Bobby Shaftoe polka

Also known as Bobbie Shafto, Bobbie Shaftoe, Bobby Shafto.

There are 5 recordings of this tune.

Bobby Shaftoe has been added to 27 tunebooks.

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Two settings

X: 1
T: Bobby Shaftoe
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
GG Gc|Bd (BG)|DD DG|FA (FD)|
GG Gc|Bd (BG)|Ac AF|G2 G2||
Bd BG|Bd e2|Ac AF|Ac c2|
Bd BG|Bd d2|Ac AF|G2 G2||
X: 2
T: Bobby Shaftoe
R: polka
M: 2/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
GG Gc|Bd BG|Ac AF|G2 G2:|
|:Bd BG|Bd B2|Ac AF|Ac A2|
Bd BG|Bd B2|Ac AF|G2 G2:|

Seven comments

Bobby Shaftoe

An old tune I learnt while I was learning the Northumbrian small pipes. Don’t know who the author is, or who credit goes to, or even if anyone is there to claim credit, but if it’s yours, then all credit to you.

a tune if played almost everyone recognises!

A love song

age old story of sailor away at sea expected to marry ‘the girl he left behind him’ on his return.
The author would have to rise up from the grave to claim this one.

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would be tempted to put this little melody with such tunes as ‘This old man’, ‘sur la ponte D’avignon’, ‘Little brown jug’, and use it for a dance called "patter cake polka". favoured as a suitable dance to offer children.

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I learned this song when I was at primary school in the North East of England. The Wikipedia article about it is quite interesting.


A version of the tune is in the Henry Atkinson Fiddler’s manuscript begun 1694 as Brave Willie Forster. (You can find this version by searching Radio Farne at for Bobby Shaftoe). According to Radio Farne and also it was adopted as an election song by Robert Shafto when he ran as a Tory for Parliament in 1761 and so got its words and new name.