> The Watersons > Songs > Sheepshearing / Harvest Home
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Sheepshearing / Harvest Home / Drink, Boys, Drink

[ Roud 1379 , 310 ; Ballad Index RcHaHS1 ; trad.]

The Watersons sang Sheepshearing with Mike Waterson in lead on their 1975 album For Pence and Spicy Ale and on the Topic anthology English Originals. The Watersons extended by Rachel Waterson sang this live at Wisconsin University, Madison, USA, on November 18, 1988 for Wisconsin Public Radio's programme Simply Folk. This track was published as Harvest Home in 2004 on the Watersons' 4CD anthology Mighty River of Song. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Two songs are spliced together here, both from the neighbourhood of Salisbury. One is for the end of shearing, the other for the completion of harvest, both occasions for ceremonial booze-ups that are an echo of ritual seasonal feasts of the past, when people felt they were taking some of the power of the gods through gluttony (Unholy Sacrament?). Lucy Broadwood, who collected these songs, says the second one should be sung while a labourer went along the table filling the men's mugs with beer. The first verse and chorus would be sung over and again perhaps thirty times—till all were served. Then the second verse would be sung in the same manner. And on and on.

Louis Killen recorded Sheepshearing's Over in Winter 1977 at the Eldron Fennig Folk Museum of American Ephemera for his album Old Songs, Old Friends. He commented in his album's sleeve notes:

The last couple of years has provided some new friends from some old friends. From the Watersons came the combination of harvest-home songs that go under collective title of Sheepshearing's Over.

The Wassailers sang the Harvest Song in 1978 on their Fellside album Wassailers. They noted:

At the harvest supper each pair of men across the table would drink in turn their employer's health while the others sang the song. This would involve many repetitions of the two verses. Lucy Broadwood's English County Songs includes a version of this song.

John Kirkpatrick sang this song as Drink, Boys, Drink on his 2011 CD God Speed the Plough. He commented in his liner notes:

This is the standard song to say, or rather, sing a final thank you to the farmer for the feast of Harvest Home. As a time for celebration it was second only to Christmas, and it was expected on all sided that the “Founder of the Feast” would spare no expense in laying on vast amounts of food and drink as a reward for all the hard work that had come to such a glorious conclusion.

The song pops up with remarkably little variation all over the country, although there are some version which toast the health of just about every trade in the village before they get round to the farmer and his wife. I suppose you might as well spin it out as long as you can if the drink is free! I have taken a few lines from other traditional harvest toasts to make a couple of new verses.

Jon Boden sang Sheepshearing as the April 25, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Danny Spooner and Duncan Brown sang the Harvest Supper Song in 2016 on their CD of songs of the working life, Labour and Toil. The album's notes commented:

In the 1800s, it was the custom of the farmer who hired the reapers for the duration of the reaping season (only a few days at each farm) to ‘pay’ them lavishly in beer and beef in hopes that they would come back next year, since the farmer was absolutely dependent on them to bring in his crop. As a result the reapers got very drunk at the harvest suppers. After all, beer is one of the major products of the barley harvest! One can only imagine the joy that would accompany this song, the next year is well provided for but the season round must start again to ensure the following year's harvest.

Lyrics

The Watersons sing Sheepshearing

Our sheep-shear is over and supper is past,
Here's an health to our mistress all in a full glass.
For she is a good woman and provides us with cheer;
Here's an health to our mistress, so drink up your beer.

Here's an health unto the master, he's the founder of the feast;
We hope to God with all our hearts that his soul in heaven do rest.
Here's hoping that he prospers, whatever he takes in hand
For we are all his servants and we are at his command.

Chorus:
So drink, boys, drink! And see that you do not spill,
If you do, you shall drink two, for that is our master's will.

And now we've drunk to the master's health, and why shouldn't the mistress go free?
Why shouldn't she go to heaven, to heaven as well as he?
For she is a good provider, abroad as well as at home,
So take your cup and sup it up, for 'tis our harvest home.

Chorus

Louis Killen sings Sheepshearing's Over

The sheepshearing's over, the summer is past,
Drink an health to our mistress all in a full glass.
She is a good woman and she brings us good cheer;
Here's an health to our mistress in a good glass of beer.

Here's an health unto the master, he's the founder of the feast.
I hope to God with all my heart, his soul in heaven do rest.
Here's hoping that he prospers, whatever he takes in hand,
For we are all his servants and we are at his command.

Chorus:
So drink, boys, drink! And see that you do not spill,
For if you do, you shall drink two, for that is our master's will.

And since we've drunk the master's health, why should the missus go free?
Why shouldn't she go to heaven as well as he?
She is a good provider, abroad as well as at home,
So take your cup and sup it up, it is our harvest home.

Chorus

Danny Spooner and Duncan Brown sing the Harvest Supper Song

Here's an health unto our master, the founder of our feast.
We hope and pray with all our hearts, his soul in Heaven may rest.
And may his doings prosper, whatever he takes in hand,
For we are all his servants and all are at his command.

Chorus:
So drink, boys, drink! And see that you do not spill,
For if you do, you shall drink two, for that is our master's will.

Here's an health unto our mistress, an 'andsome women is she,
And why shouldn't she go to Heaven, to heaven the same as he?
For she is a good provider abroad as well as home,
So fill your cup and sup it all for 'tis our harvest home.

And here's to all the servants who labour round the farm,
And may the Lord protect them and keep them from all harm.
They are a merry band ad so let them drink their fill,
And we'll prepare for another year to do our master's will.

Acknowledgements

Lyrics taken from the Digital Tradition where this song is called Drink, Boys, Drink.