Can Anyone Give Info about a Song about a Mother Bathing Her Baby and the Baby Goes Down the Drainpipe?

Bettina wrote to me asking about a song:

20 years ago I was in Sale, Manchester as an Au Pair. Lorraine, the Mom in “my” family sometimes sang this song to her two boys Zac and Jake when they had their bath. I have never seen or heard it since then. Can anyone tell me something about this song? I didn’t ask her at the time and they don’t live at the address from back then anymore so I can’t ask her now.

Here it comes:

A mother was bathing her baby,
Bathing her baby one day.
The mother was fat, and the baby was thin,
Just like a skeleton wrapped up in skin.

She only turned ’round for a minute,
To fetch some soap of the rag.
She only turned ’round for a minute,
But oh when she turned back…

The baby had gone down the plughole,
The baby had gone down the plug.
He wasn’t too small to be bathed at all,
But should have been bathed in a jug.

Now sailing away down the drainpipe,
Happy as happy can be,
Sailing away down the drainpipe,
Into the deep blue sea.

I hope to get wiser on this quite dramatic song.

Bettina Damm
Sydals, Denmark

If anyone knows anything about this song, please let us know about it in the comments below. If anyone would like to sing this song for us, we’d love to hear it!

Thanks in advance!

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 at 5:40 pm and is filed under British Children's Songs, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, England, English, English Children's Songs, Languages, Questions, United Kingdom. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

36 Responses to “Can Anyone Give Info about a Song about a Mother Bathing Her Baby and the Baby Goes Down the Drainpipe?”

  1. Tracy Sear Says:

    The song was recorded in about the 1950’s by a singer named Dorothy Shay.

    Coincidentally, the 4 record 78 rpm album is for auction on ebay.

    The lyrics are not nearly as dark as the ones you heard, but perhaps hers were a more acceptable version.

  2. John Seville Says:

    A mother was bathing her baby one night
    the poor little thing was a terrible sight
    the mother was poor and the baby was thin
    was only a skeliton covered in skin

    The mother turned round for the soap on the wrack
    was only a moment but when she turned back
    her baby had gone and in anguish she cried
    Oh where is my babe? and the angels replied

    Your baby has gone down the plughole
    your baby has gone down the plug
    the poor little thing was so thin and so small
    he should have been bathed in a jug

    your baby is perfectly happy
    he won’t need a bath any more
    he’s floating away down the drainpipe
    not lost but gone before
    ——————————————-
    I thought that the ending was too sad so ai added a further couple of verses

    The mother then cried to the angels above
    oh how can I live without Arnald to love?
    the angels said Gladys don’t make such a fuss
    don’t go out and throw yourself under a bus

    Arnald is perfectly happy
    and things aren’t as bad as they seem
    and when you wake up in the morning
    you’ll find that it’s only a dream
    don’t go out and throw yourself under a bus

  3. Denise Says:

    OMG my dad used to sing this to us when we were kids, I didn’t realise it was a real record but thought it was made up, brings back many memories of the early 70’s when I was only young

  4. Paddy Says:

    I heard this song sung in 1998 and it was quite a few verses long. The version I got from my (English) dad was only two verses long but the pommy bloke I heard it from either made up a lot more but it did sound genuine.

  5. ghost Says:

    there was a version of this song played on the dr demento radio show back in the 80’s.. i have a tape of it.. perhaps searching through the dr demento archives online might locate it & it’s history?

  6. ron lanz Says:

    We learned this song around a campfire at scout camp in South Africa, about 1949. The scoutmaster was from England and taught it to us.
    I sang this song to my daughter when she was about 6 ..she
    is now 47 and a physician. It brings tears to her eyes even today, if we start to sing the refrain.

    Our only difference to first version was …..she only turned round for a minute to get the soap off the rack…….and……………..the babay has gone down the drainpipe…the baby has gone down the drain…………
    All else was the same.

  7. Mary Virginia Says:

    Dorothy Shay sang this in the 50’s with the title ” My Baby Has Gone Down the Drainpipe”. Her take on this song was comedic. She was an actress and comedian. Amazon has some of her songs.

  8. Allan Says:

    My grandfather (English) used to tell this story to us in the form of a poem, delivered with a specially thick Cockney accent when we visited him on his farm in Northern Transvaal, South Africa in the late 1970s. It used to crack us kids up, perhaps because he put such a melodramatic and theatrical spin on the lines:

    Your baby ‘as gorn dahn the plug ‘ole
    your baby ‘as gorn dahn the plug

    We loved the thought of a Cockney angel.

    The one difference he had was:
    “the poor little fing was so skinny and thin
    ‘e should ‘ave been barfed in a jug”

  9. Rinn Says:

    @Allan:
    That’s the one that my grandad used to sing. I’ve never heard the other versions.

  10. charlie Says:

    I first heard this song on a 78rpm recording in the 1960s, but the record was probably 1940s. I believe it was a music hall show and this was one of a number of small items on it. It later appeared on the Disraeli Gears album released by Cream (Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker) in 1967. I learned it from the earlier recording and sing it occasionally in music sessions in my local bar.

  11. Trixie Says:

    Our mother’s version:

    A mother was bathing her baby one night;
    a poor little tyke such a pitiful sight.
    The baby was crying and awfully thin;
    only a skeleton covered with skin.

    The mother turned round for the soap off the rack;
    twas only a moment before she turned back.
    The baby was gone.

    Oh, where is my baby?
    The angels replied:
    Your baby’s gone down the plughole
    Your baby’s gone down the drain.

    The poor little tyke;
    such a pitiful sight–
    should have been bottled in brine.

    So dry your eyes dear mother;
    and don’t you weep no more.
    Your baby is perfectly happy–
    she’s in the signal corp!

    Obviously the last stanza added during the war??

  12. MARY MOHANAN Says:

    I remember Dad singing that to us, Trixie. To all, our dad was in the Air Force during WWII.

  13. Rachelle Lord Says:

    My father would sing this to me and my sisters when we were having a bath … he came from India to Manchester when he was eleven..In 1947… He was born an Anglo Indian baby … he sadly passed away 23 years ago so although the sad verses I remember happy times …a wonderful memory .. x

  14. Alexis Says:

    I was so happy to find this :) my dad sang it to my sister and I when we were little in the 80’s. I had a son last year and wanted to sing to him as dad did to us but sadly dad died before Toby was born so I thought I’d search for the lyrics myself – isn’t the Internet a wonderful thing ! No matter how random the request there is always an answer !!

  15. Janet Says:

    I remember a version of this song on an lp my older brother had in the early 70s.

    I can’t remember who the band was but they were a rock/metal type.

    The story is the same and most of the words but the version isa bit ‘cruder’!

  16. Pauline Nolan Says:

    My Mother last month sang the song at a family wedding. She forgot a few words but at 91 I think she did OK. It was a great family favorite and way back she use to sing it with my cousin. God love her

  17. MICK Says:

    We used to sing this in local pubs for beer money around 1970 I was told then that the Who had it on one of there L.P. s ??

  18. John Horsfall Says:

    I used to sing much the same lyrics with an extra verse:

    G
    I’m glad I was born a big baby,
    C G
    I’m glad I was born a big kid,
    C G
    I’m glad me mother and daddy,
    A7 D7 G
    Made me as big as they did.

  19. John Horsfall Says:

    Here are the chords to the other verses as I used to sing it:

    G
    A mother was bathing her baby,
    C G
    Bathing her baby one day.
    A7
    The mother was fat, and the baby was thin,
    D7
    Just like a skeleton wrapped up in skin.

  20. Richard Rosa Says:

    I have a 78 record from around the 1930s of Morey Amsterdam (The actor from the Dick Van Dyke Show) singing this song while playing a Cello. This was one of my favorite records as a kid, and as an adult as well. Unfortunately, the record got a chip out of it, and the first minute or so does not play right.
    I was surprised when I first heard the Cream (on the Disraeli Gears album) perform this number. The Cream’s version was quite a bit different than Mr. Amsterdam’s but similar enough to be recognized as the same song.
    I suspect that the origins of this number go back to the English Vaudeville Theater.

  21. Alan Griffiths Says:

    I remember this from the late 50’s and always presumed it originated in the Music Halls of the late Victorian era. There are many versions and all the ones I have heard have been with a strong cockney accent.

    A mother was bathing her baby one night
    A poor little thing a delicate mite
    The mother was fat and the baby was fin,
    T’was naught but a skellington covered in skin

    The mother turned round for the soap from the rack
    she was only a minute but when she got back
    Her baby had gone and the mother she cried
    “Oh where is my baby>” and the angels replied.

    Your baby has gone down the plug’ole
    your baby has gone down the plug
    The poor little thing was so skinny and fin
    ‘E should ‘ave been bathed in a jug (in a jug)

    Your baby is perfikly ‘appy
    He won’t need no bathin’ no more
    E’s workin’ ‘is way through the sewers
    Not lost, just gone on before

    Your baby has gone dahn the drainpipe
    And the chlorine is bad for ‘is eyes
    He’s ‘avin’ a swim
    and it’s ‘ealthy for him
    He needed the eh eh exercise (the exercise)

    Don’t worry ’bout ‘im just be ‘appy
    For I know he is suff’rin no pain
    Your baby has gone dahn the plug’ole
    Let’s ‘ope he don’t block up the drain

    Your baby iss perfik’ly ‘appy
    ‘E won’t need a bath any more
    ‘E’s muckin’ abaht wiv the angels above
    Not lawst….
    But gawn before…. e’s gawn before………

    I’m going to stick with it’s music hall origins. :-)

  22. melissa Says:

    Hello! I heard this song sung by Gemma Arteton in the film Byzantium. Only a couple of lines, but had stuck with me.

  23. Sophie dias Says:

    I am Lorraines daughter and my brothers aee zac and jake! I think beTina has been in touch with my mum and gotten the real lyrics now! I came across this looking for the lyrics to sing to my boys in the bath!

  24. Wendy Heath Says:

    I had a recording of this when I lived in England, it was recorded by Tommy Cooper a comedian.
    He was often mimicked in the Yard Birds stage show..he wore a Shriner hat, and would do “tricks” Example.. “I take off my hat, and put this dry handkerchief into it…and it comes out (shakes the hanky, which has bells sew into it) RINGING”
    He also recorded “Lulu had a baby” and a bunch of others, The recording were old pressed 78’s, Which would shatter if dropped. My family inherited the old recordings from the former home owners of a house my parents purchased when I was 12 (56 years ago) in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England

  25. Mike Says:

    my recollection of this has a different ending – “your baby has gone down the plughole, and come up the plughole next door”. Did I invent that or just mis-remember it?!

  26. Meg Says:

    I remember this from an evacuation boarding school near Lake Vernwy in 1941/2

  27. Portia Hardesty Says:

    I believe this is pretty close to the Judy Kanovagha version from the 1940-50s. (From the album, “Manhatten Hillbilly”)

    A mother was washing her baby one night
    Poor infant so slim and so slight
    The mother was poor and the baby was thin
    was only a skeliton covered in skin

    The mother turned round for the soap on the rack
    Twas only a moment but when she turned back
    Oh where, oh where is my bae-by she cried?
    Oh where is my bae-by? and the angels replied

    Your baby has gone down the plughole
    Your baby has gone down the plug
    Poor little tyke, so slim and so slight
    ‘e should have been washed in a jug

    Your baby is perfectly happy
    For ‘e won’t have to bath any more
    Your baby has gone down the drainpipe
    Not lost but gone evermore
    —————————————

  28. Mike Edwards Says:

    There are a few lines of this on the “Live at Leeds” album by the ” The WHo” circa early ’70’s , it is right at the end on backside, but yu have to wait a few mins to catch it!

  29. john wood Says:

    This song has Ronnie Lane ex Faces, written all over it. As he was mates with clapton it seems likely that he passed it on to him!.

  30. lorraine Says:

    I am the Lorraine mentioned in original request from Bettina above!

    I now sing this to my three grandchildren who love it, .Having read the real lyrics
    I realise…my version is almost the same but with few variations.

    My own mother sang it to me…..and it makes me quite emotional
    singing it to my granchildren.

    I am now fifty seven and it is very comforting to remember a song my mother sang to me all those years ago.

  31. Grant Says:

    My Father (86) and I used to sing this when we were in the car when I was a kid. My daughter now sings it to my Granddaughter. The version he taught me was shorter and had a twist I have not seen mentioned above:

    A mother was washing her baby one night,
    The youngest of 10 and a very small tike.
    She turned around for the soap on the rack,
    She was only a moment, but when she turned back…!
    Her baby was gone! And in anguish she cried!
    “Where is my baby!?”
    And the Angels replied:
    Your baby is perfectly happy.
    He will not need a bath anymore.
    He suffered no pain as he (long, loud sucking noise like water going down a drain) down the drain.
    Lost for ever more.

    Cruel, but made an eight year old giggle. :-)

  32. Chris Says:

    My father sang this to me he was a cockney so the accent adds to it
    A muvva was barfing er baby one night
    The youngest of ten and a pitiful sight
    She turned arand ter get the soap from the rack
    She was not a minit but wen she turned back
    Er baby ad gorn and in anguish she cried
    Oh where as my baby gorn the Angels replied
    Your baby as gorn dahn the plug hole your baby has gorn dahn the plug the poor little thing was so skinny an fin he should have been bathed in a jug (or a tin) (this part from the chorus)
    The following verses I never heard before not sure they are authentic certainly the part about nought but an skellington covered in skin I have heard as a child love the song and would like to get a true versisn

  33. Steve Bartlett Says:

    I got this version from the Dorothy Shay 78 record in the 1950’s. I have been singing it this way since then. I do it in E; it has a number of neat different chords which I can supply if anyone is interested.

    A mother was washing her baby one night
    Poor little infant so slim and so slight
    The mother turned round for the soap on the rack
    T’was only a moment, but when she turned back

    Oh where is my baby, my baby, she cried
    Oh, where is my baby, and the angels replied:

    Your baby has gone down the drainpipe
    Your baby has gone down the plug
    Poor little mite, so slim and so slight
    He should have been washed in a jug.
    Your baby has gone down the drainpipe
    and he won’t have to bathe any more
    Your baby has gone down the plughole,
    Not lost, but gone ever more.

    Your baby has gone down the drainpipe
    And the chlorine is bad for his eyes
    He’s having a swim, and it’s healthy for him
    He needed the exercise
    Your baby has gone down the drainpipe
    And remember, he suffered no pain
    Your baby has gone down the plug hole
    Let’s hope he don’t stop up the drain

  34. Madeleine Pike Says:

    I’ve got somebody singing this song in my novel! No idea it was so well known! I heard it from a friend at school.

  35. Peter Lloyd Says:

    When I was a very small boy, in the late fifties, my mother used to sing this song to me when she was bathing me. I hated it.

  36. Charles Says:

    Sept 20 2019
    Morey Amssterdam sang this during an early morning radio show in NYC.

    Your Baby has gone down the drainpipe
    Your baby has gone down the plug
    Poor little mite, so slim and so slight,
    ‘e should have been washed in a jug.

    Who knows where he’ll be in the morning
    In the Thames or the Isle of Capri
    You said some day day ‘ed be a sailor
    This is his way of going to sea.

    ‘es having a swim and it’s healthy for him
    The chlorine is good for his little eyes.

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