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Four-Loom Weaver

[ Roud 937 ; Ballad Index DTfourlo ; Bodleian Roud 937 ; trad.]

This is a ballad about the economic crisis of 1819-20 where many handloom weavers lost their work due to the rise of steam driven weaving machines. Ewan MacColl learned this song from Mrs. Whitehead, near Oldham, in Lancashire. He sang the first three verses of the lyrics below in a 1951 recording by Alan Lomax that can be found on the CD World Library of Folk and Primitive Music: England.

A.L. Lloyd sang this song with the title The Poor Cotton Wayver in 1963 on the album of industrial ballads, The Iron Muse.

Maddy Prior and June Tabor sang Four-Loom Weaver a cappella in 1976 on their album Silly Sisters. Tan Yows learned it from this album and recorded it in 2012 for their CD Undipped.

Roy Bailey sang Four-Loom Weaver on the 1992 Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented in the album's liner notes:

Roy is usually associated with songs of political and social comment. It is fitting, therefore, that he should sing one of the classic industrial ballads here. It was collected by Ewan MacColl from one Becket Whitehead of Delph, near Oldham, Lancashire. It dates from around the time of the Battle of Waterloo when handloom weavers' wages fell considerably. Roy is a highly distinctive and compelling performer who sings with great conviction.

Stick in the Wheel sang Four-Loom Weaver on their 2014 EP Bones.

A related ballad is A.L. Lloyd's and Steeleye Span's The Weaver and the Factory Maid.

Lyrics

Maddy Prior and June Tabor sing Four-Loom Weaver

I'm a four-loom weaver as many a one knows;
I've nowt to eat and I've worn out me clothes.
My clogs are both broken and stockings I've none;
You'd scarce give me tuppence for owt I've gotten on.

Old Billy o't' Bent he kept telling me long
We might have better times if I'd nobbut hold my tongue.
I've holden me tongue till I've near lost my breath
And I feel in me own heart I'll soon clem to death.

I'm a four-loom weaver as many a one knows;
I've nowt to eat and I've worn out me clothes.
Old Billy's awreet, he never were clemmed
And he never picked o'er in his life.

We held on for six weeks, thought each day were the last;
We've tarried and shifted till now we're quite fast.
We lived upon nettles while nettles were good
And Waterloo porridge was the best of ours food.

I'm a four-loom weaver as many a one knows;
I've nowt to eat and I've worn out me clothes.
Me clogs are both broken, no looms to weave on,
And I've woven meself to far end.