The Harlequin song began to be sung by club members in the early 1930s. We do not know who first suggested it be ours but we do know its origins. It was a version of the “whiffenpoof song” with subtle changes to make it Harlequin Club specific. Our song is sung to celebrate victories on the pitch, to bring the Friday and Saturday lunch club sessions to a close and on any other occasion we deem suitable.
The song begins:
To the tables down at Mory’s,
to the place where Louie dwells,
to the dear old Temple Bar we love so well
Some senior Harlequins thought the Temple Bar referred to the gate, which was one of the access points into the City of London, thus conferring a link to our London cousins. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The song is the signature tune of the Yale University “Whiffenpoofs”, a group of male seniors who constitute the University singing group. Founded in 1909, the "Whiffs" began as a senior quartet that met for weekly concerts at Mory's Temple Bar, the famous Yale tavern. So far from being the entry to the City of London the Temple Bar was a Connecticut University ale-house! The tune was written during the early years of the 20th century in America, but the lyrics are something else again. In 1907 one of the “Whiffs” heard a rendition of Kipling’s “General Rankers” which depicts a group of young aristocrats, disinherited perhaps, serving as enlisted men in Her Majesty's forces and drinking themselves to death as one of their number sings a verse:
To the legion of the lost ones,
To the cohorts of the damned,
To my brethren in their sorrow overseas,
Sings a gentleman of England
Cleanly bred, machinely crammed,
And a trooper of the Empress, if you please.
The Yale version was much more optimistic and positive and entirely suitable for their glee-club type singing. When we further adapted and adopted the song as “ours” we had little knowledge of its origins, particularly the grimness of the Kipling original. Nevertheless it has been sung with passion ever since David Bray, who joined the club in 1968, made it his own as the official Harlequins choirmaster.
These are the words of the Harlequin Rugby Union Football Club song:
To the tables down at Mory's,
To the place where Louis dwells,
To the dear old Temple Bar we love so well,
See the Harlequins assemble
With their glasses held on high,
And the magic of their singing casts a spell, it casts a spell.
Yes the magic of their singing and the songs they love so well,
Shall lie wasting and a'vaunting and the rest, and the rest.
We shall serenade old Louis while life and voice shall last
and we'll pass and be forgotten with the rest.
We are poor little lambs who have lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We are little black sheep who have gone astray,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
Gentlemen songsters out on the spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God have mercy on such as we,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
Gentlemen, I give you the Harlequins!