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Lloyd George knew my father....but what's the origin of the famous song?

January 31, 2009 2:16 PM
LG and crowd

David Lloyd George...with the fathers of some of the people who knew him

Everyone has sung the lines "Lloyd George knew my, father knew Lloyd George" to the tune of Onward Christian Soldiers. It's a school bus, camp fire, Glee Club favourite. But a recent enquiry to the Liberal Democrat History Group queried the origins of the song and the Society wondered if readers could help with a definitive answer.

There are a number of ideas. A likely explanation is that it was a 20th century music hall creation which celebrated the womanising of LG (the Goat). Lloyd George knew my mother was of course more appropriate but that would surely have offended the period's sensibilities too much. "Lloyd George WAS my father, father WAS Lloyd George" might have been truer still but it's even more explicit.

Another theory relates to the the scandal about the sale of honours. That comes explicitly from the William Douglas Home play of the same name and the title of the chapter in Matthew Paris' book "Great Parliamentary Scandals" (although they both seem ta have borrowed their own titles from the song). One historian of Wales, Geraint Jenkins, in his book "A Concise History of Wales" published in 2007 does attribute a connection to honours along with LG's presidential style and his amorality. Garrard and Newell also associate the ditty with the honours scandal in their 2006 book, "Scandals in Past and Contemporary Politics", so it is quite possible there was at least a portion of the origin attributable to the honours affair.

Another reference, in the "Oxford Book of Political Quotations" mentions that the song title was invented by Tommy Rhys Roberts QC, the son of Arthur Rhys Roberts the solicitor with whom LG set up practice in London in 1897. Tommy Roberts was apparently born in 1910, so by the time he was old enough to coin the lyric and popularise the song it would be a lot later than the great music hall era. The reference in A J P Taylor's "English History, 1914-1945" seems to place the phrase at an earlier position in the LG time line, during the First World War (i.e. before the honours scandal really blew up). In his memoirs "Time to Declare" Dr David Owen one of the founders of the SDP, says it was a First World War marching song.

So does anyone know for sure; or have different theories? If you think you do, please let the Society know. Use one of the email addresses on our Contacts page.