Bread and Fishes (Wind in the Willows)

This is a folk-style hymn, which is loosely-based on the (unsubstantiated - ref) legend that Jesus travelled in England as a child / youth, accompanied by Mary and Joseph of Arimathea.

The words were written in 1968 by English sales representative, singer/songwriter, festival organiser  and activist, Alan Bell (1934-2019 - ref).  Bell was a member of the Blackpool Taverners quartet, and some sources incorrectly attribute the song to them, rather than to him.  Some later sources have, also incorrectly, attributed it to "Andy Bell" following more recent performances by 1990's formed group, Blackmores Night.

The source of the tune is a little less certain. Bell believed that he composed it - and published sheet music accordingly.   But his comment here that he already "had" the tune is oblique. And he acknowledged that many Irish people believed it is (at least based on) one or more older Irish folk tunes.   A connection like this would explain the song's popularity in Ireland, which is unexpected given the subject-matter.

The song does not appear to have been published in any hynn-books, but two current sources of sheet music have been located - links below.


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Duo self-accompanied with guitar and tambourine:

Allan Bell performing the song at a folk-festival:

Folk trio with small band:

Small band - upbeat, professional recording:


As I went a walking one morning in spring,
I met with some travellers on an old country lane.
One was an old man, the second a maid,
The third was a young boy who smiled as he said:

"With the wind in the willows
The birds in the sky
There's a bright sun to warm us wherever we lie,
We have bread and fishes and a jug of red wine
To share on our journey with all humankind (*)"

So I sat down beside them with flowers all around.
We et from a mantle spread out on the ground.
They told me of prophets and princes and kings,
And all of the one God who knows everything

Original 3rd verse:
I asked them to tell me their name and their place
That I might remember their kindness and grace
My name is Joseph, this is Mary, my wife
And this is our young son, who is our delight

Alternative 3rd verse:
So I asked them to tell me their name and their race,
So I could remember their kindness and grace.
"Our names, they mean nothing, they change throughout time
So come sit beside us and share in our wine".

"We're travelling to Glaston, over England's green lanes  
To hear of men's troubles to hear of their pains
We travel the wide world over land and the sea
To tell all the people how they can be free."

So sadly I left them on that old country lane
For I knew that I'd never see them again
One was an old man the second a maid
The third was a young boy who smiled as he said ..

(*)  originally "mankind" - most singers now use "humankind".

See also


  1. It is indeed written and scored by Alan Bell and is on his albums.

  2. Alan Bell did indeed write this. Many, many years ago.