> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > The Devil and the Ploughman
> Waterson:Carthy > Songs > The Devil and the Farmer

The Farmer’s Curst Wife / The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife / The Devil and the Ploughman / Kellyburn Braes / Lily Bulero

[ Roud 160 ; Master title: The Farmer’s Curst Wife ; Child 278 ; G/D 2:320 ; Ballad Index C278 ; The Farmer’s Curst Wife at Fire Draw Near ; Bodleian Roud 160 ; Wiltshire 982 ; Mudcat 17306 ; trad.]

Everyman’s Book of British Ballads Marrow Bones Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs The Folk Handbook The Oxford Book of Ballads The Seeds of Love Room for Company The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs

Ralph Vaughan Williams collected The Devil and the Ploughman in 1903 from Henry Burstow, Horsham, Sussex, and he and A.L. Lloyd included it in 1959 in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. In 1960, A.L. Lloyd recorded it for the album A Selection from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs with concertina accompaniment by Alf Edwards. All tracks from this LP were reissued in 2003 on his Fellside CD England & Her Traditional Songs. Lloyd wrote in the album’s sleeve notes:

The tale of the shrewish wife who terrifies even the demons is ancient and widespread. The Hindus have it in a sixth century fable collection, the Panchatantra. It seems to have travelled westward by Persia, and to have spread to almost every European country. In early versions, the farmer makes a pact with the Devil and hands over his wife in return for a pair of plough oxen. Vaughan Williams got the present ballad from the Horsham shoemaker and bell-ringer, Henry Burstow. Mr Burstow whistled the refrains that in our performance are played by the concertina. Whistling was a familiar way of calling up the Devil (hence the sailors’ dread that whistling may raise a storm).

Bill and Belle Reed sang The Old Lady and the Devil in a 1928 recording that was included in 2015 on the anthology if British songs in the USA, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.

Joe Hubbard of Wise, Virginia, sang The Farmer’s Curst Wife to Herbert Halpert on 6 April 1939. This recording was included in 1978 on the Blue Ridge Institute album in their Virginia Traditions series, Ballads from British Tradition.

Texas Gladden from Salem, Virginia, sang The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife to Alan Lomax in 1946. This recording was included in 2001 on her Rounder anthology Ballad Legacy.

Horton Barker from Chilhowie, Virginia, sang There Was An Old Man (The Farmer’s Curst Wife) in September 1950 to Maud Karpeles, and Mrs J.L. (Leila) Yowell from Charlottesville, Virginia, did it on 5 August 1955. Both recording were included in 2017 on the Musical Traditions anthology of historic recordings of Appalachian singers and musicians, When Cecil Left the Mountains.

Jean Ritchie sang The Little Devils The Little Devils in 1952 on her Elektra album Singing the Traditional Songs of Her Traditional Kentucky Mountain Family and in 1960 on her Folkways album British Traditional Ballads in the Southern Mountains Volume 2. Edward Tatnall Canby noted on the first album:

An age-old humorous tale at the wives’ expense, existing in many variants. This is “Uncle” Jason Ritchie’s version—now in his mid-80s, he was once a celebrated play-party singer and has a fabulous repertory of songs still in his head. Uncle Jason was the sort of veritable walking one-man entertainment that for centuries before the radio astonished the country folk and endeared his type to all. Cecil Sharp collected the very song from Uncle Jason in 1916—but apparently made a mistake in notation; his whistle is a fourth too high, as written down. Sharp had heard of a whistled version, from England, but did not find it until he came to the Ritchies.

And Kenneth Goldstein noted on the second album:

Child summaries this humorous ballad (titled by him The Farmer’s Curst Wife) as follows: “The Devil comes for a farmer’s wife and is made welcome to her by the husband. The woman proves to be no more controllable in Hell than she had been at home; she kicks the imps about, and even brains a set of them with her pattens or a maul. For safety’s sake, the devil is constrained to take her back to her husband.” Child published only two texts of this ballad, but in the numerous variants collected since his time in England and America, the ballad tale has remained exceedingly stable, a comment perhaps on its basic charm and meaning to the folk who have aided its persistence in tradition.

It is probable that in an unreported earlier form of the ballad the farmer made a pact with the devil in order to secure help to plough his fields. In return the devil was to receive the soul of some member of the family. This would explain the wording in stanza two, in which the devil indicates that he is ready to receive a member of the family “now”.

Many variants collected in recent years in England and America end with a humorous philosophic commentary on one of womankind’s most unique virtues. Most versions contain jungling nonsense refrains, or on occasion (as in Jean’s version) a whistled refrain. Jean’s version was learned from her uncle Jason.

Harry Duffy sang Kellyburn Braes to Hamish Henderson at Blairgowrie, Perthshire, in 1954. This recording was included in the 1960s on the Prestige International album Folksongs & Music from the Berryfields of Blair.

Thomas Moran from Mohill, Co Leitrim, sang The Farmer’s Curst Wife to Séamus Ennis in December 1954. This BBC recording 22035 was also included on the anthology The Child Ballads 2 (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 5; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968). The album’s booklet noted:

The motif of the curst wife who was a terror to demons runs through Oriental and European folklore, and it still provokes the laughter of modern audiences. The ballad is still much sung in Britain, and in America it is found in excellent shape and with many engaging tunes. Both men and women enjoy it. It reminds women of the strength of their spiteful anger, if once aroused. For men it conforms to an old and bitter proverb, “There are two places a man wants his wife—in bed, and in the grave.” Probably the song embodies a fragment of an old folk tale theme, in which a man agrees to give the devil a member of his family for some service. Robert Burns re-wrote a version called Kellyburn Braes.

Martha Reid from Birnam, Perthshire, sang The Farmer’s Curst Wife to Maurice Fleming in 1955 (SA 1955.051.A5). This recording was included in 2011 on the Greentrax anthology of field recordings of the 1950s, Songs and Ballads from Perthshire (Scottish Tradition 24). The album’s booklet noted:

This is a version of The Farmer’s Curst Wife (Child 278). Bronson (vol. 4, p. 211) gives a version recorded by Hamish Henderson from Willie MacPhee, Blairgowrie, and transcribed by Francis Collinson.

Dominic Behan sang The Women Are Worse Than the Men in 1959 on his Topic album Down by the Liffeyside. He noted:

This jaunty ballad, common all over the British Isles and the U.S.A. enshrines a libel against womankind the origins of which, are lost in the mists of antiquity but which comes with perennial freshness from the lips of male singers. A classical lady who went to Hell and came back again was Alcestis; but her errand was to fetch home her husband. She is no relation of the virago of this song. Some versions have a whistled refrain, perhaps a relic of the ancient superstition that whistling summons the devil.

The Reivers sang Kellyburn Braes on their 1960 EP The Work of The Reivers Volume 2. The liner notes commented:

The tale of the wife whose temper was too hot even for Hell to hold is found all over the English-speaking world. In America it is known as The Farmer’s Cursed Wife: it is found in England and it has frequently been attributed to Burns, who certainly collected it. The Reivers use the Irish chorus form.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife on the 1963 Decca album Edinburgh Folk Festival Vol. 1.

Roy Guest sang Kellyburn Braes at a folk concert in Edinburgh that was released in 1964 on the Waverley album The Hoot’nanny Show Volume 2.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang The Devil and the Ploughman on the 1966 Australian album A Wench, a Whale and a Pint of Good Ale.

Willy McPhee sang The Devil He Cam tae the Man at the Ploo at the Kinross Festival in September 1975. This recording was included in the following year on the Springthyme festival anthology Scots Songs and Music 2.

Margaret Dunne sang There Was an Old Woman from Conner in Hell at her home in Bellanagh, Co Cavan, on 12 November 1971 to Tom Munnelly. This recording was included in 1985 on the Folk Music Society of Ireland anthology Early Ballads in Ireland 1968-1985, reissued on CD in 2015 by An Goílín.

Hobert Stallard from Waterloo, Ohio, sang The Devil and the Farmer to Mark Wilson and Annadeene Fraley on 29 August 1973. This recording was included in 2007 on the Musical Traditions anthology of folk songs of the Upper South, Meeting’s a Pleasure Volume 1.

Nimrod Workman from Chattaroy, West Virginia, sang The Devil and the Farmer to Mike Wilson and Ken Irvin in March 1976. This recording was released in the same year on his Rounder album, Mother Jones’ Will, which was reissued in 2011 on Musical Traditions. Rod Stradling noted:

This old humorous song (Child: The Farmer’s Curst Wife) is extremely popular in America and pops up in a wide variety of settings, including versions with whistling refrains (see Hobert Stallard, and his daughter Nova Baker on Rounder 8047). Horton Barker’s Library of Congress version (which resembles the 78 recording by Bill and Belle Reed) is justly celebrated (a later version appears on Folkways 2362). Texas Gladden and Jean Ritchie supply nice versions on Rounder 1800 [Ballad Legacy] and Folkways 2302 [British Traditional Ballads in the Southern Mountains Volume 2] respectively.

Brian Dewhurst sang Lillibulero in 1977 on his Fellside album Follow That With Your Sea Lions. This family of songs pairs lyrics from The Farmer’s Curst Wife with the melody and chorus of William of Orange’s marching tune Lillibullero.

Alfred ‘Fred’ Welfare recited The Farmer’s Wife to Mike Yates at his farm in North Chailey, Lewes, Sussex in 1977. This recording was included in 2015 on the Musical Traditions anthology I Wish There Was No Prisons. Mike Yates noted:

A.L. Lloyd traced this ancient piece to the 6th century collection of fables, The Panchatantra, and suggested that this tale of the shrewish wife who terrified the Devil spread to Europe via what was then the Persian Empire. Fred Welfare’s father had written the text out on a piece of paper, together with the additional ‘Epitaph’, and Fred had always known the piece as a poem, rather than as a song. Some singers, including old Henry Burstow of Horsham in Sussex, would whistle a refrain, while others stamped their feet, these actions being used to scare away the Devil, should he be listening in on the song. (In other ballads, singers would list magical herbs in the refrain—Parsley,sage, rosemary and thyme, for example—as another way of protecting the singer and his/her audience from evil.

Roger Nicholson played Lillibulero on the 1978 Transatlantic The Leader Tradition album The Dulcimer Players.

Walter Pardon sang The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife at home in Knapton, Norfolk, to Mike Yates on 26 June 1978. This recording was released in 1982 on his Topic album A Country Life. It was also included in 2000 on his Topic anthology A World Without Horses and in 2009 on Topic’s 70th anniversary anthology, Three Score and Ten. Mike Yates noted on the original album:

Walter regards The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife as little more than a humorous song, although his text—similar to that printed as The Sussex Farmer by John Pitts in the early 1800s—tells basically the same story as one recorded in a 6th century Hindu collection The Panchatantra. Perhaps at one time the farmer had made a pact with the Devil—a promise of help in exchange for a member of his family?—and there is certainly more to the song than is first apparent. Some singers have a whistled refrain—possibly as a charm against mentioning “Old Nick” by name.

Other recorded versions can be heard sung by Ted Ashlaw of New York State, by Thomas Moran of Co. Leitrim, and Nimrod Workman.

Maggie Murphy sang Killyburn Brae to Keith Summers in 1979. This recording was included in 1996 on her Veteran CD Linkin’ O’er the Lea and in 2004 on the Musical Traditions anthology The Hardy Sons of Dan. Rod Stradling noted:

A version of the well-known ballad of The Farmer’s Curst Wife, which gets 233 Roud entries, although most are from North America. Robert Burns composed the ballad of Killyburnbraes from the older ballad version. Maggie is one of only five named singers from Ireland. Eddie Butcher, of Magilligan, had a version, and Séamus Ennis sang it. Hugh Shields recorded it in Antrim and Derry, and a version sung by Margaret Dunne of Bellanagh, Co Cavan can be heard on the European Ethnic cassette Early Ballads in Ireland 1968-1985.

It was fortunate that Keith recorded it, as Maggie rarely sings it nowadays. This version is not unlike that which was issued on 78 in the 1930s by Richard Heyward.

Frankie Armstrong sang The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife on her 1980 album And the Music Plays So Grand. She noted:

Some women have been offended at the sentiments expressed in this ancient song. However I think this is to misunderstand the origins and context of the song. The theme of the “harrowing of hell” appears in many heroic legends, from Hercules to the heroine of this ballad. Only the most resourceful and indestructible can succeed in the task. This version comes from the United States.

Fiddler’s Dram (the future Oysterband) sang The Farmer’s Cursed Wife on 1980 on their eponymous Dingle’s album Fiddler’s Dram.

Barry Dransfield sang Lily Bulero in 1994 on his CD Be Your Own Man. He noted:

I heard this from Joe Skeaping, a wonderful early music player, in a Mayfair restaurant in the seventies. The song has Celtic connections in the lyrics and is more usually heard from the Irish (The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife). The tune is reckoned to have been William of Orange’s marching tune as he came up from Cornwall.

Alan Reid sang Kellyburn Braes on the 1996 Linn anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 1.

Hector Gilchrist and Liz Thomson sang Kelly Burn Braes in 1996 on their WildGoose album The Lea Rig. He noted:

This version of the old traditional humorous tale was published in The Scots Musical Museum in 1792. It is to be found in various forms throughout the British Isles.

Roy Harris sang Lillibulero in 1997 on the extended CD reissue of his 1977 Fellside album of “life in the lower ranks 1750-1900 through soldiers’ songs”, The Rambling Soldier.

Martin Carthy sang The Devil and the Farmer in 2002 on Waterson:Carthy’s fourth album, A Dark Light. He noted:

The Copper Family, Packie Manus Byrne, Séamus Ennis, Sam Larner, Almeda Riddle, Cecil Sharp and A.L. Lloyd, who, in this case, co-produced The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, were some of the people who had a profound effect on one or other of us at some stage in our musical lives, and, in part, this CD reflects that involvement. In the end all our choices wouldn’t fit on to one balanced CD and there were glum faces at the end of the sessions. But, since everybody lost something, we ended up sort of happy.

For myself, there were two people in the late 1950s whose unforgettable wildly different performances—one at the Troubadour Folk Club in Earl’s Court and the other at Ewan MacColl’s Ballads and Blues Club in the upstairs room of a pub in the Edgware Road (the name of which I can’t remember)—decided for me the musical direction which my life was going to take. That pub, close to the old Metropolitan Theatre, may lie buried along with that famous theatre under the flyover which leads on to the M40 westway, but the memory will never, ever fade. The people I’m talking about are Séamus Ennis, whose version of The Devil and the Farmer starts this CD off, and Sam Larner, whose mighty telling of the Henry Martin story in Lofty Tall Ship was probably the single moment that ensured—bewildered though I was by what I thought of at the time at its baffling tune—that this music would embed its hooks into me for life.

Brian Peters sang The Farmer’s Curst Wife in 2008 on his album of Child ballads, Songs of Trial and Triumph. He noted:

The Farmer’s Curst Wife is another comic ballad, with modern interpreters like Frankie Armstrong giving a feminist slant to what might otherwise have been an archetypal ‘scolding wife’ tale—it’s always gone down well when I’ve performed it in schools, not only with the children but also with female staff who seem to relish the misandrist brutality. My version is from Horton Barker, a lightly-toned, melodious singer from Virginia who had several old ballads in his repertoire; I’ve been singing it so long that I decided to stick with it, rather than learn an English version for this album. Besides, most of the English ones require some whistling, which is a big no-no in my book. My arrangement here features that musical Dream Ticket, duetting accordion and banjo.

Crucible sang The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife in 2003 on their WildGoose album Changeling. They noted:

Our reworking of Child Ballad 278, The Farmer’s Curst Wife. Jess [Arrowsmith] and Helena [Reynolds] found this one and liked it for the story, especially the sentiment in the final verse…

Cath & Phil Tyler sang the Devil Song on their 2008 CD Dumb Supper.

Jon Boden sang Lillibulero as the 19 May 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He also sang it in 2012 on Bellowhead’s CD Broadside and n 2016 on their CD and DVD, The Farewell Tour.

Hannah James and Sam Sweeney sang The Farmer’s Cursed Wife in 2012 on their RootBeat CD State and Ancientry.

Kim Lowings sang Devil and the Ploughman on her 2012 CD This Life.

Jackie Oates sang The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife on her 2015 CD The Spyglass & the Herringbone.

The Shackleton Trio sang Devil and the Farmer’s Wife on their 2016 CD The Dog Who Would Not Be Washed. They also sang it in the same year in the Netherlands Live at De Melkbus and in 2020 on their Live EP with Alden Patterson and Dashwood.

Donna Ray Norton sang The Farmer’s Curst Wife on the 2017 Appalachian ballad tradition anthology Big Bend Killing.

Compare to this the loosely related The Devil and the Feathery Wife sung by Martin Carthy on his album Out of the Cut. Both feature the farmer, his wife and the devil but the stories turn into quite different ways.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings The Devil and the Ploughman

There was an old farmer in Sussex did dwell,
And he’d a bad wife as many knew well,
To me fal-de-ral little law-day.

The devil he come to the old man at plough,
Saying, “One of your family I must have now,”
To me fal-de-ral little law-day.

“Now it isn’t for you nor yet for your son,
But that scolding old wife as you’ve got at home.”

“Oh take her, oh take her with all of me heart,
And I wish she and you never more part.”

So the devil he took the old wife on his back,
And lugged her along like a pedlar’s pack.

He trudged along till he reached his front gate,
Says, “Here, take in an old Sussex chap’s mate.”

There was thirteen imps all dancing in chains,
She up with her pattens and beat our their brains.

Well, two more little devils jumped over the wall,
Saying, “Turn her out, father, she’ll murder us all.”

So he bundled her up on his back again,
And to her old husband he took her again.

“Well, I’ve been a tormentor the whole of me life,
But I was never tormented till I met your wife.”

And now to conclude and make an end,
You see that the women is worse than the men:

If they get sent to hell, they get kicked back again,
To me fal-de-ral little law-day.

Jean Ritchie sings Little Devils

There was an old man, he lived near hell,
    (whistle)
He had a little farm and upon it did dwell,
    Sing hi oh rattle ding day.

“Oh the devil come to him one day at his plough,
There’s one in your family I have to have now.

“Oh it’s neither your son nor your daughter I crave,
It’s your old scoldin’ wife and it’s her I must have.”

So he hobbest her up all on his back,
And like a bold pedlar went a-packin’ his pack.

As they drew near the high gates of hell,
Said, “Rake back the coals, boys, and we’ll roast her well.”

Oh two little devils come a-rattlin’ their chains,
She hauled back her cudgel and knocked out their brains.

Two more little devils peeped over the door,
She hauled back her cudgel, killed ninety-nine more.

Two more little devils peeped over the wall,
Said, “Take her back daddy or she’ll kill us all!”

So he hobbest her up all on his back,
And like a bold pedlar went a-packin’ her back.

“Here’s your old scoldin’ wife and it’s her I won’t have,
She ain’t fit for Heaven, she shan’t stay in Hell.”

Ob it’s seven years goin’ and seven a-comin’ back,
She called for the ’baccer she left in the crack.

Ob the women they are so much better than men,
When they go to hell they get sent back again.

Thomas Moran sings The Farmer’s Curst Wife

I know an old couple that lives near hell,
    (whistle)
And if they didn’t leave it they’re living there still.
    With me whack-fol-dye-fol-iggiddy-fol-the-dol-ee

The devil he came to the man at the plough,
Saying, “I’ve come for some of your family now.”

“Oh, which of me family do you like best?”
“Oh, your scolding wife, it is her I like best.”

“Take her away with all me heart,
And that you and her may never come back.”

He got this old woman right up on his back,
And a pedlar was never more proud of his pack.

[He carried her on to a heap of stones
And he left her down there and he stamped on her bones.]

[He carried her on till he came to Hook Hill,
And she cried as much tears as would turn a mill.]

He carried her on till he came to Hell’s wall,
And she up with her fist and flattened them all.

Eight little devils come down, to put her into a sacks,
And she up with her critch and broke nine of their backs.

The devil was looking across the wall,
Oh, sayin’, “Take her away or she’ll murder us all.”

She was seven years goin’ and seven more comin’ back,
And she’s called for the scrapings she left in the pot.

Martha Reid sings The Farmer’s Curst Wife

There was an old woman who had
    Twice fal-al twice fal-al-a-day
She’s been seven years gone and seven coming
    Twice fal-al-ar-day twice fal-aa.

She asked for the coal stone and she left in the pot, oh ma
    Twice fal-al-a-day twice fal-aa
She was too good for Heaven and too bad for Hell, an a
    Twice fal-al-a-day twice fal-aa twice fal-ar-a-day-aa.

For seven years gone and seven year mair comin wi a
    Twice fal-al-ar day aa-aa.

For she was too bad for Heaven and too good for Hell, an ma
    Twice fal-al-a day twice fal-al fa-lay
She wid never bide in hell nor yet in heaven, wi a
    Twice fal-al-a day aa-aa.

Seven years gone and seven mair coming
And still she asked the coal stone she left in a pan, oh ma
    Twice fal-al-a-day twice fal-aa.

Hobert Stallard sings The Devil and the Farmer

There was an old man went out to plough (whistle)
Seen the old devil come over the mount.

Chorus (after each verse):
Sing tie-a-rattle-ring-day

He sold his plough and he started to run (whistle)
Says, “The Devil’s right after my oldest son.”

“It ain’t your oldest son I crave (whistle)
It’s your scolding wife and her I’ll have.”

“Oh, take her, old devil, with all of your heart (whistle)
I hope you and her may never part.”

He got her up all on his back (whistle)
Like a jolly coal pedlar came wagging his sack.

He took her in at Hell’s back door (whistle)
Gave her a kick, says, “Go in there.”

Up stepped a little devil a-rattling his chains (whistle)
She upped with a shovel and she beat out his brains.

Nine little odd devils poking their heads over the wall (whistle)
Crying, “Take her back, Pappy, she’s going to kill us all.”

He got her up all on his back (whistle)
Like a jolly coal paddle came wagging her back.

Well, her old husband so sick in bed (whistle)
With her old pewter pipe she beetled his head.

What to do with her, I cannot tell (whistle)
She ain’t fit for hog heaven and just from Hell.

Fred Welfare recites The Farmer’s Wife

There was an old farmer in Sussex did dwell
And he had a bad wife as many knew well.
Old Satan came to the old man at the plough,
Saying, “One of your family I must have now.

“’Tis not your eldest son I crave
But t’is your old wife and she I will have.”
“O welcome, dear Satan, will all my heart,
I hope you and she never more may part.”

Now Satan had got the old wife on his back
And he lugged her away like a pedlar’s pack.
He trudged along till he came to his gate,
“I must take in an old Sussex man’s mate.”

Oh then did she knock the young imps about,
Says one to the other, “Turn the old bag out!”
She spied thirteen imps all dancing in chains,
She up with a pillow and bashed out their brains.
She kicked poor old Satan against a hard wall,
“Turn the old bag out, or she’ll murder us all.”

Then he bundled her up on his back again
And to the old husband he took her again.
“I’ve been a tormentor the whole of my life
But I’ve ne’er been tormented except by your wife.”

Epitaph:

My spouse and I for many a year
Lived man and wife together.
I could no longer keep her here
She’s gone, I know not whither.
In love she was exceeding free,
I purpose not to flatter.
Of all the wives I e’er did see
There’s none like her could chatter.

Her body is disposed of well,
A crusty grave doth hide her.
Her soul I know not, but can tell
Old Nick could not abide her.
Which makes me think she’s gone aloft,
For in that last great thunder
Methought I heard her well-known voice
Renting the clouds asunder.

Walter Pardon sings The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife

It’s of an old farmer as I’ve heard tell,
Had a wicked old wife and he wished her in Hell.

Chorus (after each verse):
𝄆 With me titty-fa-lol, wack fol-the-fol, 𝄇
Titty-fol-laddle-dy, Titty-fol-lol.

The Devil he came to the old man at plough,
Saying, “I want your wife and I’ll take her now.”

“Oh, take my old woman with all my heart.
I hope you and she never will part.”

He shoved the old woman into a sack
And away he went with her slung on his back.

He tipped her out when he came to Hell’s gate,
Saying, “Here’s an old woman who’ll make me a mate.”

And all the young imps they raised up a din,
“Oh, take her away, she’ll do us all in.”

He shoved the old woman into a sack
And to the old farmer he took her straight back.

So ends the story and you’ll all agree
That women are worse than men ever could be.

Maggie Murphy sings Killyburn Brae

For there was an old man about Killyburn Brae.
    Right fol, right fol, tittie fol lay.
There was an old man about Killyburn Brae,
He’d a scolding old wife for the most of his day.
    With me right fol at all, tittie fol lall,
    Fol de lall, lall lall the dol lay.

One day this old man he walked out by the glen,
One day this old man he walked out by the glen.
He met an old Devil saying, “How are you then?”

Now says he, “My old man, I have come for your wife.”
Says he, “My old man, I have come for your wife,
For I hear she’s the plague and torment of your life.”

So the Devil he hoisted her up on his back,
The Devil he hoisted her up on his back,
And away he went with the old dame into Hell.

For now that they land at the Devil’s hall door,
For now that they land at the Devil’s hall door,
He threw her right down with a slap on her face.

There were two little devils now playing at ball,
There were two little devils now playing at ball,
She leapt with her stick and she scattered their brains.

There were two little devils now, climbing a wall
There were two little devils now, climbing a wall,
They said, “Take her away or she’ll kill us all.”

So the Devil, he hoisted her up on his back,
The Devil he hoisted her up on his back,
Nine years going away; seven days coming back.

Now says he, “My old man, here’s your wife safe and well.”
Says he, “My old man, here’s your wife safe and well,
For we wouldn’t keep her, not even in Hell.”

“For I’ve been a Devil the most of my life,
For I’ve been a Devil the most of my life,
But I’ve ne’er been in Hell ’til I met with your wife.”

So it’s true that the women are worse than the men,
It’s true that the women are worse than the men,
For, when they go down to Hell, they get threw out again.

Frankie Armstrong sings The Devil and the Farmer’s Wife

There was an old farmer lived under a hill,
    Oh Daddy be gay
There was an old farmer lived under a hill,
If he ain’t moved away then he’s living there still.
    Daddy be gay and eat candy

One day the old devil he come to his plough,
He says, “One of your family I have to have now.”

The old man cries out, “Then surely I’m done
For the devil has come for my eldest son.”

“It’s not your son or your daughter I crave,
But your old scolding wife that I must take away.”

“Then take her off with all of my heart
And I hope from hell she never will part.”

So the devil he hoisted her up on his back,
And like an old pedlar went packing his sack.

He set her down at the forks of the road,
And he says, “Old woman, you’re a hell of a load.”

He carried her off to the gates of hell,
He says, “Stoke up the coals, we’ll roast her well.”

Two little devils come rattling their chains,
She off with her slipper and out with their brains.

One little devil peeped over the wall
Says, “Take her back daddy, she’ll murder us all.”

The old man was peeking out of the crack,
When he seen the old devil a-wagging her back.

The old woman went whistling over the hill
“If the devil won’t have me I wonder who will!”

This proves that the women are better than men,
They can go down to hell and come straight back again.

Barry Dransfield sings Lily Bulero

There was an old Farmer in Sussex did dwell
  Lily Bulero bullen a lar
He had an old wife and she gave him hell
  Lily Bulero bullen a lar

Chorus (after each verse):
Lero, lero, Lily Bulero, lero, lero bullen a lar
Lero, lero, Lily Bulero, lero, lero bullen a lar

So the devil he came to him at the plough,
“I want your wife and I want her now.”

The devil he hoisted her upon on his hump
And down to hell with her did he jump.

Two little devils were playin’ with chains;
She took up a stick and she knocked out their brains.

Two more devils looked over the wall,
They said, “Take her back or she’ll murder us all.”

So the devil he put her back on his hump
And back to earth with her did he jump.

“Now I’ve been a devil the whole of my life
But I never know hell ’til I met your wife.”

Alan Reid sings Kellyburn Braes

There lived an old man in Kellyburn Braes
    Hey, and the rue grows bonie wi thyme!
And he had a wife was the plague o his days
    And the thyme it is wither’d, and rue is in prime!

Ae day as the carl gaed up the lang glen,
He met wi the Deil, says, “How do you fen?”

“I’ve got a bad wife, sir, that’s a’ my complaint,
For, saving your presence, to her ye’re a saint’”

“It’s neither your stot nor your staig I shall crave,
But gie me your wife, man, for her I must have.”

“O welcome most kindly!” the blythe carl said,
“But if ye can match her ye’re waur than ye’re ca’d.”

The Deil has got the auld wife on his back,
And like a poor pedlar he’s carried his pack.

He’s carried her hame to his ain hallan-door,
Syne bade her gae in for a bitch and a whore.

Then straight he makes fifty, the pick o his band.
Turn out on her guard in the clap o a hand.

The carlin gaed thro them like onie wud bear,
Whae’er she gat hands on cam ne’er her nae mair.

A reekit wee devil looks over the wa’
“O help, maister, help, or she’ll ruin us a’!”

The Deil he swore by the edge o his knife,
He pitied the man that was tied to a wife.

The Deil he swore by the kirk and the bell
He wisnae in wedlock, thank God, but in Hell.

Then Satan has travell’d again wi his pack
And to her auld husband he’s carried her back.

“I hae been a Devil the feck o my life
But ne’er was in Hell till I met wi a wife.”

Waterson:Carthy sing The Devil and the Farmer

Oh there was an old farmer in Sussex he dwelt,
He had an old wife he didn’t love well,
With me whip fol day
Fol lickety dee folder ol dee.

And the devil he came to the farmer at plough,
Say, “One of your family I got to have now,”
With me whip fol day
Fol lickety dee folder ol dee.

“Oh see here, good farmer, I’ve come for your wife,
Ay, she’s the bane and torment to your life.”

“Oh take her, oh take her with all of my heart,
I hope that you and she never shall part.”

So the devil he hoisted her up on his back,
Down to Hell he has gone with a crack.

There were two little devils a-playing with chains,
She upped with her foot, she clattered their brains.

There were two little devils a-playing the ball,
“Oh take her away, father, she’ll murder us all.”

So the devil he hoisted her back on his back,
Down to the farmer he’s come with a crack.

There were nine years going and one coming back,
Down to the farmer he’s come with a crack.

“Oh I’ve been a tormentor for most of my life,
But I never knew how till I met with your wife.”

This shows up that women do better than men,
They go to hell and get sent back again.

Brian Peters sings The Farmer’s Curst Wife

Now there was an old man lived under the hill,
If he ain’t moved away he’s living there still.

Chorus (after each verse):
Hi, diddle-aye diddle-aye fie
Diddle-aye diddle-aye day

He took out his horse and began to plough
But how he got around he didn’t know how.

Now the Devil he came to his house one day,
Says, “Your old wife I’m gonna take away.”

“Take her on, take her on, with all of my heart
I hope, by golly, that you’ll never part.”

So the Devil took the old woman up on his back,
The old man says, “Don’t you ever bring her back”

Now they hadn’t gone half a mile down the road
When the old Devil says, “You’re a hell of a load.”

Now when they got to the gates of Hell,
He says, “Punch up the fire, we’re gonna toast her well.”

So the Devil built the flames up higher and higher,
She up with her foot and kicked him in the fire.

There were three little devils a-rattling their chains,
She up with a hatchet and split out their brains.

There were nine more devils a-running through the hall,
They says, “Take her back Daddy, she’s a murderin’ us all!”

Now the old man was peeping out of a crack
When he saw the Devil come a-wagging her back.

She found the old man sick in his bet,
She upped with the butter-stick and beat him on the head.

That shows you what a woman can do,
She can outwit the Devil and her old man too.

And that’s one advantage women have over men
They can go down to Hell, they can come back again.

The Shackleton Trio sing Devil and the Farmer’s Wife

There was an old man at the top of the hill
If he ain’t moved away, he’s livin’ there still.

Chorus (after each verse):
Hi, diddle-aye diddle-aye fie
Diddle-aye diddle-aye day

The Devil came to the farmer one day,
“One of your family I’m gonna take away.”

“Please don’t take my eldest son,
There’s work on the farm that’s gotta be done.”

“All I want ’s that wife of yours.”
“You can have her with all of my heart.”

So the devil put the women upon his back,
Went up down the road with a clickety clack.

He put her down at a fork in the road,
“By God, woman, you’re one hell of a load.”

Well he got to the gates of hell,
Said, “Stoke up the fire, boys, we’ll roast her well.”

One little devil along he came,
She upped with her foot and kicked out his brain.

Two little devils crawling up the wall,
“Take her back, daddy, she’ll murder us all.”

The Farmer upped and peeked out a crack,
“Oh my god he’s a bringing her back!”

Then the devil said, “I hope you’re well,
If I’d kept her any longer, she’d have ruined hell.

“I’ve been a devil most of all my life
But I never been in hell till I met your wife.”

This shows just what women can do,
She went down to hell, came back up too.