Come, ladies and gentlemen, and listen unto me,
I’ll sing you a song of the north count(h)ry;
In a village near to Whitby town a tailor yance did dwell,
And women, wine and company, why ‘e loved ‘em all right well.
At a dance ya New Year’s Evening the tailor did attend,
Ah’m sure that ‘e would nivver ‘a’ gone if ‘e could ‘a’ seen the end;
That poor little tailor, why ‘e’ll ne’er forget that night,
For nivver yet was tailor seen in sike a sorry plight.
‘E danced an’ ‘e sang, ‘e ‘ad whisky monny’s the tot,
The jolly little tailor was the merriest of the lot;
To the lady ‘e was dancin’ with, the tailor then declared,
“If you lend me your petticoats I’ll dance like a maid.”
Oh, ‘is britches ‘e put off and ‘er petticoat put on,
The maid, the tailor’s britches then, she quickly did adorn;
Oh, the fiddler ‘e played for them a merry, merry tune,
She danced ‘is money, watch and britches clean out of the room.
“Oh, bring me me britches back!” the tailor loud did bawl,
“Oh, bring me me britches back, me money, watch and all!”
For the company there assembled, with laughter they did roar,
The little tailor’s petticoat fell down upon the floor.
“O, Lord,” said the tailor, “wherivers thou may be,
O, Lord,” said the tailor then, “take pity now on me!”
What to do the little tailor then ‘e really did not know,
For ‘is little shet was far too short to cover all below.
‘Twas then the fiddler played a tune for all that ‘e was woth;
The tune ‘e played the tailor was the famous ‘Cock o’ the North’.
All the ladies were delighted and the’ loudly shouted, “No!”
When the tailor took ‘is t(h)rilby ‘at to cover Uncle Joe.
When at last the little tailor then got out upon the street,
A bevy of fair damsels then ‘e chanced for to meet;
The ladies screamed with laughter when the tailor did appear,
And ‘e wished ‘em Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
That poor little tailor, those ladies did address,
Ses ‘e, “It is not ladylike to laugh at man’s distress,"
Ses the ladies to the tailor then, “Give us nae mair o’ that,
If you call yourself a gentleman why don’t you raise your hat?”
In that village near to Whitby town there’s ord men livin’ yet,
They’ll tell you of that famous dance, they nivver will forget,
Those ladies they will tell to you the dance they loved the best
Was the dance the little tailor then showed off ‘is cuckoo’s nest.
That jolly little tailor, from that day unto this,
Of women, wine and company, why, ‘e’s given ‘em all a miss.
At a dance the little tailor then, you nivver more will catch,
Since the woman pinched ‘is britches and ‘is money and ‘is watch.
This is a traditional song
Here is an intriguing song and indeed an intriguing version of it. Not known on broadsides and very scarce in oral tradition, it has become very popular in the more broadminded folk revival of the second half of the twentieth century. Ironically one of its more celebrated singers, Martin Carthy, now lives a couple of miles away from Littlebeck in Robin Hood’s Bay. Our earliest surviving records of it are two versions from Dorset found in the Hammond Brothers’ song collection, and two versions from Hampshire in the Gardiner Collection, all four collected in the first decade of the twentieth century and now deposited in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.
The two Dorset versions were collated by Frank Purslow and published in the EFDS publication ‘Marrowbones’ (p87) in 1965. They consisted of a five stanza version from Jacob Baker of Bere Regis and two stanzas (equal to 1 and 3 of Baker’s) from Robert Barratt of Piddletown. They differ significantly and are markedly different to the Yorkshire version. One presumes the Hampshire versions differ just as much, as they are titled ‘The Sailor’s Trousers’. The existence of a few markedly different versions usually suggests a song that was once popular and that it had existed in oral tradition for some time prior to its collection.
To illustrate the point made above, here is Baker’s first stanza largely used by Purslow in his collation
Have you ever heard the tale of the tailor of late,
Who live`d at the inn called The Ram and the Gate,
The Ram and the Gate is the place where he did dwell,
For women, wine and company he loved exceeding well.
It’s of a brisk young tailor O! never, never tell,
He live`d at the sign called The Roving Nightingale,
Called The Roving Nightingale, this tailor he did dwell,
And it’s wine and women’s company he loves very well.
There is some confusion as to whether the tune Hammond transcribed and Purslow used is Baker’s or Barratt’s.
The version sung here which more than doubles the length of any other surviving version, derives from the singing of Arthur Wood of Littlebeck, three miles south of Whitby. Currently the recordings of Arthur Wood made in 1960 and 1962 are not available to us so we have recorded Littlebeck farmer John Greaves, a celebrated singer in the local dialect who keeps alive many of the old songs of the Esk valley.
Arthur Wood certainly wrote his own songs and no doubt put his own stamp on some of the traditional songs he sang. He claimed that he had written the song and that it told of a true event. Whether he localized this song and filled the story out with his own ideas we shall probably never know, but either way it makes a splendid comic song.