Can Anyone Help with a Song about “”Wookey Hole in Days Gone By””?

Margaret wrote:

Dear Mama Lisa

Please can you help? My daughter learned a song in school 30 years ago and is now anxious to trace the lyrics for her four little boys. The only lyrics we can remember are as follows:

Near / In / Down Wookey Hole in days gone by, were three unlucky men,

The first fell down a treacle mine and was never seen again.

And all the birds cried fancy that,
and all the birds cried fancy that,
and all the birds cried fancy that
To hear this merry song.

We think there are three verses, one of them involving a custard lake.

Margaret Phillips

In case anyone’s wondering, Wookey Hole is a village in the south west of England.

If anyone can help with the lyrics to this song, please comment below.



This article was posted on Monday, May 28th, 2007 at 11:44 am and is filed under British Children's Songs, Canada, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, England, English, Languages, Questions, Readers Questions, United Kingdom. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

41 Responses to “Can Anyone Help with a Song about “”Wookey Hole in Days Gone By””?”

  1. Paul Says:

    I can only remember the first 2 men..

    The first fell down a Treacle Mine
    and never stirred again

    And all the birds cried..

    The second poor fellow, said to say..
    He had no fairer luck
    For he climbed up a porridge hill…
    and halfway down got stuck

    And all the birds cried..


    Our primary school in peterborough competed in a schools singing contest and tow of the songs stuck in my head…

    Go Mango walk ( My brother didna tell me that you Go Mango Walk)

    And the Wookey Hole song

    I was googling Mango walk to see if I could find a torrent to get it when I remembered the Wookey hole song and found this query of yours.

    btw.. I can’t remember how well our school did in that contest as I’m now 46 and haven’t heard those songs since. I do recall standing there listening to the other schools singing and thinking… WOW, they are awesome.

    Best regards

    Paul Hovell

  2. Jon Howes Says:

    I remember this years and years ago at school. I think the third verse had something to do with a custard lake and getting caught under the skin.

  3. Margaret Phillips Says:

    Many thanks to Paul Hovell and Jon Howes. The pieces you supplied have now gone to my daughter in Australia who will be reciting them to her
    four little boys, and eagerly awaiting the missing third verse.

    This is a bit like a jig-saw with just a few pieces missing! Please, someone,
    do write in with the missing pieces.

    Sorry we cannot help with Mango Walk.

  4. Lisa Says:

    I received the lyrics to Mango Walk! It’s from Jamaica. You can click the link to get to the lyrics page.

    -Mama Lisa

    PS If anyone would like to sing it for us, I’d love to post a recording!

  5. Judy Says:

    Here’s the last verse of the Wookey Hole song

    The third young man, alas alack
    He too is no more
    He dived into a custard lake
    And could not swim to shore

  6. Rachel Says:

    The second verse is something like;

    The second man, it’s sad to say,
    he had no fairer luck,
    For he walked up a porridge hill
    and halfway down got stuck

    And all the birds cried…

    The third young man, sad to say,
    He too is no more
    He fell into a custard lake
    and could not reach the shore.

  7. Robin Gray Says:

    Wow, A new song and one about Wookey Hole! It’s a long time since I got hold of a new Local song but be sure I shall be singing it to a new tune very soon. Maybe you’ll catch it at one of my gigs.

  8. Paul Hovell Says:

    @ Lisa.

    Wow.. You found the lyrics to Mango Walk.

    Kudos to you.


    @ Robin.. New Song ?


    Have fun singing it. Just don’t put it to “Death metal” music !!

    Paul Hovell

  9. Simon Darragh Says:

    Thank you everyone, I’ve been ad-libbing this for two years with my little girl, missing the second verse and now I have it. She will be so made up!


  10. Steve fisher Says:

    I also remember this tune played byour music teacher at school from 40 years ago. I only remember the second poor fellow. I can also remember : O weathercock i’d like to know, the reason why you never crow, and if you really like to perch upon the steeple f the church. Can anybody remember the rest of these lyrics please?

  11. Chris Mason Says:

    I also remember the Weathercock Song from school 40 years ago. Sadly I only remember the verse you have, Steve, plus a little bit on the end: North, South, East and West, O bring me the weather that I like best!

  12. John Wright Says:

    hi remeber singer wookey hole in singing competition in school along time ago!in high wycombe now living in Ireland but song still in my head!!! 3rd verse go’s
    third poor fellow had no faith and he now is no more, he fell into a custard like and could not swim to shore
    also end part went
    Alas alas man is but grass let life be short or long
    and all the birds cried fancy that to hear this merry song

  13. Baz Court Says:

    Thank you all, this has haunted me for 35 years!

  14. pamela martin Says:

    This has really made my day! I have been singing my three year old the first two verses of this song and driving myself mad with the frustration of not remembering the third verse, I must have learnt it forty years ago. At last I won’t be told not to ‘la la’ that bit. Thanks


  15. Win Says:

    This has haunted me for decades. I learned it at a school in the Caribbean at our singing class, which was taken by our rather rotund Latin teacher. He was also a Catholic Priest with the most delightful Irish lilt to his accent, which was something we had only ever heard from the priests who were our teachers.
    Thanks to all who contributed.

  16. fainche Says:

    Thanks for filling in the lyrics everyone!
    Almost 30 years on, I couldn’t remember the second and third verses to sing to my four year old daughter, so she’s been enjoying a different rendition every night. I could never beat the original :D

  17. Phyllis Says:

    Wow, this song brings back memories! Learnt it when I lived in England 35 years ago! I live in Nigeria now and I’m teaching my kids all those childhood songs!

  18. Sarah Says:

    In Wookey Hole in days gone by lived 3 unlucky men, the first fell in a treacle mine and was never seen again.
    And all the birds said……,,(as above)

    The second poor fellow , sad to say, he had no better luck, he tried to climb a treacle hill and half way down got stuck.

    And all the birds said fancy that….

    The third fellow, sad to say, he too is no more, he tried to swim a custard lake and could not get to shore.
    And all the birds said……

  19. Dwight Says:

    It’s amazing I was looking for these same lyrics and like someothers I learned it during primary school in the 60’s for a school competition from a teacher who was British.

  20. Shauna Forbes Says:

    Does anyone have the music for the song “THREE UNLUCKY MEN”?

  21. Steve Says:

    The music is the same as that for the rugby song “Dinah, Dinah, show us your legs”, but I don’t suppose that’s much help.
    I went to a school in Marlow where this was on the music curriculum.
    The words were slightly different and I cannot remember it all.
    “Near Wookey Hole in days gone by
    Lived 3 unlucky men,
    The first fell in a treacle mine
    And never stirred again

    (Chorus – “And all the birds cried fancy that, fancy that, fancy that
    And all the birds cried fancy that,
    To hear this merry song”)

    The second had no better fate
    And he too is no more,
    He fell into to a custard lake
    and could not get to shore

    (Repeat chorus)

    Cannot remember the third verse, sadly.

  22. Nicola Says:

    Just telling my daughter about a song I learned 41 years ago and struggled to remember verses 2 and 3. Flicked onto the net to see if I could find the lyrics and found you all. I’m laughing as I remember ‘Go mango walk’ too! Lived in a mining town in Northern England and it was part of a school singing festival, now living in New Zealand and practising!
    Thanks everyone.

  23. Jim Meager Says:

    I was one of the many teachers who used this song to great effect in the early 70’s (and much later too come to that!) and this is the definitive version:
    The Three Unlucky Men
    (Wookey Hole)

    Verse 1. Near Wookey Hole in days gone by lived three unlucky men
    The first fell down a treacle mine and never stirred again

    Chorus And all the birds cried “Fancy that!”
    All the birds cried “Fancy that!”
    All the birds cried “Fancy that!”
    To hear this merry song.

    Verse 2. The second had no better fate and he too is no more
    He fell into a custard lake and could not get to shore


    Verse 3. The third poor fellow sad to say he had no fairer luck
    For he climbed up a porridge hill and halfway down got stuck


    Verse 4. Alas, alas, man is but grass let life be short or long
    And all the birds cried “fancy that!” to hear this merry song


  24. Lisa Says:

    That’s great! Would you (or anyone else) like to sing it for us?

  25. Diane Says:

    I’ve just come across this site while searching for the same ‘wookey hole’ lyrics that I learned about 40 years ago for a singing competition in Reading. We also sang something called the song of the Isles (the far Coolins are pulling me away….anyone remember that?) and I’m desperately trying to find another one which starts “friends and loves I have none”. All I’ve found so far is a poem but with slightly different lyrics which the song was obviously adapted from – does anyone know the sung version of this? What an amazing tear jerking thread this is!!

  26. Norman Shah Says:

    I remember my sister ( now deceased) singing this song. I was busting my brain to remember it to teach my 2 girls nad only googled it tonight and found it. brings back memories of her…2 years now

  27. Chris Holmes Says:

    I just did a search for these lyrics (esp trying to find who wrote them)

    I also sang it at school back in the 60’s

    The lyrics I remember are just slightly different (then again, I couldn’t remember all of them).

    Thanks to all the contributors!

    I’d gladly sing it for you all, but I don’t know of anyway to upload it. Actually, I might. watch this space!

  28. Chris Holmes Says:

    Used copies (or at least one copy) of the sheet music for this (Words by James Reeves 1952) are currently for sale on Amazon UK. A google search for “Three unlucky men” will take you there.

    I presume James Reeves is Jim Reeves the country singer.

  29. Krissie Says:

    We sang this at primary school when I was 8 or 9 years old. I will be 57 this year…. I couldn’t remember the porridge hill verse but remembered all of the rest clearly. We had to sing it in a singing competition too. Our head master was a Mr Jones, was Welsh and loved singing. I came from a little village in East Sussex UK. I think the program we learned it from was called Sing Together or something similar. Happy memories 😊

  30. Kay Says:

    I have just been singing the Wookey hole song tonight to my daughter. We must have done so much singing for competitions in the 1970s and I seem to remember most of the words. We also sang Nicholas Nye, Rise men of Cymru, Scarborough Fair, water of Tyne and many others. It was great for developing memory!

  31. Susan Westcott Says:

    I sang the Wookey Hole song at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh in the early 70’s with a choir from Clermiston Primary school. We won the competition. Can’t remember the other song we sung -something about Snow in Summer. Thanks to everyone who has pieced together the words -I’ve been trying to remember them for years.

  32. Ann Martin Says:

    So glad I stumbled upon this thread, it has brought back happy memories as my class from our school in Belfast entered a singing competition around 1970 and sang 2 songs ‘Wookey Hole’ and ‘Lochaber Lullaby’ with the line from a mother singing to her baby ‘when you are grown you will steal me a cow, a horse and a sheep from the herds of the Campbell’s’. They don’t write ’em like that any more!
    My Mum and aunt came to the concert and had to listen to about 20 schools singing the same two songs.

  33. Kati Says:

    I have just been ploughing through my mums old music, she was a primary school teacher in Kendal. The Oxford Choral Songs describe this as a calypso and I have the full score !

  34. Lisa Says:

    That’s great Katie! Would you like to share it? If you can email it to me we can make a simple arrangement from it so people can get the tune. Thanks! :) Mama Lisa

  35. Nina Says:

    I used to be a music teacher back in the 1960s and I sang this song with my children at school, who really loved it . For a bit of fun at the end we used to slightly change the chorus and instead of singing “ all the birds cried fancy that” we used to sing” and all the birds wore dancy hats!”

  36. Chris Holmes Says:

    I know this is an old thread, but if anyone is still listening, there is a children’s (Soprano!!) choir version of this on soundcloud at present.

  37. Paul Hovell Says:

    Well it’s 2021, I’m 60 years old now and thanks to Jim I now know the complete version.
    Kind of weird seeing my original post here from 2007
    Paul – Still in Peterborough, UK

  38. Mike Backham Says:

    My second verse was…
    The second poor fellow, sad to say, he had no fairer luck, he fell down a treacle mine, and half way down got stuck.
    This goes back to my school days in 1967 (ish)

  39. Philip Guest Says:

    Thanks! I had the same question (my sister would sing verse 1 in the seventies) and this thread filled in the holes. I like verse 4!
    Yay Internet – for some things!

  40. Ray Pitcher Says:

    Basically you have all answered the question I was seeking on the tune about ‘Wookey Hole’, I had remembered the first verse as most of you had, though I believe it formed part of a Musical script inserted into that of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as our music teacher combined this for the production back in 1979.
    The Radio programme ‘Singing Together’ also produced a version to popularise Folk songs for children, including this in one of their extensive volumes. Furthermore, it turned up in the music books for recorder at Primary School level. Published as I remember by ‘Tobin’s’.
    I hope this is extra helpful and may lead to better results. Many Thanks.

  41. Michelle Laing Says:

    I’ve just visited Wookey Hole for the first time ever and I told my husband we used to sing a song about it at primary school. I remembered the first verse and that there was custard and porridge involved. Not bad after about 60 years since I last heard it.

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