Its The Only Bit Of English That Weve Got (Poor Old England)
Fred Godfrey & Harry Castling [EMI also credits Billy Williams], composed 1906; published London: Francis, Day & Hunter, 1907.
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This nationalistic, antifree trade effort was the first of scores of songs that Fred Godfrey provided Billy Williams, whose recording for Edison cylinders was among the earliest he ever made. Ironically, among Billy’s recordings of the song was one for Homophon, a label of German manufacture.
The Stage (25 July 1907), rounding up the acts at the Holborn Empire, noted that “Mr. Billy Williams is in high favour with his catchy number ‘Poor Old England,’ and the house on Monday clamoured for a second song.”
Billy Williams recorded three versions of this song: ca. October 1906 for Edison Standard, 26 June 1907 for Homophon, and 3 October 1909 for Zonophone. Reissues appeared on several other labels.1
Arthur Gilbert (Gramophone Concert GC-3-2920, 1907)
Will Terry (Columbia D-126, 1908)
1 For comprehensive discographies of recordings by Billy Williams, see Brian Rust, British Music Hall on Record (Harrow, UK: