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The Molecatcher

[ Roud 1052 ; Ballad Index K206 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd recorded The Molecatcher in 1966 for his album The Best of A.L. Lloyd, accompanied by Alf Edwards on concertina. Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

This sly song of the biter bit amused the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams who noted some fine versions of it in Norfolk. Two folklorish parsons, Baring-Gould and Fleetwood Sheppard heard it on bleak Dartmoor and it struck them as “very gross”, so they wrote new words to it that have none of the wit and pungency of the original. Their version may be found in Songs of the West. Our version of from an unpublished set provided by Dr Vaughan Williams.

Louie Fuller of Lingfield, Surrey, sang The Molecatcher in a recording made by Mike Yates in between 1972 and 1975 on the Topic album Green Grow the Laurels: Country Singers from the South. Mike Yates commented in the album's notes:

Although The Molecatcher has seldom been printed by folksong collectors it is certainly commonplace with folksingers. In 1800 Robert Burns printed a collection of Scots bawdy The Merry Muses of Caledonia which contained a number of songs which he had collected in the countryside, including a song, The Modiewark, which begins:

The modiewark has done me ill
And below my apron has bigggit a hill.

For some reason I find the song to be especially popular today in Susses.

Peter Bellamy learnt The Molecatcher from Vaughan Williams' Norfolk Collection via A.L. Lloyd, and sang it on his cassette Fair Annie: English, Irish, Australian and American Traditional Songs; he was accompanied by Chris Birch on fiddle. This recording was also included on his Free Reed anthology Wake the Vaulted Echoes.

Steve Roud included The Molecatcher in 2012 in The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Brian Peters sang it a year later on the accompanying Fellside CD The Liberty to Choose: A Selection of Songs from The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings The Molecatcher Peter Bellamy sings The Molecatcher

Near Manchester city at the sign of “The Plough”
There lived a molecatcher, I can tell you how.

Near Manchester city at the sign of “The Plough”
There lived a molecatcher, I can tell you how.

Chorus (after each verse):
Singing lor te lie day, well well,
Lor te lie little lie,
Lor te lie day

Chorus (after each verse):
Singing lor te lie day, well well,
Lor te lie little lie,
Lor te lie day

He goes a-molecatching from morning till night
And a young fellow came for to play with his wife.

Now he go a-molecatching from morning till night
But come a young fellow for to play with his wife.

Now the molecatcher jealous of this very same thing,
He hid in the wash house to watch him come in.

But the old chap being jealous of this very same thing,
He hide in the wash house to watch him come in.

Now when this young fellow come over the stile
That caused the molecatcher so foxy to smile.

And when this young fellow crept over the stile
It caused that molecatcher so foxy to smile.

He knocked at the door and this he did say,
“Oh where is your husband, good woman, I pray?”

And he knocked on the door and this he did say,
“Oh where is your husband, good woman, I pray?”

“He's gone a-moletrapping, you need have no fear,”
But little she thought the molecatcher was near.

“Well, he's gone a-molecatching, so you need have no fear,”
But little she thought that her husband was near.

She went off upstairs and he followed her sign
And the ole molecatcher crept close up behind.

She goes up the stair and she give him the sign
Not thinking that her husband crept up close behind.

Now when that young fellow's in the midst of his frolics
The molecatcher trapped him quite fast by the jackets.

But while this young chap was in the midst of his frolics
The molecatcher trapped him right fast by the shoulder.

The trap it bit tight and he laughed at the sight,
Saying, “Here's the best mole that I've caught in me life.”

“I'll make you pay well for ploughing my land
And the money it will cost you no less than ten pound.”

“So's I'll make you pay well for ploughing of my ground
And the money that will cost you no less than ten pound.”

“Very well,” says the young fellow, “The money I don't mind,
That only works out about tuppence a time.”

“Very well,” says this fellow, “for the cash I don't mind,
That only works out about tuppence a time.”

So come all young fellows and mind what you're at,
Don't you ever get caught in the molecatcher's trap.

So come all you young fellows and mind what you're at,
And don't you ever get caught in the molecatcher's trap.

Louie Fuller sings The Molecatcher

Now, somewhere in Sussex not far from “The Plough”,
There live an old molecatcher, I couldn't tell you how.
A-molecatching he'd go from morning till night
Till he caught the young farmer come and played with his wife.

Now upstairs they went, so fur'vely design,
The old molecatcher followed them closely behind.
Just as they got in the middle of the sport
The old molecatcher caught hold of the young farmer's coat.

He says, “Eh, what have you got at?
I've got you caught hard in my old moletrap.”
I looked at the farmer and grinned at his wife,
“He's the fined old mole I ever caught in my life.”

“Now,” so say the farmer for ploughing his ground,
“When I do plough it will cost him ten pounds.
When I do tell him she'll say it's not fine,
But I'm sure she won't come to about tuppence a time!”

Right fol the ri laddy, right fol the ri day,
Now all you young farmers that come down our way,
If you're not napping you're sure to be fine,
But I'm sure she won't come to about tuppence a time!”

Acknowledgements

The lyrics were copied from the Digital Tradition at the Mudcat Café and adapted to the actual singing of A.L. Lloyd.