DANCE TO YOUR DADDY

"You shall have a fishy when the boat gets in."


Part of the Annotated Horslips Lyrics Project, on comebackhorslips.com
Compiled by Lee Templeton, San Francisco

Come here, me little Jacky, now aw've smoked mi backy,
Have a bit o' cracky, till the boat comes in.

Dance ti' th' daddy, sing ti' th' mammy, dance ti' th' daddy, my little man.

You shall have a fishy on a little dishy,
You shall have a fishy when the boat gets in.
You shall have a mackerel on a little dishy,
You shall have a mackerel when the boat gets in.

Dance ti' th' daddy, my little laddie, dance ti' th' daddy, my little man.
Dance ti' th' daddy, sing ti' thy mommy, dance ti' th' daddy, my little man.

You shall have a fishy on a little dishy,
You shall have a fishy when the boat gets in.
You shall have a herring on a little dishy,
You shall have a herring when the boat gets in.

Come here, me little Jacky, now aw've smoked mi backy,
Have a bit o' cracky, till the boat comes in

Dance ti' th' daddy, sing ti' th' mammy, dance ti' th' daddy, my little man.

You shall have a fishy on a little dishy,
You shall have a fishy when the boat gets in.
You shall have a mackerel on a little dishy,
You shall have a mackerel when the boat gets in.


Recorded On:

  1. Happy to Meet Sorry to Part

Source Tune:

  1. Traditional, Also known as "When the Boat Comes In," "Dance to Your Daddy-O," "Come Here, Me Little Jacky." - Dandling or mouth music song from Northumbria.

  2. Dance to yer Daddy is a version of the Geordie fishing song with vocal counterpoint and a tasteful guitar solo.
    Online review at Mandolin King, link no longer active, mandolinking.org.uk

Recordings (Before Horslips):

  1. Elizabeth Cronin, World Library of Folk and Primitive Music -- V. 2: Ireland, also includes her version and explanation of Cucanandy
  2. Alex Glasgow, From Tyne To Tweed : The Northumbria Anthology
  3. Sweeney's Men, Sweeney's Men, 1968
  4. See also the extensive list at Folktrax

General Notes:

This song also appears with slight variation in the name. It was a broadside printed in the Newcastle Songster as Dance to Thee Daddy. It was printed in a collection of ballads from Northern England by William Watson (died 1840) as Dance ti' thy Daddy.* This version was collected in Berkshire and appears in a Cecil Sharp collection (1909).

Lesley Nelson-Burns, Dance to Your Daddy, contemplator.com

Charles was the one who introduced me to sea shanties and whaling songs. When we shared a house I learned (a rough version) of Reuben Ranzo by Lloyd from a Topic Sampler No.7(!)

I used drive poor Charles mad trying to get him to play it in the Horslips set. To no avail. Wise man, Charles. Dance To yer Daddy was quite enough!

Eamon Carr, interview to site, June 2006

Variation on the Lyrics:

(A) Dance to your daddy, my little laddie
Dance to your daddy, my little man

(B) Thou should have a fish and thou should have a fin Thou should have a haddock baked in a pan
Dance to your daddy, my little man

(A)

(C) When thou art a man and come to take a wife
Thou should wed a lass and love her all your life
She should be your lass and thou should be her man
Dance to your daddy, my little man

(A)
(B)
(A)
(B)

Recorded by Sweeney's Men on Sweeney's Men 1968

Mudcat Cafe,Dance to Your Daddy, mudcat.org


Come here, maw little Jacky,
Now aw've smoked mi backy,
Let's hev a bit o' cracky,
Till the boat comes in.

Chorus:

Dance ti' thy daddy, sing ti' thy mammy,
Dance ti' thy daddy, ti' thy mammy sing;
Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy,
Thou shall hev a fishy when the boat comes in.

Here's thy mother humming,
Like a canny woman;
Yonder comes thy father,
Drunk - he cannot stand.

Chorus:

Dance ti' thy daddy, sing ti' thy mammy,
Dance ti' thy daddy, ti' thy mammy sing;
Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy,
Thou shall hev a haddock when the boat comes in.

Our Tommy's always fuddling,
He's so fond of ale,
But he's kind to me,
I hope he'll never fail.

Chorus:

Dance ti' thy daddy, sing ti' thy mammy,
Dance ti' thy daddy, ti' thy mammy sing;
Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy,
Thou shall hev a bloater when the boat comes in.

I like a drop mysel',
When I can get it sly,
And thou, my bonny bairn,
Will lik't as well as I.

Chorus:

Dance ti' thy daddy, sing ti' thy mammy,
Dance ti' thy daddy, ti' thy mammy sing;
Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy,
Thou shall hev a mackerel when the boat comes in.

May we get a drop,
Oft as we stand in need;
And weel may the keel row
That brings the bairns their bread.

Chorus:

Dance ti' thy daddy, sing ti' thy mammy,
Dance ti' thy daddy, ti' thy mammy sing;
Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy,
Thou shall hev a salmon when the boat comes in.


One of the best-loved of all Northumbrian folk songs, 'When the Boat Comes In' is perhaps as well known under its alternative title 'Dance to your Daddy'. The subject - the fisherman/father's return from the sea - is heavily laced with references to alcohol... so heavily in fact that one gets the impression that the whole family is incapable! R. R. Terry in his collection, Salt Sea Ballads, finds the verses 'all very silly and witless, and a libel on the Northumbrian fisher folk'. We prefer to see it rather more in terms of 'a bit o' cracky' - just a bit of fun!

When the Boat Comes In, ingeb.org

Annotated Lyrics:

"mackerel" and "herring"

There's a very good version by Jonny Handle on the CD "Along the Coaly Tyne" which seems to have 3 parts to it the "though shalt have a fishy " with a different fish each time and the "dance to your daddy" both seem to be used as parts of the chorus.

It's lots of fun if you have strange 'fish' - sperm whale, dolphin, ceolocanth, submarine...

Discussion Thread, Mudcat Cafe, mudcat.org

"when the boat gets in"

Interesting piece of info: While in Kinsale at a friends for the weekend I brought down my HTMSTP LIP to try on his mum's deck. I put on Dance To Yer Daddy and funily enough he started sing along. Turns out it's on an ad for old Captain Birdseye (Who shalt have a fishie on a little dishie who shalt have a fishie when the boat comes in?). For those like S .Pam Birdseye is a series of fish products kinda for kids. You know fish fingers etc.

Chris Somers, Official Horslips Guestbook, Tuesday 29 June 2004

Anyone else catch that ad on the telly about Youngs fish-sticks, it has a kid singing 'Dance to Yer Daddy' over it. Brace for impact.

Figworth, Official Horslips Guestbook, Tuesday 2 March 2004

Another version of the song, possibly Alex Glasgow's, was used as the theme song for BBC show When the Boat Comes In.


The Annotated Horslips Lyric Pages thanks KK for her transcription of the lyrics.

First Posted: March 10, 2005
Last Revised: October 22, 2007