'Jim Cro' In Welsh Songs


Gone But Not Forgotten
Jul 31, 2001
I have noticed a whole bunch of references in old welsh language songs to "Jim Crow", spelled "Jim Cro". I was wondering if anyone could shed any light on this. My belief is that it has no clear relationship with the Jim Crow laws of 19th century America, the songs being welsh language, and quite possibly older than that.

Any ideas what or who he is- I have seen evidence for some discussion of this, but unfortnately it was all in welsh, as are the lyrics to the songs in question.
It's probably from the old C19th song "Jump Jim Crow", which do indeed refer back to the Jim Crow laws of freedom and emancipation.

My guess would be some sort of segregation of the Welsh by the English, and the songs were probably used to spread some sort of hidden, working class agenda amongst the workers in secret defiance towards their masters, in a similar way African-Americans were treated by their masters.

TBH though, I can't think of any American freedom songs being used in Britain, except perhaps "Two little boys", but that's not really freedom from shackles, but freedom from death.

The anser could be the fact that Jim Cro would be pronounced differently from Jim Crow - cro being pronounced croor as opposed to cruw making rhyming easier.

Not sure. Interesting topic though :)
Well, as I say, I 'm no welsh scholar but I found a page mentioning it just now. Even so, I don't see the relevance of that idea in the kind of nonsense songs that he features in, like this one:
Dacw Mam yn dad ar hyd y gamfa wen.
Rhywbeth yn ei ffedog a phiser ar ei phen.
Y fuwch yn y beudy yn brefu am y llo,
A'r llo yr ochr arall yn chwarae Jim Crô.
Jim Crô Crystyn, Wan, T, Ffôr,
A'r mochyn bach yn eistedd yn ddel ar y stôl.

Here comes Mam across the white stile
Something in her apron, an ewer (water jug?) on her head
The cow in the byre is calling to its calf
And the calf on the other side playing Jim Crow
Jim Crow Crusty, One Two Four
The little pig sits so nicely on the stool

(This is very much a North Welsh vernacular. I have no idea who Jim Crow is, and by the way, "Wan, T, Ffor" are not Welsh words - the English words are just being used as sort of "nonsense words".)

The other song I have heard Jim Crow mentioned in, one played by Rag Foundation also combines english and welsh. I don't know if there is any logical connection there, but I found that interesting.
I come from south Wales so I may be able to shed some light on the subject of nonsense songs and jim cro.
OK, if a song has welsh and a little english in it it is most likly to be a song sung by miners. There is a song from the south Wales vallys called sospan bach (translation: little sauspan) when translated in to english it go's roughly like this:
little sausepan, standing on the hearth,
" " " " " ",
the cat has bit the maid,
the babys falen in the gravy,
and little jhony is ill.

little sauspan etc.
the maid is dead
the baby is no longer in the gravy
and jhony is recovered

or something like that, it's been about 8 years since I heard that one.
Jim cro was a card game popular with the welsh miners that they played for money during lunch breaks.
I don't know how it's played or if it is related to the jim crow you know of though, or come to think of it if it is the one mentioned in the songs or named after someone....
not too sure on how it was played but it probably involved small bets. The only place I had heard of the game was in a story where a miner lost the contents of his 'tommy' box (ie, small metal lunch tin used by miners to carry their pasties around the coal face with out them getting squashed)when he played jim cro. Looking at route words it is possible it could be a simmilar game to jinn rhumy which is a game slightly like poker where you have to put down your 7 cards in a same suit number chain of 3 or more cards or put down cards of matching number down. each turn you pick up 1 card and put 1 card down face up on a pile next to the remaining deck. if thre are any face up cards by the deck a player gets the choice of takeing that card or one on the top of the deck. you can put down the card you just picked up if you like. the winner is the first person to lose all their cards.
As I said though I'm not sure if jim cro is related to jinn rhummy (which I think was first developed by the Brits in India).