> Steeleye Span > Songs > Weary Cutters

Weary Cutters

[ Roud 8772 ; Mudcat 137964 ; trad.]

The Weary Cutters is a song about losing one's lover to press gangs.

Pat Elliott sang The Weary Cutters on Topic's 1972 album of ballads and songs from Newcastle and thereabouts, Canny Newcassel. Tony Wilson noted:

Tyneside's close connections with the sea have always made it a source of trained seamen and it is not surprising that the area should have attracted the attention of the press gangs in Napoleonic times. The activities of these gangs gave rise to pitched battles and protest strikes. Soon after the declaration of war with France, for example, troops from Tynemouth formed a cordon round the port of North Shields, while a press gang from a warship anchored in the harbour rounded up 250 men.

Such events made a deep impression on the local people and are commemorated in songs such as Captain Bover and Here's the Tender Coming. This version was cobbled together by Frank Rutherford, Tyneside's leading authority on folk song. The tune and first verse were collected by Thomas Doubleday, vitriol manufacturer and radical, from a street singer in Newcastle and published in Blackwood's Magazine. The tune was also used for The Wedding o' Blythe and Blue's Gaen Oot o' the Fashion.

Maddy Prior sang Weary Cutter a cappella with overdubbing herself on the chorus in 1975 on Steeleye Span's seventh album, Commoners Crown.

Tickawinda sang The Weary Cutters on their 1979 album Rosemary Lane.

Ray Fisher sang The Weary Cutters in 1982 on her Folk-Legacy album Willie's Lady, giving Pat Elliott as her source:

I first heard this song from Mrs Pat Elliott, of the famous Elliotts of Birtley, Co. Durham. I recall her telling me that she had obtained it with help from Louis Killen. There is a reference made to The Lousy Cutter in Bruce & Stokoe's Northumbrian Minstrelsy (1882) containing two verses similar to those in this song. It is a coincidence that in the notes of a tune called The Wedding o' Blyth, which appears alongside the Lousy Cutter text, Bruce and Stokoe describe the aforementioned tune as a “weary” one.

Here we have a strong social comment on the feelings of the ordinary folk towards “press-ganging” and the lengths to which people would go in order to avoid being recruited.

I introduce this song with a single verse which was taken down by Mr Thomas Doubleday, of Newcastle; he was unable to recover any more of the ballad. Captain John Bover, who died in 1792, had indulged in “harsh and tyrannical measures” [quoted from Northumbrian Minstrelsy] in order to furnish the British Navy with “pressed” men.

Cockersdale sang Weary Cutters in 1988 on their Fellside album Doin' the Manch.

The Teacups sang The Weary Cutters in 2020 on their third and final album, In Which…. They noted:

We were asked to arrange some North-Eastern press-gang songs as part of an art installation, the focus being a woman whose landsman husband had been press-ganged. She found two willing seamen and bartered them for his return, in a 2-for-1 style offer.

Janice Burns and Jon Doran sang Weary Cutters on their 2022 CD No More the Green Hills. They noted:

Sandra Kerr originally taught us this song in one of her wonderful choral arrangements of North East songs. We took this particular version from the singing of Pat Elliott as we enjoyed the modal changes she inflicts, which we feel helps communicate the protagonist's story, whose husband has been press-ganged into the navy.

Lyrics

Pat Elliott sings The Weary Cutters

Oh the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me,
Oh the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me.
They've pressed him far away foreign wi' Nelson ayont the salt sea,
Oh the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me.

Oh the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me,
Oh the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me.
They aalwes come in the neet, they nivor come in the day,
They aalwes come in the neet to steal the laddies away.

Oh the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me,
Oh the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me.
When aa looked te the norrard aa looked wi' a watery eye,
But when aa looked te the southard aa seen my laddie go by.

Oh the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me,
Oh the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me.
Aa'll give the cutters a guinea, aa can't gie the cutters nae more,
Aa'll give the cutters a guinea to steal my laddie ashore.

Oh the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me,
Oh the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me.

Steeleye Span sing The Weary Cutters

Oh, the weary cutters and oh, the weary sea,
Oh, the weary cutters have taken my laddie from me.
They've pressed him far away foreign with Nelson beyond the salt sea.

Oh, the lousy cutters and oh, the weary sea,
Oh, the lousy cutters have stolen my laddie from me.
They always come in the night, they never come in the day,
They come at night and steal the laddies away.

Oh, the weary cutters and oh, the weary sea,
Oh, the weary cutters have taken my laddie from me.
I'll give the cutter a guinea, I'll give the cutter no more,
I'll give him a guinea to steal my laddie ashore.

Ray Fisher sings The Weary Cutters

Whaur hae ye been, my canny hinny?
Whaur hae ye been, my winsome man?
Whaur hae ye been, my canny hinny?
Whaur hae ye been, my winsome man?

I've been tae the nor'ard, cruisin' back and for'ard,
I've been tae the nor'ard, cruisin' sair and lang.
I've been tae the nor'ard, cruisin' back and for'ard,
But I daur not gang ashore for fear of Bover and his gang.

Oh, the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me,
Oh, the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me.
They've pressed him far away foreign wi' Nelson ayont the salt sea;
They've pressed him far away foreign and ta'en my laddie from me.

Oh, the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me,
Oh, the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me.
They always come in the neet, they never come in the day;
They always come in the neet to steal our laddies away.

Oh, the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me,
Oh, the weary cutters, they've ta'en my laddie from me.
I'll gie the cutters a guinea, I can't gie the cutters nae more;
I'll gie the cutters a guinea to steal my laddie ashore.

The Teacups sang The Weary Cutters

Oh, the weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me
Oh, the weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me

They always come in the night, they never come in the day
They always come in the night and they steal the laddies away

They always come in the night, they never come in the day
They always come in the night and thеy steal the laddies away

Oh, thе weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me
Oh, the weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me

They've shipped him far away, foreign, with no sun, all on the salt sea
Oh, the weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me

They've shipped him far away, foreign, with no sun, all on the salt sea
Oh, the weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me

Oh, the weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me
Oh, the weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me

When I look to the north I look with a tear in my eye
But when I look to the south I see the laddies come by

When I look to the north I look with a tear in my eye
But when I look to the south I see the laddies come by

Oh, the weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me
Oh, the weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me

I'll give the cutters a shilling, I'll give the cutters no more
I'll give the cutters a shilling to fetch my laddie ashore

I'll give the cutters a shilling, I'll give the cutters no more
I'll give the cutters a shilling to fetch my laddie ashore

Oh, the weary cutters, and oh, the weary sea
Oh, the weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me

Oh, the weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me
Oh, the weary cutters, they've taken my laddie from me