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The Derby Ram (1908)


The old song of "The Derby Ram" is said to have been written over a century ago to illustrate in humorous fashion
the excitement caused in New England by the arrival of the first merino sheep imported into America. These were
brought to America by Colonel David Humphreys, who was Minister at the Court of Madrid from 1791 to 1802.

While in Spain Colonel Humphreys conceived an idea of improving the American sheep by a merino cross. He bought 25 rams
and 75 ewes, had them escorted across Spain under military guards, and shipped them for America. Four rams and five
ewes died on the passage, but the rest were safely landed at Derby Connecticut, where great crowds assembled to see them.

Very high prices were offered, but the public-spirited colonel preferred to distribute the animals among responsible
farmers at the almost nominal charge of 100 dollars, or 20 a head, which sum it is said, did not cover the cost.
The "responsible farmers" were not till as scrupulous as Colonel Humphreys, and some yielded to the tempting offers made
by men who foresaw the value of the merino cross.

"Humphrey's rams were sold at from 1,500 dollars to 2,000 dollars by the men who had been allowed to take them at 100 dollars.
People for the time were "merino crazy," hence the song which achieved such wide and lasting popularity.


From the Adelaide Newspaper the Sydney Wool and Stock Journal 24 Apr 1908 p. 4.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory