“The Atching Tan Song (I)”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1960 (recorded from Frank Copper)
Keywords: hardheartedness travel farming foreignlanguage horse children Gypsy migrant


Travellers' cant. Travellers arrive at an illicit camp, but awake in the morning to find their old pony impounded by the farmer. They ransom it and move on, finding water for the children


The song is macaronic, combining Travellers' cant with English. This shares some lyrics (references to "tent-rods, ridge-poles, and kittles") in the first verse with "The Atching Tan Song (II)", but they seem otherwise separate.

An "atching tan" was a stopping place; it was common practice for Travellers to camp in an unauthorized place, then let their horses into a farmer's field after dark with the intention of retrieving them before dawn. Often as not, they were caught and the horses impounded. - PJS

Cross references


  1. Kennedy 337, "The Atching Tan Song" (1 main text plus 1 in the notes, 1 tune)
  2. BI, K337