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The Butcher and the Tailor's Wife

[ Roud 1528 ; Ballad Index BdBuTaWi ; trad.]

Nic Jones recorded this ballad in 1970 for his first album Ballads and Songs. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Another song that I obtained from a broadside is The Butcher and the Tailor's Wife. The poor tailor is subjected to a multitude of indignities throughout a great many songs, for example The Tailor's Breeches, Benjamin Bowmaneer, The Tailor and the Louse, and The Bold Trooper. Here we pour ridicule on him yet again.


Oh it's of a wealthy tailor, in London town did dwell,
And he had a handsome wife, and her name was Mary Bell.

She's gone to the butcher's, a joint of meat to buy,
“What is your will, dear woman?” the butcher did reply.

Well, the joint of meat it was cut down, refuse it she did not,
And straightway she goes and she puts it in the pot.

And when the tailor he come in, she told him what she had,
And the poor tailor jumped for joy, his heart was very glad.

“Oh Husband, dearest husband, I'll tell you what must be
Tomorrow night the butcher, he has to lie with me.

You take a broadsword in your hand, and under the bed go
And the first man that enters, then, be sure to run him through.”

“Oh I never handled sword or gun, my dear and loving wife,
And butchers, they are bloody dogs, I think he'll have my life.”

“Oh don't you be down-hearted, with courage stout and bold
And if the butcher you will come, you'll wear a chain of gold.”

And the butcher's thinking it was time to see the tailor's wife,
And thinking they might form a plot or trick or take his life,

He takes a brace of pistols with powder and with ball,
“And the first man that molests me now, by Jove I'll make him fall!”

And when the butcher he come in, she takes him by the hand,
She led him to her bedchamber, says, “I'm at your command.”

He takes a brace of pistols and lays them on the bed,
And the poor tailor's struck with fear: he lay as if quite dead.

And the butcher's taken off his clothes a-going into bed,
How he was struck when he did spy one of the tailor's legs!

“Is this your husband's dog?” he says, “I'll shoot him for the fright.”
“Oh spare my life!” the tailor cries, “and you can have my wife!”


Song lyrics copied from Selected English Folk Singers: Nic Jones with adaptions to the actual singing of Nic Jones by Garry Gillard.