Ode to Old Tom

Old Tom he stalks the English Dales,
The Patron Saint of potent ales.
He makes you wobble when you walk,
He makes you gobble when you talk.

He warps the function of your brain,
The common-sense from you, he’ll drain.
He makes you hang around the bar,
Forgetting where you left your car.

He makes you slide upon your ass,
To lie there giggling in the grass.
As someone cries, “That fellow there,
Should be in residential care.”

The morning after you will dread,
With anvils clanging in your head.
You blame yourself for getting pissed,
The pounding in your brain persists.

Be careful now and have a mind,
A pint of him could make you blind.
A cautionary half I’d try,
So, you will only risk one eye.

Now when you bend to tie your lace,
To fall down flat upon your face.
Whichever bar you’re coming from,
Just raise your glass and praise “Old Tom.”



Jeff Eardley lives in the heart of England near to the Peak District National Park and is a local musician playing guitar, mandolin and piano steeped in the music of America, including the likes of Ry Cooder, Paul Simon, and particularly Hank Williams.

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33 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    A delightfully playful poem on a fine old ale. I’d suggest one change in the last quatrain: Instead of “To fall down flat” it would be more grammatical to say “You’ll fall down flat” — this would give the sentence of the first two lines a clear subject.

    There’s another excellent English ale called “Old Peculiar” (or sometimes “Old Peculier”). It takes its name from the ecclesiastical Court of the Peculiar in the medieval church, which had a brewery nearby.

    • Jeff Eardley

      Joseph, thank for correcting me on the grammatical error in the last quatrain. I guess that you have sampled these powerful beers of ours. Old Tom is a particularly lethal concoction. This, and “Old Peculier” always invite the, “are you sure?” response from the barman. There must be an equivalent in the US as a welcome alternative to Budweiser, which to us over here, tastes like bat piss.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        When I am at a pub in the U.K. I always ask for a pint of “best bitter,” and I try to avoid pubs that are linked exclusively to some big corporate brewery. I want to try the local beers and ales. A rare find is a pub that still brews its own stuff. The few that are left are all over 500 years old.

        Yes, we do have a lot of “craft” beers and ales now in the States, as a welcome alternative to the horrible mass-market stuff. Some are excellent. But most beer-brewing in America follows the German lager method, and the result is therefore different from the English product.

  2. Paul Freeman

    Love it! Sing-song, funny and memorable. Can I suggest, ‘The poundings in your brain persist,’ to rhyme with ‘pissed’.

    Thanks for the read.

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Multiple soundings?! A heavy metal band on the left side and the right!

    • Jeff Eardley

      Thanks Paul and I take your point on the persist/ pissed thing. I have only once experienced Old Tom once. I was in rehab for days. Best wishes to you.

  3. Julian D. Woodruff

    A freaking riot, Jeff. The line about risking only one eye reminds of a song I knew as a kid, recorded by Burl Ives, “Killigrew’s Soiree.” It had the opposite perspective: “If ya want yer eyeballs straightened out, just come next week with me …”
    BTW, there must be a few besides me who don’t need Tom to lose track of where we parked our car.

    • Jeff Eardley

      Thanks Julian for your kind comment. Your remark on heavy metal bands reminded me of the truism,“How can you tell if a stage is level?…when the drummer dribbles out of both sides of his mouth.”
      I must research “Killigrews Soiree.” Sounds like a cracking drinking song.

  4. Brian A. Yapko

    This poem is hilarious, Jeff — the imagery and rhymes are as clever and irreverent as can be. You’ve reminded me of some of the shenanagins (and more than a little chagrin) of my salad days.

  5. Jeff Eardley

    Thanks Brian. We can all remember our salad days. Mine are still going on in that I eat more salad these days. Just off to read your Disney piece. Looks interesting.

  6. David Hollywood

    This is great fun, and retells of similar visits I recently made to a variety of ‘real ale’ houses in Kent. Wonderfully paced with a terrifically inviting opening stanza. Many thanks.

    • Jeff Eardley

      Thanks David. We live a bit too far from Kent to experience their traditional ales. It is the hop-brewing that does it down there. Up here it is the gypsum in the water that made the town of Burton on Trent a huge brewing centre for so many fine ales. Old Tom is absolutely lethal.

      • David Hollywood

        You have just redirected my next trip Jeff.I haven’t been to Burton on Trent for years, and now relish the prospect. Cheers.

  7. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Jeff, this was a most enjoyable ode to a spirit described as a “patron saint.” Thank you for the comical cautionary warning!

  8. C.B. Anderson

    Many years ago I recorded some English folk songs from my radio, among them a composite production called “The Tale of Ale”. Part of it was a recitation of this short poem:

    He who buys land buys many stones,
    He who buys meat buys many bones,
    He who buys eggs buys many shells,
    But he who buys good ale buys nothing else.

    • Jeff Eardley

      CB, thanks for your comment and the poem which is profoundly philosophical. “Old Tom” is slowly morphing into a drinking song. We have many, in the English tradition with the greatest being “John Barleycorn” I hope you enjoy good ale on your side of the pond, but this one is to be avoided. Cheers.

  9. Margaret Coats

    Sounds like a good bar song, Jeff–appreciated even by this wine drinker. But my father’s family comes from the area of Pennsylvania where the USA’s oldest brewery (1829) is located; I have visited it and tasted everything they make. The Yuengling brand is regional because they don’t produce enough for national distribution. But there is lager, porter, pilsner, and good English-style ale, though none so strong as Old Tom. Taste is great, and shows the differences in brewing processes. If you’re ever near Pottsville, Pennsylvania, go for a fascinating old brewery tour and tasting.

  10. Jeff Eardley

    Margaret, many years ago I was in a band performing at a US base in Staffordshire, near to the beer metropolis of Burton. We had to change our English pounds to dollars and the only beer was Budweiser and another called, I think, Shlitz. They were not to the English palate at all. However, Pottsville sounds great and it is firmly on my bucket list. Incidentally, the air base was situated adjacent to a huge ammunition dump explosion, reputed to be the biggest conventional explosion ever in WWII, with whole farms wiped off the map and cattle flying through the air. Thanks for your comment.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      The beer you are thinking of was called Schlitz.

      Because much of the brewing in 19th-century America was done by German immigrants, the names of many common beers were Germanic: Rheingold, Schaefer, Pabst, Muehlebach, Anheuser-Busch, Knickerbocker. These were all made by some variation of the lager method, and were therefore best served very cold. This is not to the English taste, which prefers its drink to be cool rather than frigid.

      • Jeff Eardley

        Joseph, your great songwriter, Mary Chapin Carpenter has a wonderful song, “I am a town.”
        It is a moving evocation of small town America, and mentions “Pabst Blue Ribbon” which I now know is a beer. Thanks for clearing that up for me. If you are ever over here, I can recommend Bass bitter, Marstons Pedigree, Speckled Hen, and Doom Bar. My favourite is, and always will be, chilled draught Guinness, and certainly not Old Tom.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Thank you, Jeff. I will do that if I ever get over to the U.K. again. Many working-class Americans swear by Pabst Blue Ribbon, and it certainly is a pretty good lager.

        I too love draft Guinness, but we don’t get a lot of it here because it has to be shipped in from Dublin, in large kegs, and not many bars are willing to stock it for that reason. Bottled Guinness is not the same.

        Do you recall when Guinness tried to make lager several years ago? I was called “Guinness Gold,” and it went over like a lead balloon. One of my Irish friends called it “Bud-O’Weiser.” That’s how bad the stuff was.

  11. Hari Hyde

    In your brief bio, Jeff, you don’t mention whether it’s Hank Williams Sr. and/or Hank Williams Jr. that you perform. But either way, your delightful verse might be squeezed into the melody of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” or “Family Tradition.” It could be worth the journey across the pond to hear it.

  12. Jeff Eardley

    Oh thanks Hari. It’s Hank senior for me. He was one of the greats. I had a piece on SCP recently, “The night Hank Williams died” which I have performed as a song. I love “Cheating Heart” and have been singing this for years.” I am not familiar with “Family Tradition” but I will be, now that you have mentioned it. Old Tom deserves to be set to a tune. I must work on it. Thank you so much for commenting.

  13. Sally Cook

    There used to be several German breweries in Buffalo, NY.. Many’s the time my father would come home, stewed to the gills, after a late afternoon visit to one or another of their beer gardens. I remember one such occasion when, in excess of familial affection, he showered his children with all his money, only to embarrass my mother when she had to ask for all of it back the next morning.. As for us, for us, for quite a while we referred to him as “The Indian Giver.”

    Cats are smart. He had a cat he taught to sit next to him on the porch and lap beer from a saucer while munching a pretzel. These events and other similar ones may well have led to my mother’s return from the Other Side to levitate a bottle off her antique dresser and pour its contents on the rug.

    I never quaffed another bottle.

    • Jeff Eardley

      Sally, you weave such wonderful tales. The “Indian Giver” is a great story, and the beer-swilling, pretzel-munching cat is priceless. Thanks for a big smile today.

  14. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Jeff, I love this fine poetic tribute (which has had me laughing out loud) to Old Tom… an ale I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid… thus far! I have only recently acquired a taste for fine ale. A tad sad now I’ve left the Kentish hop region. We do, however, live near the Shiner brewery which comes out with a peach and pecan ale for the festive season. Mike told me that this remarkable brewery is listed as one of the wonders of the world… the great wall of Shiner can be seen from outer space! Jeff, thank you very much for the tip off and the giggle.

    • Jeff Eardley

      Susan, you would have been spared the temptation of Old Tom in the hop-fields of Kent, as the Robinsons brewery is firmly anchored in Stockport, up here in t’north.
      That Shiner brew sounds more like it. Far better than that Budweiser concoction with its aftertaste of stewed bats piss.

  15. Dave Whippman

    Ah, haven’t we all been there in our foolish youth? (And maybe later!) Part of English subculture. Nice work, enjoyed it.


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