The Princess Pat

Here’s one I learned (including some hand motions) in 1991 or 92 from a kid in Omaha who had learned it in camp. Made for two singers, the second of which could be a group: One singer would sing a line, and a second would repeat it:

The Princess Pat
lived in a tree.
She sailed across
the Bering sea.
She sailed across
the Channel Two*
and took with her
a ricky-dan-doo!

A ricky dan do.
Now what is that?
It’s something made
by the Princess Pat**
It’s red and gold
and purple, too
that’s why it’s called
A ricky dan do!

Now Captain Jack
had a might fine crew
he sailed across
the Channel Two
But his ship sank
and yours will too
unless you take
a ricky dan do!

(repeat chorus)

* – I know this was “Channel Two,” not “channel, too,” because two fingers were held up
** – sung in high pitched voice

As it turns out, this was actually a much-watered down version of an army song about Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, which is still an active regiment, named for Princess Patricia of Connaught (click link for a picture of the actual Princess Pat!). The regimental colors, designed by the Princess herself, were known as the Ric-a-Dam-Doo, which is apparently Gaelic for “Cloth of thy mother.” There’s a picture of one here – it is, in fact, red and gold and purple, too.

I almost didn’t believe it when I heard about the origins of the song – it sounds like one of those stories you hear about “Humpty Dumpty” being about Richard the Third that turn out to have no basis in fact, other than that it “sounds about right” (see also: Ring Around the Rosie). But the story checks out!

The version I heard seems to have descended from very similar versions that make it a bit more clear. They began:

The Princess Pat
Light Infantry
They sailed across
the seven seas (or Herring Sea)
They sailed across
The channel, too
and took with them
a ric-a-dam-doo

(the rest of this version is more or less the same as the one above, except that it deals with “Captain Dan” instead of “Captain Jack.”)

Most interesting to me is how easily “Light infantry” changed to “lived in a tree,” and how much that changes the narrative of the song. I knew the song had been around for a while, but I assumed it was written by a camp counselor. Nothing about the version I knew made me suspect that it had anything to do with a soldier’s song, though it’s hardly the first army song that gradually became a playground song. A great many of the naughty songs on this site startted out as soldier’s songs – one thing that nearly every war has in common is that, in every war, soldiers make up endless naughty parodies of popular songs (here’s a shameless plug for The Smart Aleck’s Guide to American History, which includes a few of them).

There’s another, earlier version that’s much more explicitly about the army (and a bit more offensive, if you don’t like to see the Canadian infantry made fun of). It begins:

The Princess Pat’s Battalion
They sailed across the Herring Pond,
They sailed across the Channel too,
And landed there with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo
Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

The Princess Pat’s Battalion Scouts
They never knew their whereabouts.
If there’s a pub within a mile or two,
You’ll find them there with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.

Split the lines in two and the tune could be the same, as long as you draw “battalion” out into four syllables.

Complete lyrics of that version, and a good deal more info on the history of the song (and why some find it offensive) can be seen here

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  1. fynixsoul

    I grew up with a variation of this song, I think. It started for me as a camp song in Boston suburbs in the early to mid 90's. Except it wasn't about Princess Pat, but "my auntie's cat". In it, the cat goes all over the world and brings back weird things for the singer, and each thing is accompanied by a movement. (My auntie's cat sailed out to france/ and brought for me this funny dance, etc) I can't say for sure it's related to the song, except it has similar sounds and the same tune.

    Two summers ago I worked as a camp counselor, and heard it sung again.

  2. soccernik06

    Hi, I'm Nikki from North Carolina, USA.. I was a girl scout when I first learned the song then later in life as a camp counselor we sang it.. a few of our words were different, but it was the same idea. Instead of Bering Sea we said seven seas and we said Ric a Bam Boo (which kinda sounds like Rigga Bam Boo) instead of Ricky Dan Do. We also have a third verse:

    The Princess Pat
    saved Captain Jack
    She realed him in
    and brought him back
    She saved his life
    and his crew too
    Do you know how?
    With a Ric a Bam Boo
    (repeat chorus to end)

  3. soccernik06

    There are others from girl scouts that you don't have on here, and I don't know how common they are, but here's one of my favorites:

    3 little angels, all dressed in white,
    tryn' to get to heaven on the end of a kite,
    well the kite sting broke, and down they all fell instead of goin' to heaven, they all went to
    2 little angels…
    1 little angel…

    3 little devils all dressed in red,
    tryn' to get to heaven on the end of a thread,
    well the thread string broke and down they all fell,instead of goin' to heaven they all went to…
    2 little devils..
    1 little devil..

    3 little martians, all dressed in green,
    tryn to get to heaven in a flying machine,
    well the flying machine broke and down they all fell, instead of goin' to heaven, they all went to…
    2 little martians…
    1 little martian…

    3 little demons, all dressed in black,
    tryn to get to heaven in a pink cadillac,
    well the cadillac broke and down they all fell,
    instead of goin' to heaven, they all went to…
    2 little demons…
    1 little demon…

    don't get excited don't lose your head!
    instead of goin' to heaven, they all went to bed!

    also, I noticed you don't have Ms Mary Mac.. that was super common in my elementary school.

    also, all of my posts are going to be from the 1990s (maybe early 2000s) from Raleigh, NC

  4. Adam Selzer

    Thanks, Nic! We do have Mary Mack –

  5. Yoga Key West

    I'm researching a historic sailing vessel, built in 1925 in East Boothbay Maine, now called the Hindu, originally named Princess Pat. I was told the boat was named for a girl scout song. But was the song sung in 1925?

  6. Adam Selzer

    Yoga – more likely, I'd say that ship was named for Princess Patricia herself. The song quite possibly does go back that far, but was probably a tavern song then, not a girl scout song.

  7. Pendragon

    it was "piece of bam-boo" at my camp

  8. Rebecca Poppenhusen

    In my camp songs, the ric a bam boo (which is what we called it) was red and gold and purple and blue.

  9. Boo

    The cutest duck
    With a yellow bill
    Was waddling on
    My windowsill
    I took him in
    With a crumb of bread
    He was just so cute
    Now he’s my pet.

    We loved singing the Cutest Duck.


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