A nice young man was William Brown,
He worked for a wage in a Yorkshire town,
He turned a wheel from left to right,
From eight at morn till six at night.
Now Keep that wheel a turning,
Keep that wheel a turning,
Keep that wheel a turning
And do a little more each day.
The boss one day to William came,
He says, “Look here, young What’s-yer-name;
We’re far from pleased with what you do,
So hurry that wheel or out you go!”
So William turned and he made her run,
Three times round in the place of one.
He turned so hard he was quickly made,
The Lord High Turner of his trade.
His fame spread wide o’er hill and dale,
His face appeared in the Daily Mail;
Cheap coach trips were organized,
Just to gaze at the lad’s blue eyes.
Still William turned with a saintly smile,
The goods he made grew such a pile;
They filled his room and the room next door,
And overflowed to the basement floor.
But sad the sequel now to tell,
With profits raised the boss could sell,
To a take-over group from London town,
The first redundant case was Brown.
Now he’s in the queue a waiting,
He’s in the queue a waiting,
He’s in the queue a waiting,
And he gets a little thinner each day.
Now workers don’t be such a clown,
But take a tip from William Brown;
If you work too hard you will surely be,
Wiser but poorer same as he.
For he’s in the queue etc.
This is a contemporary song about Yorkshire.
First published in 1927 in the ILP Songbook (Independent Labour Party), this song was written by Arthur Hagg to that ubiquitous tune So Early in the Morning aka In and Out the Windows. The versions of verses 4 and 6 are by Bill Keable, as is the additional verse and chorus at the end of the song. In this format it has been much published in anthologies.
The sentiments are pretty obvious, that the endeavours of the skilled working man can be easily manipulated, so every worker should be careful not to be exploited!
This tune must be one of the most commonly sung tunes in the English-speaking world. Not necessarily its earliest usage, it was used for the blackface minstrel song So Early in the Morning and indeed other minstrel songs, which may be the source of the second tune in the Flamborough Sword Dance. (See notes to TYG 17 Old Johnny Walker) the Flamborough residents sang various humorous and religious ditties to the tune. It has also been endlessly used for children’s songs (e.g., In and out the Windows) and bawdy songs (e.g., The Good Ship Venus). Steve Gardham’s grandfather sang a comic song about a lunatic asylum to it, and the following is a little placename ditty about the villages to the south of Harrogate, as remembered by Zeke Deighton from his playground days in the 1950s.
Ribston, Ribston, high on a hill,
Pannal, Pannal, higher still,
Spofforth, Spofforth, dirty little town
Bonny little Follifoot knocks ’em all down.
This was sung to the tune’s A music (verse tune of Keep that wheel a-turning).