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The Hand-Loom Weaver’s Lament

[ Roud - ; DT HANDWEAV ; Mudcat 34358 ; John Grimshaw, early 19th century]

Harry Boardman sang The Hand-Loom Weaver’s Lament in 1986 on the Topic anthology of songs and ballads of the industrial North-West, Deep Lancashire. This track was also included in 1993 on the Topic anthology CD The Iron Muse, and in 2009 on the 70 years celebration of Topic records, Three Score and Ten.

Denis Turner sang Hand-Loom Weaver’s Lament in 1968 on the Critics Group’s Argo album of English folk songs and broadsides 1780-1830, Waterloo:Peterloo.

Ian Robb and Hang the Piper sang The Hand-Loom Weaver’s Lament in 1979 on their Folk-Legacy album Ian Robb and Hang the Piper. He returned to it in 2018 on the Arrowsmith:Robb CD All the Salt. Ian noted on the first album:

This song dates from the beginning of the industrialisation of the textile trade in Lancashire. It deals with a particularly black period during which the supply of woven goods outstripped the market, partly due to mechanisation, causing a scarcity of jobs for weavers and a decline in wages for those fortunate enough to be employed. The “gentlemen and tradesmen” of the song followed the official propaganda line in blaming the Napoleonic wars and Bonaparte himself for much of the starvation and hardship which resulted. Apparently, however, the working men and women of the factories and mills were not so easily taken in, and many of them, seeing little decline in the comforts of the ruling and merchant classes, held a sneaking respect and admiration for “Boney”, whom they regarded as a champion of the poor.

Learned from the singing of Denis Turner of the now-defunct London Critics Group.


Arrowsmith:Robb sing The Hand-Loom Weaver’s Lament

You gentlemen and tradesmen, as you ride about at will,
Look down on these poor people, it’s enough to make you crill.
Look down on these poor people as you ride up and down.
I think there is a God above will pull your pride right down.

Chorus (after each verse):
You tyrants of England! Your race may soon be run.
You may be brought unto account for what you’ve sorely done.

You pull down our wages, shamefully to tell,
You go into the market and you say you cannot sell;
And when that we do ask you when these bad times may mend,
You quickly give an answer, “When the wars are at an end.”

When we look on our poor children, it grieves our hearts full sore;
Their clothing it is torn to rags, and we can get no more.
With little in their bellies they to their work must go,
While yours do dress as manky as monkeys in a show.

You go to church on Sundays but I think it’s nowt but pride;
There can be no religion where humanity’s thrown aside.
If there be a God in Heaven, as there is in the exchange,
Our poor souls must not come near there like lost sheep they must range.

With the choicest of strong dainties your table’s overspread;
With good ale and strong brandy you make your faces red.
You invite a set of visitors, it is your chief delight,
To put your heads together for to make our faces white.

You say that Bonaparte has been the cause of all,
And that we should all have cause to pray for his downfall.
Well, Bonaparte is dead and gone and it is plainly shown
That we have bigger tyrants in Boneys of our own.

So now, my lads, for to conclude and for to make an end,
Let’s hope that we can form a plan that these bad times may mend.
So, give us our old prices, as we have had before,
and we can live in happiness and rub out the old score.