The Navvie Man

The Roving Navigator


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I am a roving navvie man I rove from town to town
And when I get a job of work I'm willing to sit down
With my kit upon my shoulder and my grafting tool in hand
So up to London I did go like a roving navvie man.

O when I came to London town the girls did jump for joy,
Saying one with the other: Here comes a navvie boy.
Some treats me with a bottle, another with a dram
So it's round the country I did go like a roving navvie man.

I had not been to London town above two days or three
Before my master's daughter she fell in love with me.
She asked of me to dine with her, I tooked her by the hand
And so slyly told her mother that she wooed a navvy man.

O daughter, dear daughter how can you say so?
To love a roving navvie man you never saw before.
O hold your tongue dear mother, it's do the best you can
For it's round the country I will go with my roving navvie man.
Sung by William Nott, Mershaw, Devon. Collected by Cecil Sharp in 1905.
This a variant of 'The Little Beggarman' or 'The Roving Journeyman'. Though it does not mention canals specifically the navvie in the song would have been working on either canals or railways or perhaps both.
The closely related song lyrics below were collected in England by Alfred Williams and transcribed from the Alfred Williams Collection where it is catalogued under the title The Roving Navigator.
I'm a roving navigator and I rove from town to town
And when I get a job of work I'm willing to sit down
With my kit across my shoulder and my shovel in my hand
I'll travel the country over, I'm a roving navvy man.

Now when I got to London the girls did jump for joy
Says one unto the other - "Here comes a navvy boy"
One will treat me with a bottle, and another with a dram,
Let the toast go round the table - "Here's to a roving navvy man"

I had not been in London town some hours two or three
Before the landlady's daughter fell in love with me;
She said if I'd go with her she would lead me by the hand,
And she shyly told her mammy that she loved a navvy man.

"Oh daughter, dearest daughter, oh daughter dear, for shame!
To take a liking to a man you do not know his name."
"Oh, hold your hush, dear mammy, we'll do the best we can,
And I'll travel the country over with my roving navvy man.

"Now we'll go down to Oxford town and there we'll wed with speed,
The bells shall ring so merrily and the bride shall dance indeed.
We'll spend this night in dancing and drinking from a can."
Now she's happy and contented with her roving navvy man.