> Mike Waterson > Songs > The Wensleydale Lad

The Wensleydale Lad / The Fine Old Yorkshire Gentleman

[ Roud 21176 ; TYG 8 ; trad.]

Bill Price sang The Fine Old Yorkshire Gentleman in 1972 as the title track of his Folk-Heritage album The Fine Old Yorkshire Gentleman. His sleeve notes commented:

The Fine Old Yorkshire Gentleman (or The Wensleydale Lad) turns up in many forms in different parts of the county. This version was collected in Horton-in-Ribblesdale in 1960, verse 2 and 5 being added from Holroyd's Yorkshire Ballads (1892). It tells the story of a country lad's first visit to town, and how his native wit triumphs over the city dwellers sophistication.

Mike Waterson sang The Wensleydale Lad accompanied on chorus by his sisters Lal and Norma, his niece Maria and Jim Eldon in 1977 on his LP Mike Waterson. It was also added to the Watersons' Green Fields CD reissue. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

This is one of the three hundred-odd Yorkshire songs collected mostly in the 1850s and 1860s by Abraham Holroyd, an ex-weaver, ex-soldier turned printer in a Bradford back street. It appears in Holroyd's Collection of Yorkshire Ballads, published posthumously in 1892. It is sometimes called Leeds Church. Mike got this piece from Paul Graney, who has supplied good northern songs to a lot of singers.

Lyrics

Mike Waterson sings The Wensleydale Lad Notes by Greer Gilman

Wey, what wi' me father and mother at home
I never had nae fun
Well, they kept me goin from morn till night
So I thowt from them I'd run


nae = no

thowt = thought

Why, in Leeds I've heard it were comin on
So I thowt I'd have a spree
So I put me Sunday clothes on
I went whistlin merrily

A lovely place, Wensleydale, but very far from the bright lights.

Chorus (after every other verse):
Wi' me bumpsy bumpsy ay
Bumpsy bumpsy Annie
Wi' me bumpsy bumpsy ay
And me bumpsy bumpsy Annie

Well, first thing I seen was a factory
And I never seen one before
There was shuttles a-weavin, shuttles o' tape,
They sell by many's the score

Factories are still a wonder, not yet seen as a threat. At least not to a farm lad; skilled weavers felt otherwise. The great frame-breaking in the North and Midlands, the Luddite rebellion, was 1811-1816. “The cropper lads in the county o' York / Have broken shears at Foster's Mill” (there's a cracking version of this on Swan Arcade's Nothing Blue album). Another more poignant song about these times is The Handweaver and the Factory Maid (on Brass Monkey's See How it Runs)

Why, and Owd Ned, he turned every wheel
And to every wheel a strap
Well, I says to maister man, By gum
Owd Ned's a right strong chap!

Owd Ned = the weaving engine

maister man = the boss, foreman

Wey, next I went to Leeds owd church
Never been in one in me days
I was most ashamed o' mesen
Cause I didn't know the ways

owd = old

mesen = myself

There was thirty forty people in tubs
So down wi' them I sat
When a saucy owd bugger come up and said,
Hi kid, tek off thi hat

tek off thi hat = take off thy hat;
By tubs, our lad means pews; the saucy owd bugger is the verger, come to deal with this gaping bumpkin. Hi, kid is a flip anachronism, not heard in England until the talkies. In the published text of the song, it's Noo, lad.

Then in there come this great Lord Mayor
And over his shoulder's a club
He got into a white sack-poke
And got in the topmost tub

The great Lord Mayor is a bishop with his crook; the white sack-poke (flour sack) is his surplice. Tub is a contemptuous or jocular word for a pulpit, and not only in Yorkshire; a tub-thumper is a ranting preacher. Here, the topmost tub is one of those crow's nest pulpits, up a winding stair. (There's a fine one in Whitby.) A Jack-in-the-pulpit sort of pulpit.

And then in there come this t'other chap
And I think his name were Ned
He got into the bottom most tub
And he mocked all t'other chap said

T'other chap is the deacon, and his mockery is his part in the liturgy, reading the responses.

Well, then there began this clatterin row
And I couldn't mek out what about
Then the chap in the topmost tub
He began a-shoutin out


mek = make

He was tellin us rich folks went to heaven
While poor folks went to hell
Wey, I thowt to mesen, Ye silly owd bugger,
You don't know road yersen

thowt to mesen = thought to myself
don't know road yersen = don't know the way yourself

These two verses aren't in the printed text--too bolshy? The lad may be green, but he's shrewd.

Wey, then they began to preach and pray
And they prayed for George our King
Then the chap in the topmost tub
He says, Good folks, let's sing

George our King would be George III (ruled 1760-1820) or George IV (1820-1830), at the latest.

Well, some they sang very well
The others did grunt and groan
Every bugger sang just what they would
So I gi'ed 'em “Darby and Joan”

An early experiment with sampling? Ambient hymn-singing? A lovely sly comment on the psalmody of the day.

When the preachin and prayin was over
And the folks was gannin away
Wey, I went to the chap in the topmost tub
Says, Hi kid, what's to pay?


gannin = going

Why nowt, says he, me lad
Thee must be either daft or fey
So I swung my club stick over my shoulder
Went whistlin out again

nowt = nothing

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of Mike Waterson by Greer Gilman. Thanks for this and her extensive notes.