The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 4/Songs

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SONGS.


Tinker's Song.

SUNG by the fool (called "Billy Bellzebub") in the "Guisers' Play," as performed yearly at Eccleshall, Staffordshire, and Newport, Shropshire.

Collated from three copies: two written out by John Bates, sawyer, Eccleshall, and Elijah Simpson, chimney-sweep, Newport, and the other taken down from recitation of Christopher Bennett labourer, Eccleshall, 20th Jan. 1886.

The air will appear in Shropshire Folk-Lore, part iii.

"I am a jovial tinker,
And have been all my life,
So now I think it's time
To seek a fresh young wife.
And it's then with a friend we'll a merry life spend,
Which I never did yet, I vow,
With my rink-a-tink tink, and a sup more drink,
I'll make your old kettles cry sound,
Sound, sound!
I'll make your old kettles cry sound.

"My jacket's all pitches and patches,
And on it I give a sly look,
My trousers all stitches and statches
[Wouldn't quite suit a lord or a duke];
But it's pitches and patches I wear
Till I can get better or new;
I take the wide world as I find it,
Brave boys, if I'm ragged I'm true,
True, true!
Brave boys, if I'm ragged I'm true.[1]

"I've a dogskin hairy budget
Tied fast upon my back,
[With my staff in my hand I trudge it,
Crying, Neighbours, what d'ye lack?]
I'll buy an old kettle, I'll mend an old kettle,
I'll mend an old kettle all round;
With my rink-a-tink tink, and a sup more drink,
I'll make your old kettle cry sound,
Sound, sound!
I'll make your old kettle cry sound.

"I've a snuff-box in my pocket,
As large as you might suppose,
As large as any old turnip,
All for my jimmy old nose.
So here I come meddle, come mend your old kettle,
Come mend an old kettle all round.
With my rink-a-tink tink, and a sup more drink,
I'll make your old kettle cry sound,
Sound, sound!
I'll make your old kettle cry sound.

"I am a jovial tinker,
I've travelled both far and near.
And I never did meet with a singer
Without he could drink some beer!
And it's then with a friend we'll a merry life spend,
Which I never did yet, I vow,
With my rink-a-tink tink, and a sup more drink,
I'll make your old kettles cry sound,
Sound, sound!
I'll make your old kettles cry sound!"

"Budget, a leathern bag. Fr. bougette, dim. of Fr. bouge. See Budge .... Budge (2), a kind of fur. Budge is lambskin with the hair dressed outwards; orig. simply 'skin.' Fr. bouge, a wallet, great pouch. Lat. bulga, a little bag, a word of Gaulish origin. Gal. bolg, balg, a bag; orig., a skin; see Bag."—Skeat, Concise Etymological Dictionary. Budget, a bag for tools, is still used in Staffordshire.

"Tom Tinker's my true love, and I am his dear,
And I will go with him, his budget to bear."[2]

Opening lines of a Tinker's song in D'Urfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719), quoted, with the air, in Chappell's National English Airs, No. 166. No. 167 is another Tinker's song, "There was a Jovial Tinker," from the same source. The notes on these songs are interesting: see also that on the Carman's Whistle, No. 231.

I have two Shropshire songs with the refrains—

"Ri fol i diddle i gee wo!"

and

"Tal lal la ra li gee wo!"

These may be called the ploughman's refrains, but the words have nothing to do with agriculture.

A Shropshire Hunting Song (a doggerel account of a run, 1790-1800) has the refrain—

"Tally-ho, tally-ho, hi, tally-ho!
Hark forward, hark forward, huzza, tally-ho!


Lancashire Milking Song.

"Cush-a cow bonny, come let down your milk,
And I will give you a gown of silk,
A gown of silk and a silver tee.
If you will let down your milk for me."

This had degenerated into a nursery rhyme as early as 1825-1830, at Bury, in Lancashire.

Tee=a cow-tie.

Cush-cow (pronounced cuosh (glossic), the uo like oo in wood) means a hornless cow in some parts of North Shropshire. In the Swaledale dialect, cush is a call-word to cows. In Icelandic, kussa is a cow; kus, a call-word to cows.—See Jackson, Shropshire Word-Book, p. 110, s. v. Cush-cow.


Stang Riding, with Rhyme.

"They have a custom in Cheshire, which I well remember witnessing in the parish of Northen,[3] when I was a little boy. A Mrs. Evans, the wife of a weaver, a powerful athletic woman, had most severely chastised her husband. This conduct the neighbouring lords of the creation were determined to punish, fearing their own spouses might otherwise rebel. They therefore mounted one of their own body, dressed in female apparel, on the back of an old donkey, who held a spinning-wheel on his lap [sic!] and his back towards the donkey's head. Two men led the animal through the neighbourhood, followed by scores of boys, tinkling kettles and frying-pans, roaring with the cows-horns, and making the most hideous hullabaloo, stopping every now and then while the exhibitioner on the ass made the following proclamation:—

"'Ran a dan, ran a dan, ran a dan dan,
Mrs. Alice Evans has beat her good man;
It was neither with sword, spear, pistol nor knife,
But with a pair of tongs, she vowed she'd have his life.
If she'll be a good wife, and do so no more,
We will not ride stang from door to door.'"

From Charles Hulbert's History and Description of the County of Salop, Introduction, p. xxxi. note, second edition, 1838, "printed and published by the author. Providence Grove, near Shrewsbury, and sold by H. Washbourne, London."

"Ran-a-dan" was the correct beginning of a Stang ditty. A woman at Eccleshall, Staffordshire, about 1884, speaking of an unpopular character, said, "He'd ought to be ran-dan'd out o' the town."


The Farmer's Boy.

Kindly procured by Mr. Thomas Powell, of Southey Green, Sheffield, from Mr. James Beddoes, by whom it has been sung, to the air of Auld Lang Syne, at Harvest Homes in Corve Dale, Shropshire, for half a century, and by his father before him. I should be much obliged if any member of the Folk-Lore Society who has heard this song, or seen it in print, would let me know as soon as possible.

"The sun went down behind the hills,
Across the dreary moor.
When, weary and lame, a boy there came
Up to a farmer's door.
'Can you tell me if any here be
Who'll give to me employ,
To plough and sow, and reap and mow,
And be a farmer's boy? '
Chorus—To plough and sow, &c.

"'My father's dead, my mother's left
With her five children small,
And, what is worse for my mother still,
I'm the largest of them all.
Though little I be, I fear not work.
If you will me employ.
To plough and sow, to reap and mow.
And be a farmer's boy.
Chorus—To plough and sow, &c.

"'And if you cannot me employ,
One favour I've to ask.
If you'll shelter me 'till the break of day
From this cold winter's blast.
At the break of day I'll trudge away,
Elsewhere to seek employ,
To plough and sow, to reap and mow,
And be a farmer's boy.'
Chorus—To plough and sow, &c.

"The farmer said, 'We'll try the lad,
No further he shall seek.'
'O, yes, dear father,' the daughter cried,
Whilst the tears ran down her cheek.
For one that will work it's hard to want,
Or wander for employ.
To plough and sow, to reap and mow.
And be a farmer's boy.'
Chorus— To plough and sow, &c.

"In length of time he grew a man;
The good old farmer died.
And left the lad the farm he had.
And his daughter for his bride.
The lad that was the farmer is;
He smiles and thinks with joy,
Of the lucky day he came that way
To be the farmer's boy.
Chorus— To plough and sow," &c.

An English Lady in Love with a Welsh Plough-boy.

Young Welshmen were in the habit of taking service at the Shropshire farms, coming to England to seek their fortune as the Irish labourers do now, or did till lately.

The love of a noble lady for a "squire of low degree" is a favourite topic with ballad-makers. I have another song on the same subject, "The Golden Glove," see the Percy Society's vol. xvii.

"All in the month of May, when flowers were a-springing,
I went into the meadows some pleasure for to find;
I went into the meadows, I turn'd myself around,
Where I saw a pretty Welsh lad a-ploughing up the ground.

"And as he was a-ploughing his furrows deep and low,
Cleaving his sods in pieces, his barley for to sow;
It is the pretty Welsh lad that's all in my mind,
And many hours I wander this young man for to find.

"An old man came a-courting me, a man of birth and fame
Because I would not have him, my parents did me blame;
It is the pretty Welsh lad that runs all in my mind,
A poor distressed lady, a Welsh lad to my mind.

"An old man I do disdain, his wealth and all his store,
O give to me my plough-boy, and I desire no more.
He's the flower of this country, a diamond in my eye.
It is for the pretty Welsh lad that I for love must die.

"I wish the pretty skylark would mount up in the air.
That my pretty plough-boy the tidings he might hear;
Perhaps he would prove true to me and ease my aching heart,
It is for the pretty Welsh lad that I do feel the smart.

"I'll wait until I see him to tell him my mind,
And if he don't relieve me, I shall think him unkind;
And if he'll not grant me his love, then distracted I shall be;
Into some grove I'll wander, where no one shall me see."

(M. Waidson, printer, Shrewsbury.)

Pyebirch, Eccleshall, Staffordshire.


  1. Miss L. Toulmin Smith, in a letter to myself, mentions a ballad, "Ragged and Torn, and True," which she believes is to be found among the Roxburghe Ballads.

    The lines in brackets are added to fill up the verses. The singers repeat lines and twist the verses mercilessly to "make them come into the tune."

  2. Stale news is called in north-east Shropshire, "tinker's news."
  3. Northenden, in Cheshire (near Manchester), commonly called Northen.