> Folk Music > Songs > The Wark o’ the Weavers

The Wark o’ the Weavers

[ Roud 374 ; Ballad Index FSWB127 ; DT WORKWEAV ; Mudcat 73493 ; David Shaw (†1856)]

Norman Buchan and Peter Hall: The Scottish Folksinger Karl Dallas: One Hundred Songs of Toil Peggy Seeger, Ewan MacColl: The Singing Island

Ewan MacColl sang The Wark of the Weavers in 1957 on his Topic album of industrial folk ballads Shuttle and Cage. This track was also included in 1964 on his Topic album Steam Whistle Ballads and in 2014 on the anthology of “gems from the Topic Vaults 1954-1962”, Vigilante Man. The original album’s liner notes commented:

The handloom weaver, while carrying his finished products to the nearest centre of commerce, often covered considerable distances and the only relief from the rigors of the road was to be found in the weavers’ howffs (poor inns). Here over a glass of ‘tupenny’, a man could exchange gossip, talk politics, boast of his conquests and roar out his defiance of a world seemingly bent on starving him. This song belongs to the period of nearly 200 years ago, when weaving was changing from a handicraft to an industry. Originally from Kincardineshire, it is widely sung throughout the Southern and Eastern regions of Scotland.

The Reivers sang The Wark o’ the Weavers on their 1959 EP The Work of The Reivers.

John Mearns sang The Work o’ the Weavers in ca 1964 on his EP John Mearns Sings Another Five Scottish Folk-Songs.

Nigel Denver sang The Work of the Weavers on his 1967 Decca album Rebellion!.

Cilla Fisher and Artie Trezise sang The Wark o’ the Weavers in 1976 on their eponymous Autogram album Cilla Fisher and Artie Trezise. Cilla’s sister Ray Fisher sang Wark o’ the Weavers, accompanied by John Kirkpatrick on button accordion, in 1991 on her Saydisc album Traditional Songs of Scotland. Her album’s sleeve notes commented:

Here, in song, is a comprehensive list of reasons why the weaving trade provided an indispensable service to all mankind. Throughout the traditional repertoire you will come across songs which extol the merits on innumerable trades. Although mechanism and technology have reduced the numbers presently employed within the weaving trade, the reasons provided by this rousing song are still valid to-day.

Ed Miller sang The Wark o’ the Weavers in 1989 on his Folk-Legacy album Border Background. He noted:

If you’ve ever lived through a Scottish winter (or summer, for that matter), you’ll appreciate the necessity of warm clothing. This song boasts of the vital importance of weavers, as without their product no one could survive.

This song first appeared in Ford’s Vagabond Songs, credited to David Shaw of Forfar, and is probably of early 19th century vintage.

I first heard it from Robin Hall and Jimmie McGregor, sometime in the distant past.

Kay Thompson sang The Wark o’ the Weavers in 2016 on the DVD celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the TMSA, 101 Scottish Songs: The Wee Red Book.


Ray Fisher sings Wark o’ the Weavers

We’re a’ met thegither here tae sit and tae crack,
Wi’ oor glasses in oor hands and oor wark upon oor back.
There’s no’ a trade amang them a’ could either mend or mak
If it wisnae for the wark o’ the weavers.

Gin it wisnae for the weavers, what would we do?
We wadnae hae clatih made o’ oor woo’,
We wadnae hae a coat, na, neither black nor blue,
Gin it wisnae for the wark o’ the weavers.

Now the hireman chiels they mock us and crack aye aboots,
They say that we are thin-faced, bleached like cloots,
And yet for a’ their mockery they canna dae withoots,
Na they winna want the wark o’ the weavers.

There’s them that’s independent o’ ither tradesmen’s work,
The women need nae barber, the dykers need nae clerk,
But nane o’ them can dae wi’oot a coat or a sark,
Aye they a’ need the wark o’ the weavers.

Now oor joiners and oor slaters, oor glaziers and a’,
Oor doctors and oor menisters and them that lead by law,
And oor freends in Sooth Americay, tho’ them we never saw,
Yet we ken they wear the wark o’ the weavers.

Oor sodgers and oor sailors, we ken they’re a’ bold,
But, faith, if they had nae claes they couldnae fecht for cold,
The high and low, the rich and poor, a’body young or old,
Aye they a’ wear the wark o’ the weavers.

Noo weavin’ is a trade that never can fail,
As lang as we need aye cloot tae keep a body hale,
Sae let us a’ get merry ower a bicker o’ gud ale,
And drink tae the health o’ the weavers.