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Rawtenstall Annual Fair

[ Roud 23927 ; Ballad Index LTCSRaAF ; DT RAWTEN ; Mudcat 26442 ; R.P. Weston, Bert Lee]

Rawtenstall Annual Fair is a music hall song written by R.P. Weston and Bert Lee in ca. 1932 and recorded by Randolph Sutton with the title At Rawtenstall Fair in 1932. It is held in great affection by Lancashire folk ever since. It even prompted the people of Rawtenstall to have an annual fair—not something which had existed before the song was written!

Lea Nicholson sang Rawtenstall Annual Fair in 1968 on the Topic anthology of songs and ballads of the industrial North-West, Deep Lancashire. This track was also included in 2009 on Topic’s 70th anniversary compilation, Three Score and Ten. The original album’s booklet noted:

This song is still sung, not only in Rawtenstall but in pubs around the area, and as far away as Oldham. Though local singers don’t seem to know the origin of the song, it has, in fact, been attributed to Lee and Weston, two professional music hall song writers, and was recorded by the famous comedian Randolph Sutton (A copy of this old ‘78’ is in the archives of Rawtenstall Public Library). Rawtenstall Fair is, of course, ‘pure’ music hall in style, but it is so localised it seems odd that it should be written by two London based songwriters. Whether Lee and Weston in fact worked on an original idea supplied by someone else, must be left to conjecture. Lea Nicholson learned this song in what folklorists call the oral tradition.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang The Rawtenstall Annual Fair in 2003 on their Golden Hind album Twiddlum Twaddlum, They noted:

This song is still well known in Lancashire and John learned it as a student at Manchester University in the early 1960s. It was written by the prolific music hall team of Weston & Lee, who also gave us such timeless gems as The Body in the Bag and With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm.


John Roberts and Tony Barrand sing The Rawtenstall Annual Fair

Down behind the gasworks, down in Rawtenstall,
That’s a little town in Lancashire.
Last Saturday night, me and the lads,
Ee by gum we had some reet good cheer.
There was ice creams, switch backs, soda pops, and waxworks,
Figure eights and roundabouts,
We all paid a tanner, and we went in,
And weren’t we all delighted when we heard the showman shout:

“Oh, roll up, roll up, come and see the fat girl,
Half a ton of loveliness and every bit her own.”
Ee, she were a big ’un, with accent on the big,
And all the men with walking sticks went giving her a dig.
Oh, she was classy, talk about a chassis,
So blown up with air I do declare.
Everything were champion, until some silly clown,
Stabbed her with a pin, said the showman with a frown
“All hands to the pumps lads, my vessel’s going down.”
At the Rawtenstall Annual Fair.

“Oh, roll up, roll up, see the House of Mysteries,
Ladies, pay a tanner to be tickled in the dark.”
In went the lads, just to take a peep,
The showman pulled a lever and they landed in a heap.
Oh, down he shot ’em, straight to the bottom,
Frills and bows was everywhere to see.
There weas shouting, screaming, everything was rife,
I saw some funny things I’ve never seen in all my life,
I saw some funny things I’ve never seen upon the wife,
At the Rawtenstall Annual Fair.

“Oh, roll up, roll up, come and see the mermaid,
See the lovely lady, half a woman, half a fish.”
In went the lads, to see it were no swank,
And little Tommy Higgins put some whisky in the tank.
Oh, she got frisky, swimming in the whisky,
And when she come up for air,
She bowed to the audience, gave her tail a swish,
Her tail it came off and she really looked delish,
She said, “What do you fancy lads, a bit of meat, or fish?”
At the Rawtenstall Annual Fair.

“Oh, roll up, roll up, see the tattoed lady,
See the lovely lady with the pictures on her skin.”
In went the lads and they began to cheer,
For tattooed on her skin was all the towns of Lancashire.
There was Adstall Bottom, Manchester City,
The town hall was standing in the square.
There was Oldham, Bolton, Ashton-under-Lyne,
Coal pit up at Bardsley was looking mighty fine,
When someone shouted, “Daddy, don’t go down the mine!”
At the Rawtenstall Annual Fair.