The Tarpaulin Jacket
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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This appears in the Scottish Student's Handbook. The words were written by G. J. Whyte-Melville (1821-1878). The air was written by Charles Coote.

Charles Coote was half owner and director of Coote and Tinney’s Band, the premier London dance orchestra in the 1850s. Coote was still active in the late 1880s, publishing Burlesque Lancers and the polka Hanky Panky in 1887-8.

George John Whyte-Melville was a British novelist born in Strathkinnes Fife on June 19, 1821. Whyte-Melville graduated from Eton in 1939. He became captain in the Coldstream Guards in 1846 and retired in 1849. He published his first novel, Digby Grand, in 1853. When the Crimean War broke out Whyte-Melville volunteered as major of Turkish irregular cavalry. After the Crimean War he wrote twenty-one more novels. He died while hunting December 5, 1878.

The song was popular in Britain, the United States and Canada.

The word tarpaulin derives from tar and palling (a covering or mantle). It was heavy fabric usually treated with tar for protection from the rain.

A tall stalwart lancer lay dying,
And as on his deathbed he lay,
To his friends who around him were sighing,
These last dying words he did say:
Wrap me up in my tarpaulin jacket
And say a poor buffer lies low;
And six stalwart lancers shall carry me
Carry me with steps solemn, mournful and slow.

Had I the wings of a little dove,
Far far away would I fly; I'd fly
Straight for the arms of my true love
And there I would lay me and die.
Wrap me up in my tarpaulin jacket
And say a poor buffer lies low;
And six stalwart lancers shall carry me
Carry me with steps solemn, mournful and slow.

Then get you two little white tombstones
Put them one at my head and my toe, my toe,
And get you a penknife and scratch there:
Here lies a poor buffer below.
Wrap me up in my tarpaulin jacket
And say a poor buffer lies low;
And six stalwart lancers shall carry me
Carry me with steps solemn, mournful and slow.

And get you six brandies and sodas,
And set them all out in a row, a row,
And get you six jolly good fellows
To drink to this buffer below.
Wrap me up in my tarpaulin jacket
And say a poor buffer lies low;
And six stalwart lancers shall carry me
Carry me with steps solemn, mournful and slow.

And then in the calm of the twilight
When the soft winds are whispering low, so low,
And the darkening shadows are falling,
Sometimes think of this buffer below.
Wrap me up in my tarpaulin jacket
And say a poor buffer lies low;
And six stalwart lancers shall carry me
Carry me with steps solemn, mournful and slow.

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From The Scottish Students' Songbook
See Bibliography for full information..