Young Folk Billy Bones and his dancing cat

On a harbour wall, in a sailor hat,
Is an old, old man with an old grey cat;
And he dreams all day of the time he twirled
In a sailor's hornpipe round the world.

It was many a weary year ago
When he started off on nimble toe
For to win the prize of a silver crown,
If he danced the world around.

From the harbour wall he began his dance,
And he took the road on the way to France,
And his old grey cat, for she loved him so,
Danced a hornpipe too on tail and toe:

They danced on the deck of a sailing brig
With a hornpipe first and then a jig
For to win that prize of a silver crown
They must dance the world around.

In the land of France they'd a how-d'ye-do,
For old Billy Bones couldn't parlyvoo,
And the folk all stared at his sailor hat,
And his tarred pigtail and his dancing cat.

From the coast of France to Gay Paree
The Frenchmen cried, "La, la! Oui, oui!
Yes, he'll win the prize of a silver crown,
For he'll dance the world around."

Then the weeks passed by, and the months grew long,
And he danced the native tribes among,
And the ju-ju men ran away in fear
As the twirling man and his cat drew near.

To the sandy wastes of Timbuctoo
They sped along for a year or two,
To win that prize of a silver crown
If they danced the world around.

But the years went by on the harbour wall
And there came no news of the pair at all.
And the people sighed, and they said "That's that!"
And forgot Bill Bones and his dancing cat.

But when twenty years had passed away
Came an old, old man and a cat so grey
For to win that prize of a silver crown
'Cos they'd danced the world around.

Then the Mayor came down, and the Council too,
And they looked and asked, "Now who are you,
With your ragged clothes and your old black hat
And your tarred pig-tail and your dancing cat?"

"I'm Billy Bones and my feet are sore
And I never want to dance no more,
But I've come to claim that silver crown,
For I've danced the world around."

From the singing of Ken Bramman and in Singing Together, Spring 1964, where it was described as "traditional German; words by Alfred H Body". The song was quoted from Six Songs of Happiness, Set Two, Novello and Co. Ltd.


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