Derivatives of the Cork Leg {Roud 4376}

Historical Background 

The Cork Leg (Roud 4376) is an example of the anti-Dutch sentiment consequent upon Dutch involvement in the French Wars.  The Dutch navy was captured by the French and fought with them against the British at the battle of Camperdown in 1797. A rhyme about Camperdown identified the Dutch as the "Mynheers"

"St Vincent drubbed the Dons, Earl Howe he drubbed Monsieur,
And gallant Duncan now has soundly drubbed Mynheer;
The Spanish, French and Dutch, tho' all united by,
Fear not Britannia cries, My Tars can beat all three.

Monsieurs, Mynheers and Dons, your country's empty boast,
Our tars can beat all three, each on his native coast."


The first line of the Cork Leg runs "I'll tell you a tale without any flam, in Holland there dwelt Mynheer Von Clam" The oldest copy of the song held by the British Library is attributed to Jonathan Blewitt (1782-1853) and dated c1832 [Ref: Music Collections H.1653.c.(10.)]. The song tells of a Dutchman who replaces his amputated leg with one of cork. The cork leg runs away with him until eventually "In Holland it sometimes comes in sight, A skeleton on a cork leg tight".

Other anti-Dutch songs include A Salt Eel for Mynheer 1797 by Charles Dibdin; published in 1797, and celebrating the victory at Camperdown. [Brit. Lib. Music Collections G.382.(72.)]

Derivatives of the Cork Leg:

Bar402 ~ The Steam Arm (Roud 4817). The British Library has a copy of the Steam Arm dated about 1835 which is described as "Written and adapted to music by H. V. Smith" [Brit. Lib. H.34000.f.(12.)]. The song concerns a soldier who replaces his arm lost at Waterloo with one powered by steam. The story is very similar to that of the Cork Leg but with descriptions of the damage that the steam arm inflicts upon the soldier's wife, other people and property. Steam Arm has 144 entries in the Roud index so was seemingly very popular

The cover of bar664~Three Hundred Years to Come published c1835 advertises Meeting of Steam Arm and Cork Leg,  and Steam Pills or Dr Puffison as "New Comic Songs Just Published" so those two derivatives were written soon after Steam Arm, probably within a year.

Bar071 ~ The Crash or Meeting of Cork Leg and Steam Arm (Roud V531284) dates from soon after the Steam Arm, probably with a year. The Cork leg and Steam Arm join forces to cause chaos "The Arm smash'd ev'ry thing left and right, Shows toys and booths demolish'd quite; The Leg kept running about in the fright, And kick;d evert thing it came near out of sight". They are eventually captured and buried. They fight in the grave and destroy each other.

Bar414 ~ Steam Pills Or, Dr. Puffison And Mynheer Von Shlop (Roud V13936) appears in Burton's Comic songster of 1837 (p213). The song sheet cover refers to Crash (see above). It tells the tale of a Dutchman only three feet tall who grows into a giant after taking the steam pills. He causes mayhem before eventually being "turned to dust" by the pills. The broadside advertises the song as being sold at a children's book, song, and stationary warehouse; and also that it was sung at Vauxhall (pleasure garden). There is no record of Steam Pills in the British Library Catalogue.

Bar404 ~ Steam Boots (Roud V2137) makes reference to "the man with the steam arm" so is clearly a later derivative. The Dutchman invents a pair of Steam Boots which run away with him. Eventually he meets and fights with the soldier with the steam arm and finally both are attacked by the Cork Leg. There is no record of Steam Boots in the British Library Catalogue.

Bar067 ~ The Cork Leg and the Steam Arm, (Roud V22374) published in Glasgow in Four Favourite Comic Songs as The Cork Leg and the Steam Arm has first line is given as "Two comical stories your smiles have won", so this probably a version of Crash… see above. Note: The Cork Leg and the Steam Arm; two comic songs, arranged by T Westrop, published in 1874 as of No. 3581 of the Musical Bouquet series [Brit. Lib. Music Collections H.2345./3581] is, as the title suggests, two separate songs and not a version of Crash

Bar405 ~ Steam Cigar (Roud 24504) appears on page 289 of The Quaver or Songsters Pocket Companion published 1844 and tells the tale of a man who "had a cigar to smoke by steam". "The heat it was so strong, He burnt the folks as he walked along".  It was also printed as a broadside by Russell of Birmingham.

Bar417 ~ Steam Tongue (Roud 23520) is the only song with a female protagonist and describes a scolding wife whose husband pays Dr Puff to replace her tongue with a 'patent tongue'. "The tongue in noise did so increase, That nothing could its might decrease" and it finally blows up. There is no record of this item in the British Library Catalogue. It is difficult to date but was probably written after Steam Cigar.

Bar410 ~ Steam Jaw (Roud V24967) printed in The Funniest Song Book in the World (c1890) There is no record of this item in the British Library Catalogue. The text has not been found.

All Serene (Roud V14838) about the adventures of a visitor to the great exhibition of 1851 is set to the tune of the Steam Arm but is otherwise unrelated.