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The Battle With the Ladle / A Rich Old Miser

[ Roud 1004 ; Laws Q7 ; Ballad Index LQ07 ; trad.]

Peggy Seeger sang a Rich Old Man in 1962 on her Topic EP Troubled Love. Angela Carter noted on the album's sleeve:

A caustic version of the potentially tragic situation of a young girl and an old husband. In this song the young wife is triumphant. It appears in Ballads and Songs of Southern Michigan by Gardner and Chickering.

Cath and Phil Tyler sang Ladle and played the tune Richmond on Stick in the Wheel's 2019 anthology From Here: English Folk Field Recordings Volume 2. They noted:

In the Traditional American Folk Songs book, from Anne and Frank Warner, it's called The Battle With the Ladle, that's the long version but I usually just call it Ladle. It's called the Rich Old Miser as well because of the first line. We did it because we've never recorded it and also it was quite an early one of Cath's I heard her do. At the time we never took it any further, then a week ago we decided to put this song together with the Richmond tune. I've known the song a while but it's in our common language, though we never performed it, but in that book, there's a few hundred songs, some of the songs we know how they go, having heard Jeff Warner sing them, or messed about with them, or heard the field recordings. The tune's a bit like the The White Cockade, Dick Gaughan did a version o The Red Flag and Billy Bragg, it’s not quite the same, but it’s familiar. I've done it solo and in a duo. The lady wallops her fella, and people laugh, but they sometimes get grumpy at Wether's Skin when it's the other way round. These things happen in real life, if you sing a song about it. it's a warning to everybody maybe. We're not laughing at it—it's a moral tale, a cautionary tale.

Lyrics

Cath and Phil Tyler sing The Battle With the Ladle

A rich old miser married me,
His age it was threescore and three.
My age it was but seventeen,
I wish that rogue I never had seen!

If from home that I should go,
To see a friend, a friend or so,
If any man should speak to me
'Twould much arouse his jealousy.

Those bitter griefs I could not bear,
And so one morning, I do declare,
As he was sleeping in his bed
With my ladle I rapped on his head.

He jumped up like brave men stout
And 'round the house he ran about,
But not a single moment's rest
Until that rogue I had well dressed.

He got down upon his knees
And vowed he never would me displease.
My old man I did subdue
With my ladle—and so may you.

So all young girls about to wed
Listen to the words I've said:
Don't be abused by any man
And always have a ladle on hand.