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The Beefeater

by R P Weston and Bert Lee (1934)


Weston and Lee's translation of the French motto Honi soit qui mal y pense is that 'beer is best', which is a slight variation from the literal 'Shame be to him who thinks evil of it'.

The motto appears on the coat of arms of several British Army regiments and unsurprisingly used in a monologues written during the military-minded years between the two World Wars.

It is the motto of the Order of the Garter. There are several explanations for use of the word 'Garter'. One comes from the time when the Countess of Salisbury was dancing with King Edward at Eltham Palace. Her garter fell off and to save her embarrassment, Edward picked it up and tied it to his own leg, saying "Honi soit qui mal y pense".

It is not known if she responded by buying him a pint of beer.

Introductory Narrative

Oh dear, starting another day I suppose
Showing these 'ere gumps round the Tower.
Still, it's got to be done,
Someone's got to do it.

Good Morning! What's that?
Will I show you round t'Tower, Sir?
You're from Yorkshire, Sir?
Ba goom! The world's small.

I'm from Yorkshire meself - aye;
These 'ere Cockneys don't know
There's a Tower here at all.
First of all, Sir, we come to the canteen

Where you wash the cobwebs off your chest.
That's our motto there -
'Honi soit qui mal y pense',
And in Yorkshire that means beer is best.


Eh? I'll have a pint, Sir, and thank yer,
You'll find it good ale here to sup.
Well, as Guy Fawkes said when he got bunged in dungeon
And tumbled head first - Bottoms up!

That big 'ole outside is the moat, Sir,
And they do say if ever John Bull
Sells the Tower for a road house with cracks puttied up.
It'll make a damn fine swimming pool.

And now, Sir, we come to armoury;
Here's the tin pants of Dick Coeur de Lion.
Just imagine the job that his old woman had
Putting patches on with soldering iron.

Here's the shirt and chainmail Black Prince wore -
To starch and iron that were real tricky:
It took three boilermakers to put on his shirt,
And a blacksmith to put on his dicky.

And this 'ere's the real headsman's block, Sir,
From this many 'eads fell with a thud -
Ee! To keep these 'ere stains fresh all these three hundred years
We've used buckets and buckets of blood.

'Ere's the axe - that's the genuine axe, Sir,
That's given Royal necks some 'ard whacks.
Tho' it's 'ad a new 'andle and perhaps a new head
But it's a real old original axe.

And down here's where Princes were murdered,
Aye, strangled poor kids in cold blood.
And what's worse, down here I tossed Scotsman for shilling -
I won, but the shilling was dud.

Tower of London
Tower of London

And here's where they tortured the prisoners -
On that rack when they wouldn't confess
They were crushed till their life's blood ran drip, drip, drip
Feeling faint, Sir? Well, here's sergeant's mess.

Eh? Oh, thank you. I will have a pint, Sir,
For talking's a day's work. Bet your life!
For when I show you ducking stool they had for women
By Goom, you'll wish you'd brought the wife.

And why do they call us Beefeaters?
Is it 'cos we eat beef, Sir? Nay, nay.
The Sergeant eats pork and the Corporal eats bacon,
But I eat tripe three times a day.

And so you shall know we're Beefeaters;
There's me who has fought in the wars
'As to walk round with frills on me neck like a hambone,
A daft hat and purple plus fours.

But here's why they call us Beefeaters,
King Alfred, one night so they say
Fell over the feet of the sentry
And shouted "Oi! Keep your B-feet out of the way!"


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