They Are But Few (Topic TSCD 664). Jim Eldon didn't write it, though he may well have changed it a bit. It appears to have turned up in America as The Happy Crook in the 1920s.


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Subject: Lyr Add: I WISH THERE WAS NO PRISONS
From: GUEST,Matthew Edwards
Date: 18 Oct 02 - 02:35 PM

Hi Chris,
This is the text of the song given in the notes to the Topic CD referred to by Malcolm above:-

I WISH THERE WAS NO PRISONS
(as sung by George Spicer 1973)

I wish there was no prisons. I do. Don't you?
For the old treadmill makes me feel ill.
I only steal my belly to fill
With my hands, with my mits, with my maulers.

Oakum picking gives me a licking.
Still I'm very fond of a little bit of nicking.
I only steal my belly to fill
With my hands, with my mits, with my mauler.

I saw a girl with a perambulator
She got twins, and each had a tater
In its hands, in its fists, in its mauler.

I kissed one kid and collared t'other's tater
With my hands, with my mits, with my mauler.

I wish there was no prisons. I do. Don't you?
For the old treadmill makes me feel ill.
I only steal my belly to fill
With my hands, with my dukes, with my mauler.

As sung by George Spicer; recorded by Mike Yates in the singer's home at West Hoathly, Sussex 26 May 1973. This originally appeared on the Topic LP Blackberry Fold: Songs of George Spicer 12T235.
The notes by Mike Yates and Rod Stradling to the songs on The Voice of The People say that this is only a fragment of a longer song, but George Spicer had never been able to learn the rest of it to his regret. It appears to be a parody of an old minstrel song I wish I was in Dixie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RZY0ZRtg9Q


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I wish there were no prisons
From: GUEST,Kipling
Date: 19 Oct 02 - 04:03 AM

Thankyou for that information and I will endeavour to purchase a copy of one of the mentioned recordings.

I can well believe that whoever the original writer was- he might not have been a Hull gypsy. The old fella' that I heard sing has been known to give out random- sometimes untrue information- sometimes even claiming certain songs as his own creations when they are not!
Oh well, he is a bit of a character- as there are many in the 'folk world'.

I really like the song, it's lyrics and the tune a really good one to get even the most stern faced smiling
Thanks again
Kipling


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Subject: Lyr Req: I wish there were no prisons?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 01:30 PM

I have searched in vain for the words to a song I heard years ago. I don't know the actual title, which doesn't help, but even when I put fragments if the lyrics I know in a search engine, I get a nil result.
The chorus goes thus.

I wish there were no prisons, I do, I do,
For the old treadmill makes me feel ill,
I only steal my belly to fill.
With my hands, with my mitts, with my maulers.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I wish there were no prisons?
From: Long Firm Freddie
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 01:54 PM

Youtube video of the song being perforned by the incomaprable Jim Eldon here:
Prisons

Enjoy!

LFF


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I wish there were no prisons?
From: Anglogeezer
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 02:02 PM

It has been recorded by JIM ELDON on his CD "Home from the Sea".
Available from the
Veteran Label

Jim can also be seen performing it on U-tube here I Wish There were No Prisons

Google here, Google there, a bit of Google everywhere!!
Very soon gives you an answer.

regards
JAke


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I wish there were no prisons?
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 02:04 PM

I think it was collected from the Sussex singer George Spicer.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I wish there were no prisons?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 04:14 PM

Thanks folks, I love that song. I shall now set about learning to sing it myself.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I wish there were no prisons?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Mar 10 - 04:15 PM

I WISH THERE WAS NO PRISONS
(as sung by George Spicer 1973)

I wish there was no prisons. I do. Don't you?
For the old treadmill makes me feel ill.
I only steal my belly to fill
With my hands, with my mits [hands], with my maulers. [hands]

Oakum picking gives me a licking.
[Oakum (flax) picking was the work given to prisoners serving hard labour] Still I'm very fond of a little bit of nicking. [stealing]
I only steal my belly to fill
With my hands, with my mits, with my mauler.

I saw a girl with a perambulator
She got twins, and each had a tater [potato]
In its hands, in its fists, in its mauler.

I kissed one kid and collared t'other's tater
With my hands, with my mits, with my mauler.

I wish there was no prisons. I do. Don't you?
For the old treadmill makes me feel ill.
I only steal my belly to fill
With my hands, with my dukes [fists], with my mauler.

Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I wish there were no prisons?
From: Howard Jones
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 04:39 AM

Just to elaborate on Jim's reply, picking oakum involved unpicking old ropes to produce hemp fibres which were then sold for caulking the hulls of wooden ships. The rope would usually be hemp rather than flax. As the ropes were often coated with tar and had seen hard use, and the picking was done with the bare hands, this was hard work and in prisons counted as hard labour alongside the treadmill and stonebreaking. Residents of poor houses were also expected to work, and this too might involve picking oakum.

More information here:

Portsmouth Asylum


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I wish there were no prisons?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 22 Mar 10 - 10:25 AM

These lines are quoted in The Turn of the Balance by Brand Whitlock (Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill Co., 1907), page 306:

I wish there were no prisons,
I do, I does — 'cause why? —
This old treadmill makes me feel ill, :
I only pinch my belly for to fill,
Wi' me 'ands, WI' me dukes,
Wi' me clawrs, Me mud hooks. ...

[There might be more but I was unable to see more. It's classified as "snippet view" only at Google Books.

[Also, it mentions that the tune is "Dixie."]


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I wish there were no prisons?
From: Martin Graebe
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 09:16 AM

Broadside version from the Baring-Gould collection of popular literature.


I'm one of those fellows what gets my livin'
By taking things what isn't given
With my hand – with my hand
With my hand – With my dook
Now I started a bis'ness in Petticoat Lane
I mean I started the fingerin' game
With my hand – with my hand
With my hand – With my dook

I wish there was no prisons
I do, - I does
For the old treadmill It makes me ill
And I only steal my belly for to fill
With my hand – with my hand
I wish there was no prisons

Today I met a big fat boy
He'd a lot of peas- pudding and a penny saveloy
In his hand – in his hand
In his hand – in his dook
The pudding looked nice, it was smoking hot
I sneaked behind the kid and collared all the lot
With my hand – with my hand
With my hand – With my dook

I wish there was no prisons
I do, - I does
For oakum pickin gives me a lickin'
When I'm run in for a little bit of nickin
With my hand – with my hand
I wish there was no prisons

As I was getn' past a great music hall
I saw a kid sneak a trotter off a stall
With his hand – with his hand
With his hand – with his dook
The owner had gone for change and not seein' copper
I chucked him under the chin
And he dropped that trotter
In my hand – in my hand
In my hand – in my dook

I once met a girl she'd a perambulator
With two kids in it, one of 'em had a hot potato
In his hand – in his hand
In his hand – in his dook
As she was courting a nice young baker
I kissed one of the kids and sneaked the other's tater
With my hand – with my hand
In my hand – in my dook

Broadside from the Baring-Gould collection 'made and printed by R. Maynard, Hackney Road, E.' in a collection 'The Irish Jubilee published by H.P. Such, Printer, 183, Union Street, Borough, S.E. In 'Broadsides', p. 136

Martin


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I wish there were no prisons?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 04:33 PM

Hi Martin,
What was the title? And any guess on a date? Such was printing very late. The 183 numbering was c1883 right into the early 20thc. By 1922 it was W. C. Such at 183 and 186 Union St. Might be able to pinpoint it more accurately if Maynard was only on the go for a short period. Will try Googling.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: I wish there were no prisons?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Mar 10 - 05:12 PM

Googled Maynard and came up with a c1890 reference. He was at 346 Hackney Road if it's any help.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE HAPPY CROOK
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 24 Mar 10 - 10:31 PM

From Frontier Ballads by Charles Joseph Finger (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1927), page 90:


THE HAPPY CROOK

1. I'm one of those fellows that gets his living
By taking things as isn't given
With my hand, with my hand, with my hand, with my mitt.
I started the business in Petticoat Lane
I mean I started the fingering game
With my hand, &c.

CHORUS:
And I wish there was no prisons, I do. Don't you.
For the old treadmill it makes me ill
And I only steals my belly for to fill.
With my hand, &c.

2. One day I saw, which it ain't no lie,
A little kid with a piece of pie
In his hand, &c.
Now I was hungry and the pie was hot,
So I sneaked behind the kid and I swiped the lot
With my hand, &c.

CHORUS


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Subject: I wish there was no Prisons
From: GUEST,anonymoose
Date: 23 Apr 19 - 07:36 PM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qSWf0zFvYo
is there any other variations of this song? pete castle does this one although he states this one has roots in blackface minstrels of the 20th century and it'd be very appreciated if someone could provide the actual precursor to this song as it is obviously based off of an earlier folk song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: I wish there were no prisons
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Apr 19 - 08:11 PM

Here are Pete Castle's notes from his YouTube recording of this song:

    A traditional English song from Kent from the 1998 CD 'apples, cherries, hops and women'. For more info see www.petecastle.co.uk
    Sung by Pete Castle with Dave, Kath and Heather Grabham, Bob Kenward and Ian Lawther on chorus
    In the English tradition this song was only ever collected once, from George Spicer from Little Chart, near Ashford in Kent. (He later moved to Sussex and his son, Ron, was well known as a 'Sussex singer'. I don't know where the words came from but the tune was obviously influenced by, or pinched from, the blackface minstrels of the late 1900s.

    I wish there was no prisons, I do, don't you?
    For the old treadmill makes me feel ill
    I only steal my belly for to fill
    With my hands, with my fists, with my maulers.

    Oakum picking gives me a licking
    Still I'm very fond of a little bit of nicking
    With my hands, with my fists, with my maulers.

    I saw a girl she had a perambulator,
    She had twins and each had a 'tater
    In his hands, in his fists, in his maulers.

    I kissed one kid and collared other's 'tater
    The mother cries out "I'll deal with you later"
    With my hands, with my fists, with my maulers.


I thought the last word was a dental reference: "With me hands, with me fists, with me molars"
I know. I should be ashamed of myself.


Here is the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song. Looks like we have all the available information.

I Wish There Was No Prisons

DESCRIPTION: The singer says "I only steal my belly to fill." Prison work is hard and makes him ill. He saw a girl with twins in a perambulator. He kissed one baby while he stole a potato from the other. "I wish there were no prisons. I do. Don't you?"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1973 (recording, George Spicer)
KEYWORDS: prison theft humorous nonballad baby twins
FOUND IN: Britain(England(Lond))
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Finger, p. 90, "The Happy Crook" (1 short text, 1 tune, which seems a little more humorous than some of the other versions)
Roud #1708
RECORDINGS:
George Spicer, "I Wish There Was No Prisons" (on Voice14)
File: RcIWTWNP

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2019 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.



Note above that Jim Dixon got as much as he could from a snippet view of Frontier Ballads, for there are parts missing from that transcription.


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