DESCRIPTION: Singer hires on a farm; the farmer says he's first class. He hires elsewhere, and says if he had a son he'd be better off going to jail. He says that while some delight in harvesting and mowing, "of all the jobs that be on a farm/Give I the turnip-hoing."
EARLIEST DATE: 1893 (Broadwood/Maitland)
LONG DESCRIPTION: Singer hires on a farm; the farmer says he's first class. He hires on another farm, and says if he had a son he'd be better off going to jail. He says that while some delight in harvesting and mowing, "of all the jobs that be on a farm/Give I the turnip-hoing." Chorus: "For the flies...got on the turnips/It's all me eye and no use to try/To keep 'em off them turnips"
KEYWORDS: farming work worker boss
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South,West))
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Broadwood/Maitland, p. 70, "Turmut-Hoeing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Kennedy 261, "The Turnip-Hoer" (1 text, 1 tune)
Palmer-ECS, #10, "Turnit Hoeing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cologne/Morrison, pp. 64-65, "Turmut Hoeing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fred Perrier et al, "The Turmut [Turmont] Hoer's Song" (on Lomax41, LomaxCD41)
cf. "The Flies Are On the Tummits" (them of a turnip farmer's life)
NOTES: Kennedy states, "[T]he song has attached itself to Wiltshire and was adopted as the regimental march of the Wiltshire Regiment... now amalgamated [in 1959] with the Berkshire Regiment [to form] the Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment." Palmer-ECS says this took place in 1881.
According to Hallows, p. 206, however, the quick march of the Duke of Edinburgh's Regiment is The Farmer's Boy and the slow is Auld Robin Gray. And while some regiments dropped their historical tunes on amalgamation, so the Wiltshire regiment could have used this piece in the past, it was normal to keep both tunes.
Roud lumps this with "The Flies Are On the Tummits," with which it shares some lyrics, but Ben Schwartz and I both consider the general plots distinct enough to split them. "The Turnip-Hoer" is about the singer's employment history; "The Flies Are On the Tummits" about the hard life of a farmer.
Widespread growing of turnips, incidentally, was a relatively recent practice (turnips, after all, are bitter and rather unpleasant to eat); they are grown because they replenish the soil, and can be farmed on a field that would otherwise have to lie fallow (Beales, p. 36). Large-scale turnip planting began around the beginning of the nineteenth century (Marshall, pp. 8-9) because turnips could be saved and fed to livestock in winter, thus making more fresh meat available at that time.
According to Palmer, p. 49, who quotes what appears to be a stanza of this song, several of the tasks performed on a farm around harvest time were relatively specialized and required significant skill. Palmer does not explicitly list turnip-hoeing among these, but the context implies it. This perhaps explains this song; The singer is celebrating his skill. - RBW
Broadwood/Maitland: "This is a favourite song among soldiers, and is popular in many counties." - BS
Last updated in version 4.2
- Beales: Derek Beales, From Castlereigh to Gladstone, 1815-1885, Norton, 1969
- Hallows: Ian S. Hallows, Regiments and Corps of the British Army, 1991 (I use the 1994 New Orchard edition)
- Marshall: Dorothy Marshall, Eighteenth Century England, 1962 (I use the 1985 Longmans paperback edition)
- Palmer: Roy Palmer, The Folklore of Warwickshire, Rowman and Littlefield, 1976
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