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Old King Coal, song lyrics

Song: Old King Coal
Lyrics: Charles MacKay(1)(3)

Music: to the tune of "Old King Cole"(2), later a version by E. W. Foster(1)(4)
Year: 1859 or earlier(1)(2)
Country: Scotland / United Kingdom


Old King Coal(5), was a merry old soul:
    "I'll move the world," quoth he;
My England's high, and rich and great,
    But greater she shall be!"
And he call'd for a pick, and he called for a spade,
    And he call'd for miners bold,
"And it's dig," he said, "in the deep, deep, earth";
"You'll find my treasures better worth,
    Than mines of Indian gold!"

Old King Coal, was a merry old soul,
    Yet not content was he;
And he said, "I've found what I desired,"
    "Though 'tis one in three."
And he call'd for water, he call'd for fire,
    For the smiths and workmen true,
"Come build me engines great and strong;"
"We'll have," quoth he, "a change ere long;"
    "We'll try what Steam can do."
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Old King Coal, was a merry old soul;
    "'Tis fairly done," quoth he,
When he saw the myriad wheels at work,
    O'er all the land and sea,
They spared the bones and strength of men,
    They hammered, wove and spun,
There's nought too great, too mean, or small,
The giant Steam has power for all;
    His task is never done.

Old King Coal, was a merry old soul:
    Quoth he, "We travel slow;"
"I should like to roam the wide world round,"
    "As fast as the wild winds blow."
And he called for his skillful engineers;
    And soon through hills and vales,
O'er rivers wide, through tunnels vast,
The flying trains like lightning pass'd,
    On the ribs of the mighty Rails.
This song was originally posted on
Old King Coal, was a merry old soul,
    A merry soul is he,
May he never fail in the land we love,
    Who has made us great and free!
While his miners mine, and his engines work,
    Through all our happy land,
We shall flourish fair in the morning light,
Our name and our fame, our might and our right,
    In front of the world shall stand!


1 - Originally transcribed from the sheet music published by S. Brainard's Sons, 203 Superior St., Cleveland, Ohio, USA, but now corrected with the earlier version as per note "2" below.

2 - The song is from 1859 or earlier. Although the American printing of this song is in 1873, it had previously been printed in The Collected Songs of Charles MacKay, p. 151-152, printed by G. Routledge & Co., Farringdon Street, London, England, in 1859.

3 - Charles MacKay (1814 - 1889).

4 - Sorry we have no biographical information on E. W. Foster. It is possible, he rewrote the musical score. If you do have any information please let us know. Thank you.

5 - This song was clearly inspired by the early 18th century English nursery rhyme, "Old King Cole".