Bold Fusilier, The

DESCRIPTION: "A bold fusilier came marching down through Rochester, Off to the wars in the north country, And he sang as he marched the dear old streets of Rochester, 'Wha'll be a sodger for Marlbro' and me?'"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1941
KEYWORDS: soldier recruiting
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
1650-1722 - Life of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
1701-1714 - War of the Spanish Succession, pitting France and Spain against Britain, Austria, and many smaller nations. Marlborough made a reputation by winning the battles of Blenheim (1704), Ramillies (1706), and Oudenarde (1708) (he fought a draw at Malplaquet in 1709)
FOUND IN:
REFERENCES (3 citations):
DT, (COMBSOLD* COMBSOL2)
ADDITIONAL: Matthew Richardson, _Once a Jolly Swagman: The Ballad of Waltzing Matilda_, Melbourne University Press, 2006, pp. 115-116, "The Bold Fusilier" (1 short text, partial tune)
Sydney May, _The Story of Waltzing Matilda_, W. R. Smith & Paterson Pty. Ltd., 1944, p. 21, "The Bold Fusilier" (1 short text)

NOTES [360 words]: The currency of this song in oral tradition is rather open to debate. This is not due to any defect in the song itself, but its precise parallels to "Waltzing Matilda," which has made the history of the song rather a fetish for Australians.
The facts:
1. There are no early collections of the song, and some have judged the language inappropriate for the early seventeenth century. There do not appear to be broadside prints. (The verses quoted in the Digital Tradition are modern reconstructions by Peter Coe of the extant fragments remembered by recent informants). Harry Pearce in 1971 reported a claim that Kathleen Cooper's grandfather Henry Bushby learned the song from his grandfather, George Bushby, who was born in the third quarter of the eighteenth century (see Matthew Richardson, Once a Jolly Swagman: The Ballad of Waltzing Matilda, Melbourne University Press, 2006,p. 214). Based on Cooper's description, it would seem that the song was "not suitable for children," which might explain why it has so rarely been found. But in itself this is a very tenuous chain of attribution.
2. The song clearly *refers to* events of the time of the War of the Spanish Succession, when Marlborough was the English general in chief and when the recruiting sergeant still roamed the streets sweeping up recruits.
Does this date the song to the seventeenth century? The only other alternative I've seen is a suggestion that the song was written during the Boer War (1899-1902) as some sort of parody on the Churchills. I find this hard to believe.
My personal opinion is, despite the incredibly tortured explanations given by many Australians to "prove" that the tune of "Waltzing Matilda" derives from "Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigeilea," that this is the tune Christina MacPherson gave to Banjo Patterson for that song -- after all, she didn't remember the tune's name or where she learned it! -- or at least that Marie Cowan, who arranged the popular version of "Waltzing Matilda," conformed it to "The Bold Fusilier." The question will probably never be settled to everyone's satisfaction, however, barring discovery of an early broadside print or the like. - RBW
Last updated in version 5.2
File: DTcombso

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