My Brother Sylvest

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My Brother Sylvest, also called Big Strong Man (Roud 10682[1]). The mentions of bell ringing are minimal but quite specific: "He used to ring the bells in the belfry" and "The old church bell will ring".

Have you heard about the big strong man,
Who lived in a caravan?
Have you heard about the Jeffries Johnson fight?
Lord, what a hell of a fight!
You can take all the heavyweights you got. (What 'cha got?)
We gotta lad who can beat the whole lot.
He used to ring the bells in the belfry,
Now he's gonna fight Jack Dempsey.

He was me brother Sylvest (What's he got?)
A row of forty medals on his chest (Big chest!)
He killed fifty bad men in the West; He knows no rest
Think of the man, Hell's fire, Don't push, just shove,
Plenty of room for you and me.
He's got an arm, (Got an arm) Like a leg (Like a leg)
And a punch that would sink a battle ship (Big ship)
It takes all the army and the navy to put the wind up Sylvest.

He thought he'd take a trip to Italy;
And he thought that he'd go by sea.
He jumped off the harbour in New York,
And he swam like a great big shark.
He saw the Lusitania in distress (What'd he do?)
Put the Lusitania on his chest, (Big chest)
Drank all the water in the sea
And he walked all the way to Italy.


He thought he'd take a trip to old Japan,
So they brought out the big brass band.
He played every every instrument they'd got.
What a lad, he played the whole lot,
The old church bell will ring, (Hell's bells)
The old church choir will sing. (Hell's choir)
They all turned out to say farewell,
To my big brother Sylvest.


The song was first published in 1908 as "My Brudda Sylvest, a stage-Italian dialect number that referred to the Spanish–American War": words by Jesse Lasky, music by Fred Fischer; Fred Fischer Music Pub. Co., 1431-33 Broadway, 1908[3]. It was performed by Mabel Hite and Mike Donlin.

Oh, you heard about the greata stronga man,
Oh, the greata biga Johna Sullivan.
Oh, you heard about the Jeffriesa fight.
He'sa strong, all right.
He whipa fifty men in onea night.
But I got a brudda got the buncha beat.
Got a chesta measure forty sev'na feet.
Got a peanut stand on Mulberry Street.
He's a tough man to beat.

My great big brudda Sylvest
Takea greata biga ship on the chest.
Killa fifty thousand Indians out west.
He no takea no rest.
He gota one stronga grip.
Witha onea puncha sinka da ship.
Oh, it take a wholea army to whip
My brudda Sylvest.

Upa town there was a firea lasta week.
P'licea mana calla firea engine quick.
Firea engine makea root-tootie-toot 
The fire out to put 
A ev'rybody tried, nobody could.
Oh, Sylvesta he then came along and shout,
"I will show you justa how to go about."
Oh, he swell his chesta big an'a stout
And he blow the fire out.

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