Father Grumble

TITLE: Father Grumble
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain
KEYWORDS: contest, husband, wife, work, humorous, feminist

Father-Grumble-9781579997564I love this song. It reminds me of a television sitcom starring a doofus husband and the strong, level-headed, extremely competent wife. Wait a minute, that’s no sitcom, that’s my life!

Unfortunately, this is a perfect little song reminding us men that we often over estimate our own abilities and under estimate the strength and common sense of our own wives.

This song also shows that feminism didn’t start in the 1960s, it has been with us since the beginning of time. Is this a sexist song? Yes. But one done with humor and a similar plot line to that which many of us have trod. 

There is a children’s book Father Grumble (First Steps in Music series) available through bookstores and online.


  • Bublin Bay (same tune)
  • John Grumble
  • Old Mr. Grumble
  • Old Daddy Grumble
  • Equinoxial and Phoebe




Father Grumble

There was an old man who lived in a wood,
As you may plainly see;
He said he could do as much work in a day
As his wife could do in three.
“With all my heart,” the old woman said;
“If that you will allow,
Tomorrow you’ll stay at home in my stead,
And I’ll go drive the plough.

“But you must milk the Tidy cow,
For fear that she go dry;
And you must feed the little pigs
That wallow in the sty;
“And you must mind the speckled hen,
For fear she lay astray;
And you must reel the spool of yarn
That I spun yesterday.”

The old woman took a staff in her hand
And went to drive the plough;
The old man took a pail in his hand,
And went to milk the cow;
But Tidy hinched, and Tidy flinched,
And Tidy broke his nose,
And Tidy gave him such a blow,
That the blood ran down to his toes.

“Hi! Tidy! ho! Tidy! hi!
Tidy, do stand still!
If ever I milk you, Tidy, again,
‘Twill be sore against my will.”
He went to feed the little pigs
That were within the sty;
He hit his head against the beam,
And made the blood to fly.

He went to mind the speckled hen,
For fear she’d lay astray,
And he forgot the spool of yarn
His wife spun yesterday.
So he swore by the sun, the moon and stars,
And the green leaves on the tree,
If his wife didn’t do a day’s work in her life,
She should ne’er be ruled by he.


  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books
  • Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore (1952), Volume 2: Folk Ballads from North Carolina. Edited by Henry M Beldin and Arthur Palmer Hudson. Duke University Press. [This volume will be indexed on this site in the weeks to come.]
  • Folk Songs of North America (in the English Language), Alan Lomax, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York 1960—Amazon Books

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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