Small Voice Calling > The Voice > England

“Don’t make this out a battle hymn or a song for victory.”


Ralph McTell’s contract with Warner Bros expired with the release of ‘Slide Away the Screen’ and was not renewed. Ralph and his brother, Bruce May, decided that the way forward was to create their ‘own brand’ label.

Mays Records was launched in 1981 with a re-issue of ‘You Well-Meaning Brought Me Here‘ (as ‘1971-72’), followed by a new song, ‘England’, released as a single.

Ralph “…wanted a song that could be appreciated and enjoyed by anyone, whatever their ethnic background, who was born here. So I used the images of green hills running through city streets, that England is a multi-racial land and tried to convey that through the song.” (Hockenhull, Chris. ‘Streets of London’, p. 100.)

Ralph’s lyrics also made it clear that ‘England’ was not to be taken as a jingoistic anthem:

“Don’t make this out a battle hymn
Or a song for victory
It’s just a way to try to say
What England means to me.”

Nevertheless, the following year, a major record label wanted to reissue the song during the Falklands War. Ralph would not allow it until after the troops had returned home, saying, “No-one wants to make money out of that sort of thing”; and concluding, wryly, “‘England’ nearly made it as a hit, and in fact some people think it was a hit, so that’ll do for me”. (Hockenhull, p. 101.)

Over the years, Ralph has re-recorded ‘England’ four times, notably as a theme song for Billy Connolly’s TV travelogue ‘Word Tour of England, Ireland and Wales’; and as ‘a love song for your country’, offered to radio stations to play on St George’s Day.

Recordings and Issues
Recording 1 – 7″ single – Released 1981 – Mays ING1 – ‘Maze’ label [Note 1].
Recording 1 – 7″ single – Reissued 1981 – Mays ING1 – ‘Mays’ label [Note 2].
Recording 1 – 7″ promotional single – Released 1981 – Mays PRO ING1 [Note 3].
Recording 1 – 7″ single – Released 1982 – EMI EMI5315 [Note 4].
Recording 2 – Track on LP ‘At the End of a Perfect Day‘ – Released 1985 – Telstar STAR2263.
Recording 1 – Track on CD ‘Water of Dreams‘ – Released 2003 – Leola TPGCD23.
Recording 3 – On soundtrack of Billy Connolly DVD ‘World Tour of England, Ireland and Wales‘ – Released 2004 [Note 5].
Recordings  1 & 4 – Promotional CD ‘England: A love song for your country‘ – Released 2009 – Leola [Note 6].
Recording 5 – Track on promotional CD ‘An English Heartbeat: London and England 2012‘ – Released 2012 – Leola TPG34.

1. ‘Maze’ label.
2. ‘Mays’ label.

3. With ‘Long’ and ‘DJ Edit’ versions.
4. Remixed by Gus Dudgeon.
5. Ralph sings a verse of ‘England’ over the closing credits of the ‘England’ episodes; Cara Dillon and Mary Hopkin each adapt the verse for ‘Ireland’ and ‘Cymru’ respectively.
6. With ‘original’ and ‘new’ recordings and an instrumental version with brass band.