Come ye that love a bit o’ fun an’ listen ’ere a while,
I’ll tell you of a droll affair ’twill give you cause to smile.
A parson dressed all in ’is best, cocked ’at and bushy wig,
’E went up to a farmer’s house to choose a sucking pig.
‘Good morning!’ said the parson. ‘Good morning, sir, to you!’
‘I’ve come to choose a sucking pig which you know it is my due;
Therefore I pray go fetch me one that is both plump and fine,
For I ’ave asked a friend or two along with me to dine.’
So in the sty the farmer goes among the pigs so small,
An’ ’e chooses for the parson the least among them all.
When the parson saw the same how ’e did rant and roar;
’E stamped ’is foot and ’e shook ’is wig and ’e almost cursed and swore.
‘Well then, sir,’ said the farmer, ‘since my offer you refuse,
I pray you go into the sty, there you may pick and choose.’
In the sty the parson ventured without any more ado;
The old sow ran with open mouth an’ she at the parson flew.
Well the first she caught ’im by the coat and took off both the skirts;
She ran ’er ’ead between ’is legs and rolled ’im in the dirt.
The parson cursed the very hour ’e’d ventured for the pig;
You’d ’a laughed to see the little-uns, ’ow they shook ’is ’at and wig.
Well the next she caught ’im by the breeches, ’e so loud did cry;
‘Oh, free me from this curse`d pig or I shall surely die!’
The little pigs ’is waistcoat tore, ’is stockings and ’is shoes;
The farmer said, ‘You’re welcome, I hope you’ll pick and choose.’
Well at length ’e let the parson out all in a handsome trim;
The sow and pigs so neatly in the dirt had rolle`d him.
His coat was to a spencer turned, ’is brogues were ripped in tines,
And beside ’is backside was all bare and ’is shirt ’ung out be’ind.
’E’d lost ’is stockings and ’is shoes which grieve`d ’im full sore,
Beside ’is ’at and waistcoat they were all to pieces tore.
Then off the parson scampered ’ome as fast as ’e could run;
The farmer almost split ’is sides with laughing at the fun.
The parson’s wife stood at the door awaitin’ ’is return,
But when she saw ’is awful plight she into the house did run.
‘My dear, what is the matter and where have you been?’ she said.
‘Get out, you slut,’ the parson cried, ‘for I am almost dead!
Go fetch me down a suit of clothes, go fetch ’em down I pray,
And bring me my old greasy wig without any more delay;
And for the usage I’ve received all in that curse`d sty
I nee’r shall relish sucking pig until the day I die.’
To me foller-da-lay, foller-da-lay, foller-da-lero-lay,
Foller-da-lay, foller-da-lay, foller-da-lero-lay.
This is a traditional song
This piece of jollity forms part of a large genre that pokes fun at greed and lust of members of the clergy. Invariably the clergyman comes off worse. The genre goes back beyond print to the times when church appointments were little more than political appointments and the church had as much power to tax as nobility. Several of the Robin Hood ballads involve him tricking greedy clergymen. The tithes collected by the clergy were for centuries a cause for discontent among farmers and they reached a peak in the 1830s. There were many songs on this exact theme printed on broadsides, Parson and Pig, Preaching for Bacon, The Parson Outwitted and others on a similar theme such as Parson and Hodge’s Son and Parson Brown’s Sheep. Even today stories of clergymen who stray from the straight and narrow are pounced upon by the modern day equivalents of the broadside press, the tabloids.
This ballad was oft-printed on broadsides from London up to Newcastle, the earliest probably being those from the early nineteenth century presses of Pitts and Catnach in London.
The song, though not common in oral tradition, was found by Alfred Williams in the Thames Valley and versions were collected in Devon and Sussex in the late nineteenth century. The tune used in Yorkshire is a variant of the well-known Washing Day. Arthur Howard, Will’s source yet again for this song, specialized in comic songs as he had a relatively gentle voice and didn’t like competing with his contemporaries who sang the raucous hunting songs in the Holmfirth area pubs.