Known variously as "Eton Boat Song", "The Eaton Boating Song", or simply "Boating Song", the music, in 6/8 time, was composed by Algernon H. Drummond, and the words were written by William Johnson Cory. This though was not a regular songwriting partnership but more master and pupil.
Founded in 1440, Eton College (or simply Eton) is the most famous public school in Britain, and one of the most prestigious in the world. (In Britain, a public school is actually a private school; fees for Eton in 2011 were upwards of nine thousand pounds per half term). The Battle of Waterloo
is said to have been won on the playing fields of Eton; according to an article in the Independent
of December 7, 2005, its alumni included no less than nineteen former prime ministers.
Cory - then known as William Johnson - wrote the words at Torquay over Christmas, 1862.
The song was first performed on June 4, 1863, and is sung at the school's end of year concert and other important occasions, including during the procession of boats, Eton being on the Thames, and the College having a long boating tradition.