In Beverley Town a maid did dwell,
A brisk young lass, I knew her well,
Her age it was just twenty-two,
And for a man she was in view.
Right fal-the-lal-lal, the li-gee-o
She went to work for a gentleman,
A tinker came there to solder her pan;
He sleightly got her behind the door, (sleightly, with sleight, cunning)
And gave her kisses o’er and o’er.
When he was finished upto the end,
Fifty bright guineas she placed in his hand,
Said, ‘Call if you come this way again,
You will have the same old kettle to mend.’
The tinker now being very dry,
The alehouse it was drawing nigh;
Said, ‘Landlord, give me a pot of good ale,
For fifty bright guineas I’ve earnt with a tale!’
The landlord said, ‘Well done, old cock!
For your rivets you’ve boldly knocked.
You shall sit with me to dine,
And we will drink the very best wine.’
This is a traditional song about Yorkshire.
This ballad was widely printed on broadsides all over Britain during the nineteenth century. Batchelor of London locates it near Berwick rather than Beverley, and Lindsay of Glasgow locates it in Glasgow, but all of the others, English, Scots or Irish, set it in Beverley. L Lund of York printed the following version which was sold at J Johnson’s, Goodramgate, York (BL York Publications, no. 64). The earliest versions printed early in the nineteenth century vary enough to suggest that it had been current in oral tradition for some time even then. The longest version with eight six-line stanzas is the one set near Berwick printed by Batchelar.
In Beverley town O there did dwell
A rich Old Maid who was known full well;
She was good natured, kind, and free,
She swore she would travel the country:
She set her mind on a Tinker bold—
By Jove she had great store of gold.
She lived at a rich Old Gentleman’s
Where a Tinker he came a mending pans;
Before he had clapt on one patch,
With him she had made up the match:
She would be married without delay—
By Jove she would no longer stay.
Her age it was just forty and two,
For a man she could not tell what to do,
For succour she never had one before,
Which made her love the Tinker more:
She was deformed and could not stride,
But yet her money would make her ride.
Before that he had mended one pan,
She tipt him twenty guineas in hand;
She said, my dear, you must and can
Just now mend me the other pan:
So cunningly behind the door
He drove her in a rivet more.
When the jobb was done, then she did say,
When will you come again this way?
He said, my dear, I cannot tell—
In a fortnight’s time, if all be well:
Be sure you do, or I will send
For you to come, my pans to mend.
He gave her a kiss, and they parted then,
And away he went, singing “old pans to mend;”
He called at an alehouse that was hard by,
For with working hard he was very dry;
Come, fill me a quart, then he did say,
For twenty guineas I have got this day.
Apart from a solitary Newfoundland version the only others from oral tradition were noted down in southern England, one version each from Dorset, Devon and Surrey and two from Somerset. Like Frank Purslow in his book The Constant Lovers EFDSS 1972 p103, Jim based his version on George Chatt’s Dorset tune (Gardiner Manuscripts Sy1410) and Mrs Case’s Dorset text (Hammond Manuscripts D862), the difference being that Frank used George Chatt’s chorus and Jim preferred Mrs Case’s.
Mrs Case had a final stanza as follows which Jim didn’t sing on this occasion.
Oh, if it be true as I’ve been told,
The tinker he hath spent all his gold,
Now he must do as he done before,
He must kiss the maid behind the door. (alternative to ‘kiss’ is given in mss as ‘rivet’)
The first two lines of the tune are very close to those collected by Sharp to Gently, Johnny, my Jingalo (Roud 5586). The tune is also closely related to that of the Scots song The Rigs o’ Rye (Laws O11, Roud 985).
The popular theme of the song and the use of the tinker’s riveting euphemism go back beyond printed records, and numerous ballads on the theme can be found in print and oral tradition even today. ( See The Common Muse V. de Sola Pinto and A. E. Rodway, Penguin, 1965, ballads 155, 156 and 157.)