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The Weary Pund o’ Tow

[ Roud 435 ; G/D 8:1867 ; Ballad Index BdWePuTo ; Bodleian Roud 435 ; Robert Burns]

Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger sang The Weary Pund o’ Tow in 1964 on their Folkways album Traditional Songs and Ballads. The album’s booklet noted:

According to Robert Chambers the Burns text of this song is a remake of an older version. The tune was first published in Oswald’s Caledonian Pocket Companion book VIII.

Learned from print: Scots Musical Museum.

Tony Cuffe sang The Weary Pund o’ Tow in 1996 on the Linn anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 2, and in 1998 on his solo album When First I Went to Caledonia.

Fiona Hunter sang The Weary Pund o’ Tow in 2008 on her eponymous album Fiona Hunter. She noted:

This song was published in the Scots Musical Museum in 1792.

The Husband in this song laments his lady’s lack of housework, which does not match up his expectations of a farmer’s wife. He thought he was getting a servant, but his wife clearly has other ideas. When she is ordered to get on with her spinning she rebels and clouts him over the head.

This song comes from the singing of Tony Cuffe, one of my favourite singers.

Sinsheen (Barbara Dymock and Christine Kydd) sang a medley of The Dusty Miller, The Weary Pund o’ Tow and The Tailor Fell Through the Bed in 2009 on their CD Lift. They noted:

Three songs found in the Scots Musical Museum. […] For The Weary Pund o’ Tow Burns used an older song with the same title. In those times spun flax or hemp would be made into tow. The tow would be taken away to be made into rope, hence the reference to the hangman’s rope in the fourth verse. Sir Walter Scott narrated a similar sounding song.

Ian Bruce sang The Weary Pund o’ Tow in 2010 on his Lochshore album Rhythm & Burns.


Fiona Hunter sings The Weary Pund o’ Tow

Chorus (after each verse):
The weary pund, the weary pund,
The weary pund o’ tow;
I think my wife will end her life,
Before she spin her tow.

I bought my wife a stane o’ lint,
As gude as e’er did grow,
And a’ that she has made o’ that
Is ae puir pund o’ tow.

There sat a bottle in a bole,
Beyond the ingle low;
And aye she took the tither souk,
To drouk the stourie tow.

Quoth I, “For shame, ye dirty dame,
Gae spin your tap o’ tow!”
She took the rock, and wi’ a knock,
She brak it o’er my pow.

At last her feet, I sang to see’t!
Gaed foremost o’er the knowe,
And or I wad anither jad,
I’ll wallop in a tow.