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Needlecases

[ Roud 1300 ; Ballad Index K233 ; Wiltshire Roud 1300 ; trad.]

The Hemlock Cock & Bull Band's drummer John Maxwell sang Needle-Cases, learnt “from the singing of Arthur Smith of Swinbrook, Oxon” in 1981 on their Topic album All Buttoned Up.

Francis Shergold sang Needlecases in a recording made by John Howson in 19at Bampton, Oxfordshire, in 1987. It was included in 2006 on the Veteran anthology It Was on a Market Day—Two where Mike Yates noted:

Although there is a version of Needlecases, or Case of Needles to use its other title, in Kidson & Moffat's English Peasant Songs (1929. pp. 112-13) the song is usually associated with singers from the Cotswolds. According to Alfred Williams, “Needle-cases was popular as well by reason of its pleasant air as by the words of the song. I have heard it in many villages around Lechlade.” In 1946 Francis Collinson collected a set from Bob Arnold of Burford (the actor who used to play the gamekeeper, Tom Forest, in the radio series The Archers). Arnold had probably learnt the song from Arthur Smith of Swinbrook in Oxfordshire, because, in 1952, he led the BBC to Swinbrook, where they recorded the song from Mr Smith. In the 1970s a version was also noted from the singer Freda Palmer, then living in Witney, but originally from the village of Leafield.

Andy Turner sang Needlecases as the February 10, 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

Francis Shergold sings Needlecases

I’m a poor wandering fellow, my name it is Jack,
No shoes to my feet, scarcely a rag to my back.
My belly’s nearly empty, my feet they are sore,
Won’t you buy a case of needles from Jack that’s so poor?

Chorus (after each verse):
Needlecases, will you buy one, you will buy one I’m sure.
Won’t you buy a case of needles from Jack that’s so poor?

I once had a table all lined with good food
Both for eating and drinking and everything that’s good.
But now I’ve no table, no friend nor not that.
I’m forced to get a crust from the crown on my hat.

I once was a farmer and followed my plough.
Don’t you think I’m a charmer, just look at me now,
All tattered in rags from the bottom to top.
Don’t you think that I’ve become a poor wandering rag shop?

Now since you won’t buy one I think I must leave,
But to leave such good company it does my heart grieve.
To leave you, to leave you, if I should come back,
Won’t you buy a case of needles from poor wandering Jack?