> Steeleye Span > Songs > Weary Cutters

Weary Cutters

[ Roud 8772 ; trad.]

The Weary Cutters is a song about losing one's lover to press gangs. Pat Elliott sang it on the 1972 Topic album Canny Newcassel: Ballads and Songs from Newcastle and Thereabouts. Ray Fisher sang it 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.

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

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

Lyrics

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.