> The Young Tradition > Songs > Watercress-O


[Roger Watson]

The Young Tradition sang Roger Watson’s Watercress-O in 1967 on their second album, So Cheerfully Round. Royston Wood noted:

Roger Watson wrote Watercress-O. Roger is a friend of ours; we could almost claim to have discovered him. Early in our friendship he gave me this song. He has written much since then and many good singers have relayed his material around the clubs, but still I think that this is one of his best three songs. It is anecdotal, being taken from his grandmother’s memory at a time in her childhood when, as a miner’s daughter, she experienced the privation brought on by the meagreness of strike pay. Most of Roger’s songs are taken from real life; his feeling for both stories and melodies is surer than most writers of today; his only worry with songs of the quality of Watercress-O is that the singers should do them justice.

A few years later, in 1973, Roger Watson recorded Watercress-O himself with his group Muckram Wakes for their first album, A Map of Derbyshire.

Graham Metcalfe with Folly Bridge sang Watercress-O in 1992 on their second WildGoose cassette, Unabridged. Claire Lloyd commented:

Roger Watson wrote this very poignant song about the General Strike of 1926, based on the memories of his grandmother, a miner’s daughter. It was recorded in 1967 by Young Tradition, and later by Roger himself with his group Muckram Wakes.

The Young’uns sang Watercress-O on their 2010 CD Man, I Feel Like a Young’un.

The choir Freshly Ground sang Watercress-O in 2013 on their WildGoose CD The Good Red Earth. Issy Emeney noted:

Roger [Watson] wrote this cracking song in 1965. “The child was my mother, my grandmother told me the story. Gathering and selling watercress kept many people in a small extra income around our North Nottinghamshire mining community. Children listened out for the watercress seller on Sunday afternoon as keenly as kids today do for the ice cream van. The strike referred to was c. 1920 when my mother was 6.”


The Young Tradition sing Watercress-o

At five o’clock on a Sunday neet,
There’s a man comes walkin’ down our street,
You may hear him out in front of the row,
Crying, “Tuppence a basket, watercress-o!”
(chorus:) Watercress-o, watercress-o,
Crying, “tuppence a basket, watercress-o!”

Oh, come on, mam, it’s time for tea,
Go and get tuppence and give it to me
So I may go out in front of the row
And fetch a little basket of watercress-o,
Watercress-o, watercress-o,
And fetch a little basket of watercress-o.

Oh, kid, you don’t know what you’re asking of me,
If I’d got tuppence, I’d be sure to give it thee,
So thou could go out in front of the row,
And fetch a little basket of watercress-o,
Watercress-o, watercress-o,
And fetch a little basket of watercress-o.

Our dad’s on strike, kid, can’t you see?
He scarce brings home enough to feed us wi’,
And though it pains me to tell you “no”,
You’ll have to do without your watercress-o,
Watercress-o, watercress-o,
You’ll have to do without your watercress-o.

We’re all in the union down our street,
So maybe he won’t come back another week,
For till the strike is over, he might as well know,
He’ll not sell much of his watercress-o,
Watercress-o, watercress-o,
He’ll not sell much of his watercress-o.