My ord father he used ti say ti me,
'Here's a bit o' summat that Ah'll 'a ti tell ti thee,
Thoo knows nowt, tha's nobbut very dense,
Thi ’eead is full o' summat but it isn’t full o' sense.
Ah's gan ti give thee a bit o' good advice,
No need ti tak offence becos it's nowt but common sense.
Thoo mun 'ear all and thoo mun know nowt,
And thoo mun see all and thoo mun say nowt,
And thoo mun tak all an’ thoo mun gi' nowt,
And thoo mun sup all and thoo mun pay nowt,
An' if ivver thoo does anythin' fer nothin’ allus do it for thissen
This is a traditional song
Norman Creaser was born in 1919 in the house in which our recording took place and had been a farm worker all his life in the same area. Norman's repertoire consisted of well-known agricultural songs, some he'd learnt at school, local dialect songs and self-penned pieces about his life in farming set to well-known tunes.
A Yorkshireman's Advice to his Son is common in Yorkshire as a saying or motto. Like its companion piece The Yorkshireman's Coat of Arms, which is equally insulting, it was frequently printed on mugs and postcards, and was a light-hearted swipe at shrewd, tight Yorkshire people. Until recently a Yorkshire Bite was universally used as a synonym for being tricked in some way. (See TYG78 The Crafty Ploughboy) As a motto it usually goes something like 'Hear all, see all, say nowt,; eat all, sup all, pay nowt, an' if ivver thou does owt for nowt allus do it for thissen.' The dialect is much closer to that of South Yorkshire than other parts.
Norman did actually take the words of his version of Speed the Plough from an old pint mug and set them to the ubiquitous Villikins and Dinah tune, unaware that it had its own tune and further stanzas. However, he got the 'father's Advice' song appropriately from his father.
A slightly fuller Lancashire version from Mrs Emma Vickers appears in Fred Hamer's Green Groves p66. I strongly suspect that the song was put together in the late-nineteenth century by one of the many pseudo-dialect singers of the Music Hall.
A friend of mine, Dorothy Collis of Kirkbymoorside, sent me her uncle's version which came from the West Riding.
My old father used to se' to me,
'I've got a bit o' good advice I'd like to gi' to thee.
Tha's so simple, so very dense,
Thi 'ead is full o' summat, but it isn't full o' sense.
The only time tha looks a bit intelligent at all,
Is when tha's having treacle on thi bread;
And if I should dee 'twould be Lord help thee
If tha don't keep this motto in thi 'ead.
Tha mun hear all and tha mun se' nowt,
Tha mun sup all and tha mun pay nowt,
And as thi weary way thou art upon,
Always look after number one.
Tha mun cop all and tha mun gi' nowt,
And tha mun keep this motto in thi 'ead,
And if ever tha does owt for nowt
Tha mun do it – do it for thissen.