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Oral traditions
passion
bohemiancoast
Or 'all knowledge is not contained on the internet' in fact. When I was a small child my father used to tell me bedtime stories. Some of them were poems. And one of our favourites was this...

"It was a dark and stormy night
The brigands they sat in their cave
The chief of the brigands arose, and he said
"Antonio, tell us a storio!"
And this is what he said.

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

Well, you get the idea. This could go on for some time. It's clearly a fairly widespread meme; the Ahlbergs wrote a book about it, for example.

M has just noticed that Googling for the version I learnt yields no results, though there's an instructive comment thread here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listeners/openinglines.shtml in which various people ascribe it to their fathers or the Scouts.

So. Do you remember this from your childhood? What words did you use? Where were you, geographically, at the time?
I have noted before that despite the work of the Opies, the rhymes remembered and told by children (in playgrounds and around campfires) are not, by and large, well documented as a tradition.

I've heard the brigands version, but - in Oxfordshire, with parents technically from West London - we told it as
'Twas a daaaaaark and stormy night. The captain said "Tell us a story, Bosun*!" So the bosun said "'Twas a daaaaaark and stormy night!" Etc. On occasion it would be expanded to "..stormy night, and the wind was blowing a gale. The ship's captain said..." but no longer than that.

* When at 5 or 6 I read a book with a 'boatswain' in it, it took me about 3 minutes to figure out it was the same word. My parents were apparently somewhat scared by this leap of intuition. But forecastle/fo'c's'le puzzled me for months...

It was a dark and stormy night.
The captain turned to the first mate and said:
"Tell us a story."
The crew gathered together and the first mate began:
"It was a dark and stormy night..."

My dad was in the Navy in WW2 but I suspect he may have heard it before even that.

How about updating it with...

It was a dark and stormy night.
The Novacon members sat in the bar.
The Big Name Fan arose, and he said (in a Birmingham accent):
"Ian tell us a joke!"
And this is what he said...


It was a dark and stormy night, and the sailors said "Tell us a story Captain!" And this is the story he told... It was a dark and (etc etc)

PS We were in Derbyshire, but it was almost always told by my dad who was from Yorkshire.

In the Valleys. My grandfather used do tell it, and I also heard it in Brownies.

It was a dark and stormy night.
The rain was coming down in bucketfuls.
And the captain said to the mate,
"I want to tell you a story.

It was a dark and stormy night... etc.

I also heard the same one with Antonio instead of the mate from a friend from Leicestershire when I was in University, but a mutual friend from Surrey had never heard either.

The version I know has a sing-song rhythm:

It was a dark and stormy night
And the Captain said to the Mate,
"Oi, Mate, tell us a yarn!"

And the yarn went something like this:
It was a dark and stormy night [repeat ad infinitum]

I suspect the 'Oi, Mate!' is very Sarf Lunnon.

Never heard of it - even from inamac with whom I have shared a house for a very long time.

South Yorkshire (Sheffield), paternal grandparents from Derbyshire (Matlock). (Mother and maternal parents from Germany, so not expected from them.)

Edited at 2011-10-22 12:04 pm (UTC)

Northern Ireland, 1960s:

It was a dark and stormy night, and the rain came down in torrents. I said to Antonio "tell us a tale", and the tale was this as follows....

Blimey! I never realised the torrents were in the Bulwer-Lytton version (link to TVTropes intentionally left out - why should everyone else have to risk losing an afternoon)

The Singing Kettle did a version. Children's entertainers, they did tapes of songs and songs-with-stories as well as live performances. The kind of thing that gets played over and over again on car journeys to keep kiddies happy.

... Also I totally thought this was posted by someone else. I expect you know who the Singing Kettle are!

Found after a quick Google...

"It was a dark and stormy night. I had just taken a creative writing course"

It was a dark and stormy night, so the Captain said to the Mate, "Tell us a story, Mate?", so the Mate began...

I think my father might have told this to me, or perhaps I heard it at school - it was certainly a long time ago, so I was probably in Edinburgh, but there's a lot of Anglo in my Scottish.

From my father, in the seventies, from the North East of England:

It was a dark and stormy night.
Three men sat in a cave.
One said, "Bill, tell us a tale!"
And Bill said...

Edited at 2011-10-24 07:55 am (UTC)

Nr Bristol with strong welsh influences

"It was a dark and stormy night
And the rain came down in torrents.
When the captain turned to the first mate and said
"Tell us a story".
The first mate began..."

My father told me this, and his version was the one about a ship. The last few lines were "And the captain said to the mate, 'Sam, spin us a yarn!' And this is the story the mate told..." I don't remember all the other lines.

My father probably got it either from the Scouts, or from his father (who was in the merchant navy for a while, but I doubt that's relevant). They both grew up in Birmingham. I was in Somerset when I heard it.

(Late to the party, but as nobody's come up with my exact version yet...)

It was a dark and stormy night, and the captain said to his men, "Jack! Tell us a story!" So he began...

It was a dark and stormy night.... (&c &c)

North Devon, mid to late 1970s.

It was a dark and stormy night,
and the robbers were in their den,
and the leader said to Antonio
'Antonio, tell us a story'

So Antonio began:


twas a dark and stormy night

(Anonymous)
Twas a dark and stormy night,
And the wind it blew a gale,
So to save our ship from sinking,
We hung it on a nail,
And the Captain said 'Mate! Tell us a tale'
And the Mate began as follows...

The one my Grandad used to tell

(Anonymous)
It was a dark and stormy night
and the chief of the Brigands said
Antonio, tell me a storio
and Antonio began thus..

..It was a dark and stormy night..

Re: The one my Grandad used to tell

(Anonymous)
Mine too :-)

"T'was a dark and stormy night"

(Anonymous)
Are you still taking replys? Growing up in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio in the 1940's, I learned "T'was a dark and stormy night. Round the campfire sat brigands large and brigands small. Up stepped the trusty Lieutenant and said, 'Antonio tell us one of your famous stories.' And he began, "T'was..." I was talking about it the other night, decided to look it up and found this thread. There must be more out there somewhere, but thank you for starting it.

Re: "T'was a dark and stormy night"

More replies are always welcome! But I've screened this thread because it attracts spammers, so I need to unscreen genuine replies individually.

Meanwhile, Steve Roud has written a book on playground lore. I will have to see if the dark and stormy night is in there.

Dark & Stormy

(Anonymous)
"Twas a dark and stormy night, when Napoleon rose and said, "Come Antonio, tell me one of your famous stories. And so, Antonio rose and said, "Twas a dark and stormy night,....."

New Jersey USA 1948 told to me by my father - bedtime story.

Re: Dark and Stormy

(Anonymous)
My brother and I, both now in our fifties, use different versions of this - so I guess we picked it up at our different schools. Here they are:

"It was a dark and stormy night, the lightning flashed and the thunder roared, and the captain to his Mate, 'Mate, tell us a tale!' and this is the tale he told ..."

"It was a dark and stormy night, there were brigands in the mountains, and thieves, and the captain said to Antonio, 'Antonio, tell us a tale!', and this is the tale he told ..."

A Dark and Stormy Night

(Anonymous)
"Twas a dark and stormy night
And gathered round the campfire
Were brigands large and brigands small,
And the captain spake unto Antonius.
'Antonius' he said
'Give us one of your choicest selections.'
And Antonius spake as follows."

My father regaled his children, and I mine, with this starting in the early 1940s.
It was, and is, often elabourated with commentary on, e.g., the size of brigands relative to the teller or hearer, the storminess of the night, etc. It may further be interspersed with verses from the following.

"Back, back in 73, when I sailed the good ship Nancy Lee,
I'll never forget that awful night,
When the waves rolled up with all their might,
And the ship was sunk and the crew was dead,
when the captain turned to me and said,

'Back, back in 73, when I sailed the good ship Nancy Lee...'"

I recall this from the shores of Puget Sound. My father's background stretched to
Illinois and Montana.

A dark and stormy night in 1911

(Anonymous)
From the Watertown Daily Times of February 28, 1911. Attributed to the Louisville Post.

"It was a dark and stormy night. Around the campfire were seated brigands large and brigands small.
'So our dear brother Antonio has retired from the profession independently rich.' said the chief."

The joke continues on another theme, but the quoted section seems clearly to allude to our subject.

Re: A dark and stormy night in 1911

Clearly! Well spotted!

'Twas a daaaaark and sorrrmy noight

(Anonymous)
Chanted 3 beats per line

'Twas a daaaaark and sorrrmy noight!
And the rain came down in torrents!
And the Captain said to Antonio....

'Tell us a tale'

And so the tale began....

This recited around Scout campfires at Blaisdon, Glos, UK by Lancashire Scouts 50th Bolton in the late 1960s. My dad a Scout leader who had been in the Army- his brother had been in the navy during the second world war.
I'll have to find out where it came from if he can remember- he's in his 80s now.
Thanks for the thread
:-)
x

Antonio tell us a storio

(Anonymous)
Growing up in Texas in the 1980's my mother taught me this version.
"One dark night the rain blew and the wind fell and a group of bandits were sitting around a campfire and one of them said Antonio tell us a storio and so Antonio began... One dark night.....

South London, growing up in the 1990s:
"It was a dark and stormy night, and the wind was blowing hard, and the Captain said to his men, 'Come down to the cabin, boys, and I'll tell you a story.'
So they all went down to the cabin, and the Captain began:
It was a dark and stormy night..."

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