Author Topic: Add: Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron


Posted - 14 Jun 03 - 07:54 am

Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron

Twas on a Monday Morning,
When I beheld my darling;
She looked so neat and charming
In every high degree;
She looked so neat and nimble, O,
A-washing of her linen, O,
Dashing away with the smoothing iron,
Dashing away with the smoothing iron,
She stole my heart away.

Twas on a Tuesday Morning,
When I beheld my darling;
She looked so neat and charming
In every high degree;
She looked so neat and nimble, O,
A-hanging her linen, O,
Dashing away with the smoothing iron,
Dashing away with the smoothing iron,
She stole my heart away.

Wednesday - "A-starching of her linen,O"

Thursday - "A-ironing of her linen, O"

Friday - "A-folding of her linen-O"

Saturday - "A-airing of her linen-O"

Sunday - "A-wearing of her linen-O"

Source: Sharp C and Vaughan Williams, R, A Selection of Collected Folk-Songs, Novello


Collected by Cecil Sharp from Somerset, copyright 1908 Novello. No other information available.

Database entry is here.

Edited By dmcg - 14/06/2003 10:18:20

Edited By dmcg - 14/06/2003 11:00:50


Posted - 14 Jun 03 - 08:02 am

I added this song because there is an article in the most recent copy of the EFDSS members publication about a visit by a school to the Vaughan Williams memorial library and several children mention this song, having obviously learnt it at school.

I used to hear it on the radio as a child, sung by some baritone, and my mother used to sing it occasionally, probably from the radio rather than from her childhood, but it is, in a sense, one that "didn't make it": I've never heard it in a folk club or singaround, yet there is no very obvious reason why not. Is it perhaps the lack of drama? The focus on everyday humdrum activity? Was it too chauvanistic for the 60's and 70's? There are several others I can think of that were also popular on the radio but never reached folk-clubs, like "As I was going to Strawberry Fair". I would be interested in possible reasons why these songs were popular in, say, the late 50s, then more or less disappeared.


Posted - 15 Jun 03 - 12:00 am

Mmmm ! My late father used to sing it in his more "relaxed" moods. The words seem as to be as I learnt them.

But what is the origin ?



Posted - 15 Jun 03 - 08:12 pm

It's one of the first songs I ever learned and used to sing regularly at age 4. My grandmother taught it to me.


Posted - 15 Jun 03 - 09:00 pm

Excellent! I don't suppose you know how your grandmother knew the song, do you?


Posted - 15 Jun 03 - 10:39 pm

She trod the boards for a short while in the East End of London around the early 1900s before settling to marriage and 7 kids. She knew a lot of songs but where from I don't know - she died when I was six.

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 15 Jun 03 - 11:13 pm

Roud 869

The tune here was noted by Cecil Sharp from Captain Lewis (73), Minehead, Somerset, 1 May 1909. He also got sets from Mrs Louie Hooper (Hambridge, Somerset, 6 January 1904) and Mrs Jane Gulliford (44), Combe Florey, Somerset, 8 September 1908. The text given is mostly Captain Lewis's, with Louie Hooper's When I beheld my darling and She stole my heart away substituted for his And there I saw my darling and She looked so fine and gay.

The song has been in print since 1909 (Sharp and Marson, Folk Songs From Somerset, vol. V no. 113, p.29 (Driving Away at the Smoothing Iron); it was first published in the form given here in 1916, and was also specifically published for schools, where it has been sung ever since.

Beside the Sharp sets, George Gardiner found a version in Sussex, The Smoothing Iron (1906; unpublished) and Peter Kennedy prints another, The Linen Song, from Fred Perrier, Shrewton, Wiltshire, 1954 (learned in Somerset in 1897) in Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, 1975, p. 462. Carl Sandburgh, The American Songbag, 1927, prints a set learned from friends in California.

Kennedy points out the tune's relationship to that of All Around My Hat.


Posted - 15 Jun 03 - 11:21 pm

Version above is how I learned it with one exception - my grandmother sang "She looked so sweet and charming" in line three.


Posted - 15 Jun 03 - 11:40 pm

I think it was probably "uncool" in a folkclub to sing songs you were taught at school, when you should have been singing Dylan, Guthrie, McColl etc. You could be ridiculed for singing "kids stuff" rather than trying to set the world to rights.

In the last year or so I have made a conscious effort to sing this sort of thing in folk-type environments (though I have never sung at a proper organised Folk Club). Things like Early One Morning, Soldier Soldier, Widecombe Fair and Dashing Away With The Smoothing Iron all seem to be well received and most people happily join in.

Jon Freeman

Posted - 16 Jun 03 - 12:37 am

If find the All Around My Hat tune bit very interesting. To my non-expert ears, there are some very striking similarities.


Posted - 16 Jun 03 - 02:14 pm

Do all versions have "Dashing away with the smoothing iron" only twice at the end? I sing it three times (making 20 bars instead of 18), but I don't know where I learned that from.

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 16 Jun 03 - 04:37 pm

The traditional sets I've seen don't have those extra bars. They appeared on a commercial recording in the 1950s that was played on the radio quite a bit when I was a child; I'd guess the same one that you remember the repeat from. I don't know if it started there; there seem to have been a good few arrangements published over the years, so the addition may be earlier.

Guest Account
Posted - 23 Jan 04 - 10:53 pm

From: Anon

I used to hear it on "The Children's Hour" on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) Radio here is Sydney Australia during the 1960s - (the ABC is now renamed "Australian Broadcasting Corporation". The program would always start with a few songs sung by the presenters.

Guest Account
Posted - 14 Dec 05 - 01:10 pm

From: Grandpa

My 3 year old grandson loves this song to the point that we hear it every day.

Guest Account
Posted - 17 Feb 06 - 11:55 am

From: Gromit

In 1991 a UK Folk/Reggae band "Edward II" (and the Red Hot Polkas) recorded a version which was surprisingly excellent. In was a great favourute in live performances.


Posted - 23 Aug 07 - 09:02 pm

I remember this song from school (I was born in 1953), but I remember "in every fine degree".

Jim Irvine

Posted - 02 Sep 07 - 11:05 pm

I certainly learned it at school in the 1950's with the triple 'dashing away'.

Tracy Cattell

Posted - 12 Apr 08 - 06:49 pm

I remember this from a record my grandad used to play to me when I was very young. It was called 'Party Playtime' by a British singer and children's presenter called Wally Whyton - the record was cut in 1964 and released on the Pickwick label. There were 45 songs just like 'Dashing Away' - There's A Hole in my Bucket, Where Are You Going To My Pretty Maid, Sweet Betsy From Pike, Clementine, Old Paint and so on. A real sound from my childhood!! xx Tracy.

Alison Packer

Posted - 06 May 08 - 04:19 pm

I've checked this out because I plan to sing it at my Folk Club tonight! It just popped into my head and I remember my mother singing it to me when I was a little girl in the 50s.



Posted - 07 May 08 - 05:45 pm

I remember this from my schooldays in the 50s and have always liked it. I have a really good version of this by the Cambridge Singers (John Rutter), well worth listening to. Listen out for the Sunday verse the singing is brilliant.

Jeffry Mueller

Posted - 22 Oct 08 - 04:26 pm

I have long known this one from "One Hundred English Folksongs" edited by Cecil J. Sharp, published in 1916, and available in reprint from Dover Publications (

sam galliers

Posted - 03 Nov 08 - 11:59 pm

I have just googled this song after singing the first verse whilst doing my housework for years and finally deciding I need to know the rest! happened upon this interesting website - we sang it at my C of E girls primary school in the 1970s (it was a Victorian very oldfashioned school) and I loved it - I also remember a song which ran "the water makes the wheel go round, the water...." which had a lovely tune but I can't remember any more words so I just dum de dum it!! I would love to find the rest of that one too. I have just printed out the words to Dashing away so I can sing it properly now. Incidentally we had country dancing too, with coloured sashs round us and all sorts of intricate dances and I loved it although many hated it.


Posted - 29 Dec 08 - 06:47 pm

Snap everyone!I have been attending a folk club in Spain for the last year and am disappointed with people singing so many non-folk songs (shows, modern etc).
Like Alison, this song popped into my head after an evening at the club, my Mother used to sing it- usually when she was doing the ironing! Whether she learnt it at school or just picked it up from the radio in the 50's I don't know. I did not learn it at school - (but I did that country dancing lark with streamers etc and boys with two left feet). I'm planning that it will be my 'Folk Club debut' and thank this site and others for supplying the lyrics.

bernie brown

Posted - 18 Jun 11 - 05:24 am

I remember this song being shown on screen and played with cinema organ accompanying at the Saturday Morning Pictures in Ipswich in Suffolk when I was a nipper. This was before the movies actually started. Other songs like Soldier Soldier Wont You Marry Me were also sung with gusto. Ah, those were the days ! I still sing them in the shower !

Browse Titles: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z