There Was a Farmer’s Daughter – Il était une bergère

I recently received this note below along with an English version of the French song, Il était une bergère

Dear Lisa

I came across your website when looking for the complete lyrics to "Il était une bergère", which my mother used to sing to me when I was very little.

My mother, who passed away in 1992, was born in 1921 in France to Scottish parents. She returned to the UK when she was a little girl and grew up there, until she and my father migrated with their own two small daughters (my sister and myself) to Australia in 1962.

Mum spoke a little French, and used to sing some French children’s songs to me, including "Il était une bergère" .. although she always stopped the song where the kitten puts its chin into the butter! :) I had never come across the remainder of the song until I visited your site .. and you are right, it is rather a cruel and not a very moral song in the end!

The reason for my email to you is that mum also used to sing to me an English version of the song .. which began  "There was a farmer’s daughter, sing ho, sing hey, for a holiday".

I’ve never been able to find this English version anywhere on the web – or anywhere else, for that matter. So I thought I would send the lyrics to you.  I have typed them out below…

There Was a Farmer’s Daughter

There was a farmer’s daughter,
Sing ho, sing hey, for a holiday.
There was a farmer’s daughter;
A farmer’s lass was she, was she …
A farmer’s lass was she.

She made a pound of butter,
Sing ho, sing hey, for a holiday.
She made a pound of butter,
as white, as white could be, could be …
as white, as white could be.

Pussy sat and watched her,
Sing ho, sing hey, for a holiday.
Now pussy sat and watched her.
A naughty puss was he, was he …
a naughty puss was he.

Now, pussy keep your paws off!
Sing ho, sing hey, for a holiday.
Now, pussy keep your paws off,
Or punished you shall be, shall be …
Or punished you shall be!

So pussy kept his paws off,
Sing ho, sing hey, for a holiday.
So pussy kept his paws off …
But not his tongue, ah me, ah me!
But not his tongue, ah me!!

I hope this English version might be of some interest for you.

I also have to say I’ve had a lovely time browsing around your site, particularly the English, French and Australian pages – where many of the songs and nursery rhymes took me back to my childhood and I relived my delight in them.

Like Eduardo (who apparently contributed the lyrics to your site?) I also learned the "trois petits lapins" version of "Au clair de la lune" from my grandmother. She loved to point out that it was also a great song for remembering French grammar … that things are held ‘at’ not ‘in’ the hand… :)  I’d forgotten the third and fourth lines of the song, so was delighted to find them here on your site.

My apologies for the length of this email … but I hope sending the song lyrics… might be of use to you.

Thank you for a wonderful trip down memory lane tonight!

Warm regards


Thanks for sharing your memories Sue, and your English version of Il était une bergère.


Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Friday, July 15th, 2011 at 10:03 am and is filed under Australia, Australian Kids Songs, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, England, English, English Children's Songs, France, French Kids Songs, Languages. 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.

2 Responses to “There Was a Farmer’s Daughter – Il était une bergère”

  1. Dorothy Says:

    Sue: I was happy to find your English version of this song. I am well, WELL over 50 now, but I remember learning a similar version of this song in elementary school with no clue that animal cruelty was involved in the French version tho’ some French-sounding nonsense words repeated themselves throughout, in place of your “Sing ho, sing hey, for a holiday,” which probably correspond to the original words. There was ‘a cheese’ involved, not butter and all we sang, with the same rhythm you display above, that the farmer’s daughter made the cheese and “an old tomcat was watching…” “ and thought he’d get him some.” “The farmer’s daughter caught him…” “And so poor cat got none.”

    I wonder if this website is still in use, as it is now 2021

    I hope so! Good wishes to all.

  2. Lisa Says:

    Hi Dorothy, Thanks for writing! We’re still going strong here at Mama Lisa’s World! :) xo Mama Lisa

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