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Droylsden Wakes

[ Roud 3290 ; Ballad Index VWL036 ; VWML LEB/5/160 ; DT DROYLSDN ; Mudcat 17307 ; trad.]

Karl Dallas: One Hundred Songs of Toil Ralph Vaughan Williams, A.L. Lloyd: The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs

Allan Bates of Droylsden, Lancashire, sang Droylsden Wakes to Anne Gilchrist in an undated performance. This version was printed in 1959 in Vaughan Williams’ and Lloyd’s The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, which commented:

This Lancashire dialogue song was once associated with a folk ceremonial attached to the local ‘wakes’ or annual holiday. The custom was for two men in comic dress, one of them travestied as a woman, to sit in a cart with a spinning-wheel before them, spinning flax as they sang the song, and collecting money from onlookers. The ceremonial may go back to ancient times, though it does not seem to have reached Droylsden until early in the nineteenth century. The tune is of the primitive sort often used for wassails, May Day songs and other festive ceremonial purposes. There is some doubt whether the refrain means ‘Tread the wheel’ or ‘Thread ye well’. A description of the ceremonial, with a text of the song, is in John Harland’s Ballads and Songs of Lancashire (1865).

Ewan MacColl sang Droylsden Wakes in 1958 on his Topic album Second Shift. This track was also included in 1964 on his Topic album Steam Whistle Ballads. The liner notes quote A.L. Lloyd who wrote that the song

belonged originally to a Wakes custom, in which two spinners, one dressed as a woman, sat in a cart, going through the motions of spinning, singing the song (originally in dialogue form), and collecting from the onlookers. It is usually presumed that the ‘Threedywell’ meant ‘thread the wheel’ or ‘tread the wheel’, but it may be mere onomatopoeia.


Allan Bates sings Droylsden Wakes

It’s Droylsden Wakes, an’ we’re comin’to town,
To tell you of sommat of great renown;
An’ if this owd jade’ll let me begin,
Aw’ll show you how hard an’ how fast Aw can spin,

Chorus (after each verse):
So it’s threedywell, threedywell, dan dum dill doe,
So it’s threedywell, threedywell, dan dum dill doe.

Thou brags of thysel, but Aw dunno’ think it’s true,
For Aw will uphold thee, thy faults aren’t a few,
For when thou has done, an’ spun very hard,
Of this Aw’m well sure, thy work is ill-marred.

Thou saucy owd jade, thou’d best howd thy tongue,
Or else Aw’ll be thumpin’ thee ere it be long,
An’ if ’at Aw do, thou’rt sure for to rue,
For Aw can ha’ mony a one’s good as you.

What is it to me who you can have?
Aw shanno’ be long ere Aw’m laid i’ my grave,
An’ when ’at Aw’m dead, an’ ha’ done what Aw can.
’You may find one ’at’ll spin as hard as Aw’ve done.