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The Cobbler’s End / A Cobbler There Was

[ Roud 22797 ; Bodleian Roud 22797 ; Mudcat 171600 ; trad.]

John Holloway, Joan Black: Later English Broadside Ballads

Bob Lewis sang The Cobbler on his 2003 CD The Painful Plough. He also sang it in a concert with Bob Copper at Nellie’s Folk Club, The Rose and Crown Hotel, Tonbridge, Kent, on 17 October 1999, a recording of which was released in 2017 on their Musical Tradition CD The Two Bobs’ Worth. Bob Lewis noted:

Gordon Hall and I spent a lot of time discussing songs and particularly old Henry Burstow’s songs. One of the songs that cropped up at that time was The Cobbler. Gordon had given this to me, a copy of Lucy Broadwood’s notes. Gordon had done an awful lot of research on stuff like that. It’s all in Henry’s writing, look at all that. There’s a lot of Henry Burstow’s songs and amongst them was The Cobbler. And I had up there an old school book, a sort of intellectual book for improving the knowledge of children, full of fables and Greek mythology and all that and there was a fuller version of the song in there. And my version is between Henry’s and that. And the chorus was Derry Down… so I knew that tune that was going to fit it anyway. I know that it can be dated back at least to the 1730s.


Bob Lewis sings The Cobbler

A cobbler there was and he lived in a stall
Which served him for parlour, for kitchen and hall.
No coin in his pocket nor care in his pate,
No ambition hade he, nor duns at his gate.
Derry down, down, down, derry down.

Contented he were till he thought himself happy
If at night he could purchase a cup of brown nappy.
He’d laugh and he’d whistle and sing too, most sweet
Saying, “Just to a hair have I made both ends meet.”
Derry down, down, down, derry down.

But love, the disturber of high and of low,
Who shoots at the peasant as well as the beau,
He shot the poor cobbler quite into the heart,
Oh he wished he had found some more ignoble part.
Derry down, down, down, derry down.

It was from a cellar this archer did play
Where a buxom young damsel continually lay.
Her eyes shone so bright when she rose ev’ry day
That she shot the poor cobbler quite over the way.
Derry down, down, down, derry down.

He sang her love songs as he sat as his work,
But she was as hard as a Jew or a Turk.
Whenever he spake she would flounce and would flair,
Which put the poor cobbler quite into despair.
Derry down, down, down, derry down.

So he took up his all (awl) that he had in the world
And to make away with himself was resolved,
So he pierced through the body instead of the soul (sole)
And the cobbler he died and the bell it did toll.
Derry down, down, down, derry down.

So now in good will I’ll advise as a friend,
All young men take warning at this cobbler’s end.
Keep your hearts out of love or you’ll find by what passed
That love brings us all to an end at the last.
Derry down, down, down, derry down.