Three Merry Men of Kent

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X:1 T:Three Merry Men of Kent L:1/8 M:C S:Chappell – Popular Music of the Olden Time Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:Gmin D2|G2B2A2d2|cBAB ^F2D2|G2 AB cBAB|G6:| A2|B2 Bc d2 de|dedc B2B2|B2 AB cdcB|A6 d2| C2B2A2c2|B2G2^F2D2|G2 AB cBAB|G4D4| F6D2|G2 AB cBAB|G6||



THREE MERRY MEN OF KENT. English, Air (4/4 time). G Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. "Three Merry Men of Kent" is the indicated tune for a song [Roud 615] in the ballad opera The Jovial Crew (1731), that begins:

He that will not merry, merry be,
With a generous bowl and toast;
May he in Bridewell be shut up,
And fast bound to a post.
Let him be merry, merry, merry there,
And we will be merry, merry, merry here;
For who can know where we may go,
To be merry another year, Brave boys,
To be merry another year.

However, the original words to "Merry Men of Kent" were thought to be lost by Chappell, but have since been traced to a ballad called "The Merry Fellows; or, He that will not Merry, Merry Be." The song was not common in tradition, but Roud gave one example collected from a folksinger printed in Alfred-Williams' Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames (1923) under the title "Merry, Merry be" or "Now we've met let's Merry Merry be." It was collected from one William Mills[1] (1848-1920) in South Cerney, between 1913 and 1916. The text of that ballad is similar to a version of the old song printed in Dixon's Songs of the Peasantry of England (p. 239).


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time vol. 2), 1859; p. 161. Sabine Baring Gould (Old English Songs from English Minstrelsie), 1895.

Recorded sources : - Argo Records, The Druids - "Pastime with Good Company" (1972). Eron Enterprises ERON 003, "Shepway Folk" (1974).




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  1. His Obituary Notice: "By the death of Mr William Mills, which took place on Monday last at the age of 72 years, the village of Bibury loses a popular and familiar figure who will be greatly missed. Mr Mills was a member of an old and well-known Cotswold farming family, being the oldest son of the late Mr William Mills, of Ablington. Unlike the other members, he had little taste for practical farming, but he was ardently devoted to all kinds of country sport, his knowledge being encyclopaedic, and his skill with the rod and gun phenomenal. In addition to his sack business for many years he acted as keeper on the Ablington Manor estate, a post to which he was appointed at his own request. In later years his sporting occupation was mainly confined to coaching and assisting the many anglers attracted during the fishing season to the famous Bibury water, there being few days when he was not so engaged, his services being eagerly sought after, for he could usually be relied on to land a brace or two of trout when nobody else could move a fish. Mr Mills figured as Tom Peregrine in Mr J. Arthur Gibbss book A Cotswold Village and some extracts relating to him will be found in Ramblers Chit-Chat notes."