Now Ah’ve ’ad a lot of trouble in me life all through a muffin man;
’E thought ’e’d charm my wife with ’is muffins, wasn’t it an awful plan?
Ah never thowt when I ate ’em for me tea into what trouble Ah’d fall;
For hours and hours the, neighbours say, outside our ’ouse ’e’d bawl.
Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, ’e sold ’is muffins as ’e went along
Ah never knew there was anything wrong to cause me grief or sorrow,
But now I ’ave to regret to say, she eloped with that muffin man yesterday
’E stole me ould wife’s ’eart away with ’is ring-a-ding-a-ding, ding-dong.
Now my brother Jim every Sunday’s engaged in ringin’ the ould church bell;
One Sunday mornin’ it did sound funny, the bell it didn’t ring so well.
Ah thowt Ah’d find out what was wrong and what ’ad made it stop;
Ah climbed up the belfry steps and when Ah reached the top:
Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, Ah soon discovered there was something wrong,
Ah found out the trouble ere Ah’d been there long, an’ Ah fell back astounded;
For there was brother Jim with a girl on ’is knee, an’ that’s why the bell didn’t ring so free,
For ’e was ticklin’ ’er you see between the ring-a-ding-a-ding, ding dongs.
Now a parson to ’is curate one Sunday morn said just for a little bit o’ fun,
‘Ah’ll bet Ah’ve kissed more ladies in this church than you.’ The curate ’e said, ‘Done!’
‘We’ll stand each side the old church door and this shall be our sign,
Ah’ll say ping-pong for the girls Ah’ve kissed and tha says ding-dong for thine
‘Ding-dong’, ‘Ping-pong’, ‘Ding-dong’, ‘Ping-pong’; There were more ding-dongs than there were ping-pongs.
Presently a nice little lady came along and the curate ’e said, ‘Ding-dong.’
The parson said, ‘No ding-dong there, for that’s my wife, Ah do declare!’
’E says, ‘Ah don’t give a bugger, Ah’ve still been there, she’s a ring-a-ding-a-ding, ding-dong.’
This is a traditional song
This was one of Dan Leno’s great hits written by Harry King in 1889. It is absolutely archetypal of the era in that it has three long stanzas linked only by a common theme, in this case the ringing of bells. Its third stanza has survived in the armed forces and wherever bawdy songs are sung, under such titles as ‘The Church Song’, ‘The Balham Vicar’ and ‘The Second Oldest Profession’. The ‘kissing’ of King’s version has become in these something stronger and in the last variant the women have been commuted into boys, a natural progression one would think, the last conquest claimed being the vicar’s son. The tune designated for this is ‘The Vicar of Bray’ but by the wording of the opening line I’d say it was more likely set to the less familiar ‘The Volunteer Organist’ which has a similar start.
Harry King did not create this joke, however; it appeared in the mid nineteenth century on a broadside in ten stanzas as ‘The Parson and Clerk’ printed by Harkness of Preston. (See Madden collection, 18 [Country Printers 3, VWML microfilm 85] item 772). The two protagonists in this version do not signify their contest with ding-dongs and ping-pongs, but with the stroking of chins and coughing. No doubt the joke is much earlier even than this.
Will learnt his version, like many of his songs, from the singing of Arthur Howard.