Living History & Reenactment Music

IN TUNE WITH THE TIMES
Musical Rambles Through History © by Sara L. Johnson

Jones's Ale, the Mother Drink of England

Fans of The Virginia Company may remember one of their songs, When Jones's Ale Was New, found on their album Vintage Virginia, available at your favorite 18th century vendors on tape (magnetic ribands) or CD (Colonial Disc). I found information and the words to this song in Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, edited by Peter Kennedy, first published in 1975, but now available in paperback from Oak Publications. Jones's Ale is still being sung by traditional singers in Britain, though its origins are ancient. A version of this particular song is used by morris dancers at Overton, Lancashire, as part of their performances. The first printed version was entered at Stationer's Register in 1595, "a ballet intituled Jone's ale is newe', entered by John Danter. It appears in Thomas D'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy,1707 edition, vol III, no. 133, and in Vol V in 1719, as The Jovial Tinker, with the tune. William Chappell quoted this introduction, from a broadside collection in the Bodleian Library:

All you that do this merry ditty view
Taste of Joan's ale, for it is strong and new

The full title was: "Joan's ale is new; or a new, merry medley, shewing the power, the strength, the operation and the virtue that remains in good ale, which is accounted the mother drink of England."

When Jones's Ale Was New

Come all you honest labouring men, that work hard all the day
And join with me at the Barley Mow, to pass an hour away
Where we can sing and drink and be merry, And drive away all our cares and worries
When Jones's ale was new, my boys, When Jones's ale was new

The first to come in was the ploughman, with sweat all on his brow,
Up with the lark at the break of day, he guides his speedy plough,
He drives his team, how they do toil O'er hill and valley to turn the soil,
When Jones's ale was new, my boys, When Jones's ale was new

The next to come in was the blacksmith, his brawny arms all bare,
And with his pint of Jones's ale he has no fear or care.
Throughout the day his hammer he's swinging, He sings when he hears his anvil ringing,
When Jones's ale was new, my boys, When Jones's ale was new

The next to come in was the scytheman, so cheerful and so brown
And with the rhythm of his scythe, the corn he does mow down
He works, he mows, he sweats and blows, And he leaves his swathes laying all in rows,
When Jones's ale was new, my boys, When Jones's ale was new

Now here's to Jones our landlord, a jovial man is he.
Likewise his wife, a buxom lass, who joins in harmony
We wish them happiness and goodwill, While our pots and glasses they do fill.
When Jones's ale was new, my boys, When Jones's ale was new