Father Had a Knife

from by Lynched

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about

We first heard this cheerful semi-nonsense song from a recording of the singer, poet, storyteller and Gypsy-rights activist, Jasper Derby Smith (1921–2003), who sings it on the Topic LP The Travelling Songster (12TS304). At the time of recording Jasper lived on the side of the road in Sevenoaks, Kent, along with his brother Levi and sister Minty, who also appear on the LP. Jasper, of Anglo-Romani descent, was a founder member of the Gypsy liaison council in the sixties, and attended the first World Romany Congress in London 1971. He found short-lived media fame when, under threat of eviction, he built a 25-foot-high cardboard rocket to take him and his family to a new home in the sky, explaining ‘The council won’t leave us anywhere to live down here!’. Versions of the song are known to have been in print as ‘My Father Kept a Horse’ as early as the 1830s and in later ballad sheets it commonly appears as ‘The Happy Family’ and ‘The Irish Familie’. The word ‘jub’ in the third verse is Anglo-Romani, stemming from the Sanskrit ‘yuka’, and meaning ‘flea’.

lyrics

So its father had a knife, mother had a fork
Sister had a bottle and brother had the cork,
We got a cut from the knife, a dig from the fork,
A sup from the bottle and he's gone and lost the cork

So the longer we go on, the merrier we will be,
We do belong to a boozing family.

And its father had a pig, mother had a cow,
Sister had a rabbit and brother had an owl,
We got some pork from the pig, some milk from the cow,
Some sport from the rabbit and a whistle from Johnny's owl

So the longer we go on, the merrier we will be,
We do belong to a boozing family.

And its father had a lice, mother had a flea,
Sister had a cup, and brother had the tea.
We got some scratches from the jub, some bites from the flea,
A drink from the cup and he's gone and lost the tea.

So the longer we go on, the merrier we will be,
We do belong to a boozing family.

credits

from Cold Old Fire, released May 25, 2014
Trad. arr. Lynched

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Lynched Dublin, Ireland

Gritty folksongs from the heart of Dublin city.

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