Research‎ > ‎

Tom O'Malmesbury

Who was Tom O' Malmesbury the bachelor who married a young widow and went on to father thirteen children with her?  The shy Tom had 16 children (three came to the marriage with his wife), they were eight sweet maids to sew and sing, and eight good lads to serve the King.  Tom and his fascinating story is the subject of a song sheet recently discovered by a member of the Malmesbury History Society when searching for an archaeological paper on the Amazon website.  Having purchased the song sheet it was time to see if it was possible to discover more about the song, its author, or indeed of the featured Tom.  Did Tom ever live in Malmesbury, or was he a fiction?

The song was written by Edward Lockton the music was composed by Douglas Grant and it was published by Boosey & Co. in 1922.  Boosey & Co. had premises on Regent Street and on East Seventeenth Street, New York.  

Research soon highlighted that Tom O'Malmesbury belonged to a genre of songs written during the early 20th century called West Country Character Songs.  These type of songs were sung at Boosey Ballad Concerts which were also known as London Ballad concerts.  There was a hugely successful ballad industry which had begun in the Victorian age and then continued into Edwardian times.  The Saturday afternoon concerts were held at various venues including The Royal Albert Hall and Queen's Hall (destroyed in May 1941 during the Blitz).  

The song sheet priced at 2/= net, is printed on paper with Boosey & Co watermarks and has an impressed company name and address at the bottom right of the cover.  This stamp suggests it was sold from the premises of Briggs Ellis & Co. who operated from The Corner Music House, Peterborough.  The score would have been sold within a year of its date of publication as it appears that Briggs Ellis and Co. was dissolved in July of 1923.  The song sheet appears to have been signed in blue ink by the composer Douglas Grant, however it isn't known whether this is a signature produced by a stamp.

Tom O'Malmesbury was written by Edward Lockton who also wrote under the name of Edward Teschemacher.  It would appear that Edward, born in London, was a prolific song writer; an obituary in the Glasgow Herald on 17th May 1940 states that he wrote more than 2300 songs, the sales of some, ran to millions.  His song Because, sold more than 2 million copies in his lifetime is still sung today; it has been recorded by The Three Tenors and Andrea Bocelli among many other famous singers.

This 10" 78 rpm recording is sung by Harry Dearthand is listed as E288 in the HMV catalogue with the reverse side recording as Song of the Clock.Harry Dearth made more than 225 recordings, mostly ballads. 

So what do we know of Tom of Malmesbury and his family?  Unfortunately all that is known at present is in the words of the song below:

Tom O'Malmesbury

Words by Edward Lockton

Tom O'  Malmesbury as you know
Lived not very long ago
He was never known to fret,
Nothing would old Tom upset!
When it rained he used to say,
"I'll be getting wet today!"
When the sun shone bright and fair
This is what he would declare
"What mun be, mun be!  It's all the same to me!
What's the use of worrying, Better far it is to sing
What mun be, mun be!"

Tom O' Malmesbury never sigh'd
For a maiden or a bride,
But one day a widow came,
In her eyes a mighty flame!
"Would you like a wife?" says she
Tom looks round, "What you and me!"
When she kissed him he went red,
Then he gently sigh'd and said
"What mun be mun be!  It's all the same to me!
What's the use of worrying, I'll just go and buy a ring,
For  what mun be, mun be!"

Tom O'Malmesbury bought a cot
In a very pleasant spot,
Then a little stranger came, Jack O'Malmesbury was his  name! 
Then came Jim and little Joan, Thirteen more were soon his own,
But he gave each one a kiss
When folks chaff'd him, saying this
"What mun be, mun be! It's all the same to me!
Eight sweet maids to sew and sing,
Eight good lads to serve the King!
What mun be, mun be!