Billy Grimes the Drover

The Shelor Family

I heard this song from Tom Paley. It is about one human emotion that can overcome all class distinction and prejudice: Greed.

In the nineteenth century England, a drover was the worst possible choice for a son in law. Those who herded animals were the bottom of the social latter. The only thing worse than your wife running away with a gypsy would be that your daughter would marry a drover.

By 1927 when the Shelor family recorded the song for Victor Records it wasn't such a bad thing to marry a cowboy. The ‘D’ got lost and the title became ‘Billy Grimes the Rover.’ I put the ‘D’ back in. It makes more sense.

The nose whistle in action.
Photo from

The musical instruments I play on this number include: banjo, guitar, mandolin, harmonica, kazoo and the nose whistle.


Tomorrow morn I'll be sixteen and Billy Grimes, the drover,
He's popped the question to me, Ma and wants to be my lover.

And he'll be here in the morning, Ma, he'll be there quite early
To take a pleasant walk with me across the fields of barley.

Oh, daughter, dear, you shall not go, there is no use in talking,
You shall not go with Billy Grimes across those fields a-walking.

Just think of such presumption, too, the dirty ugly drover.
I wonder where your pride has gone to think of such a lover.

Oh, Mama dear, I must confess though Billy’s not so clever,
A nicer beau could not be found in this wide world all over.

Oh, daughter dear, I’m much distressed at your infatuation.
To think of having Billy Grimes would be our ruination.

Oh, Mama dear, old Grimes is dead and Billy is the only
Surviving heir of all that's left, about six thousand yearly.

Oh, daughter dear, I did not hear your last remarks quite clearly,
But Billy is a fine young lad and no doubt loves you dearly.

Song sheet: 
Standard C