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The Parson and the Sucking Pig

[ Roud 574 ; Master title: The Parson and the Sucking Pig ; TYG 45 ; Ballad Index WT197 ; Bodleian Roud 574 ; Wiltshire 923 ; trad.]

Mike Herring sang The Sucking Pig on the 1972 Topic/Impact album The Painful Plough that accompanied Roy Palmer’s book of the same name.

Bob Copper printed The Parson and the Sucking Pig in his book Early to Rise, and sang it on his 1977 Topic album Sweet Rose in June. The album’s sleeve notes commented:

Bob also includes three animal songs from the same period; the anti-clerical Parson and the Sucking Pig—called The Tithe Pig by the Reverend Baring-Gould who noted a couple of versions on Dartmoor [see Songs of the West], The Fox, a favourite of the young Sir Walter Scott, and Dogs and Ferrets, a poaching song that still enjoys a widespread popularity in country areas today.

Arthur Knevett sang The Sucking Pig on his 1988 cassette Mostly Ballads. He noted:

The tithe, a sort of religious value ‘taken-away’ tax, was the cause of great contention for centuries. Ten per cent out of the value of the produce of the land had to go to the established church, either in money or kind. It caused endless friction and argument, even riots at times. In this song, a greedy parson gets his come-uppance from a maternally protective sow. Few, except parsons, would not have shared in the joke. This version is from Roy Palmer’s The Painful Plough.

Arthur Howard sang Sucking Pig in 1981 on his Hill & Dale album Merry Mountain Child. Ian Russell commented on the album’s sleeve:

This was probably the first song Arthur sang in public. As a young lad he would work as one of a team of grouse beaters and, if they were rained off, they would while their time away entertaining each other in remote moorland pubs such as the Isle o’ Sky. At a time when a tenth of a man’s produce and stock was paid to the church in tithes, the song must have seemed even more impudent.

Will Noble sang The Suckling Pig on his 1992 Veteran Tapes cassette of South West Yorkshire songs, In That Beautiful Dale. This track was also included in 2001 on the Veteran CD anthology of traditional folk music from rural England, Down in the Fields. John Howson noted:

Will learned this song from one of the singers who influenced him most: Arthur Howard who came from a sheep-farming family near Holme and who died in 1982 at the age of 79.

Tom and Barbara Brown sang The Tithe Pig in 2002 on their WildGoose CD Prevailing Winds. They noted:

The tithe system, which produced such extraordinary barns around the country, was introduced (or at least regularised) in the early mediaeval period when Church and State were almost the same, and the church’s income was highly dependant on taking one tenth of everything from everybody—a tradition that the state continues to this day. Variously changed over the years, to relate to corn prices or to acreage, the system lasted right up to the 1930s when it was finally abolished followings riots, lockouts and bailiff seizure of stock, machinery and household effects. Small wonder that a song that started out centuries ago should have retained such popularity as it did among rural communities right into the 20th century—the farmer, for once, actually gets his own back.

This version was published by Bob Copper in his third book, Early to Rise, as The Parson and the Sucking Pig.

Jim Causley sang The Tythe Pig in 2011 on his WildGoose CD Dumnonia. He commented:

I think Baring-Gould must have had a good sense of humour to publish this song unedited seeing as it takes the pith out of a parson, which is one of the little jobs he undertook in his spare time when he wasn’t busy writing books about werewolves.


Will Noble sings The Suckling Pig

Come ye that love a bit of fun and listen here awhile,
I’ll tell you of a droll affair that will give you cause to smile.
A parson dressed all in his best, cocked hat and bushy wig,
He went up to a farmer’s house to choose a sucking pig.

“Good morning,” said the parson, “good morning sir to you,
I’ve come to choose a sucking pig, which you know it is my due.
Therefore I pray go fetch me one that is both plump and fine,
For I have asked a friend or two along with me to dine.”

So in the sty the farmer goes among the pigs so small,
And he chooses for the parson the least amongst them all.
When the parson saw the same, how he did rant and roar,
He stamped his foot and he shook his wig and he almost cursed and swore.

“Well then sir,” said the farmer, “since my offer you refuse
I pray you go into the sty, there you may pick and choose.”
In the sty the parson ventured, without any more ado;
The old sow ran with open mouth, and she at the parson flew.

Well the first she grabbed him by the coat and took off both the skirts,
She ran her head between his legs and rolled him in the dirt.
The parson cursed the very hour he’d ventured for the pig,
You’d have laughed to see the little ones how they shook his hat and wig.

Well the next she grabbed him by the breeches, as he so loudly cried,
“Oh! Free me from this cursed pig or I shall surely die!”
The little pig his waistcoat tore, his stockings and his shoes,
The farmer said, “You’re welcome, I hope you’ll pick and choose.”

Well at length they let the parson out, all in a handsome trim,
The sow and pigs so neatly in the dirt had rolled him
His coat was to a spencer turned, his brogues were ripped behind,
And beside his backside was all bare and his shirt hung out behind.

He’d lost his stockings and his shoes, which grieved him full sore,
Beside his waistcoat, hat and wig, they were all to pieces tore.
Then of the parson, he scampered home, as fast as he could run,
The farmer almost split his sides with laughing at the fun.

The parson’s wife stood at the door awaiting his return
But when she saw his awful plight, she into the house did run.
“My dear what is the matter, and where have you been?” she said.
“Get out you slut,” the parson cried, “for I am almost dead.

“Go fetch me down a suit of clothes, go fetch ’em down I pray,
And bring me my old greasy wig, without any such delay.
And for the usage I’ve received all in that cursed sty
I never will relish sucking pig, until the day I die.”

To me folla del lay, folla del lay, folla delara lay
Folla del lay, folla del lay, folla delara lay.