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The Weaver

[ Roud 2311 ; Ballad Index FowM061 ; trad.]

O.J. Abbott sang The Weaver in a 1958 field recording made by Edith Fowke that was included in 1975 on the Leader album Far Canadian Fields, which was sold as the acoustic companion to her Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs. She commented in the album’s booklet:

This rare ballad is obviously quite old. It goes back to the preindustrial era when travelling weavers carried their hand-looms from town to town to weave the yarn that the housewives had spun. The ‘rose and the crown’ and the ‘diamond twill’ which it mentions are traditional patterns listed in a British dictionary of the weaving trade.

Mr Abbott learned this from Dan Leahy, an Irish farm labourer, in Marchhurst, Ontario, around 1890, where Leahy would have been about seventy. The ballad has not been reported elsewhere from oral tradition, although a ten-stanza version appears in the Jones-Conklin manuscript of an American sailor, which Dr Kenneth S. Goldstein is preparing for publication.

Although such songs as The Foggy Dew [Roud 558; Laws O3; G/D 7:1496] and Will the Weaver [Roud 432; Laws Q9; G/D 7:1461; Henry H682] suggest that the weavers were noted for their sexual exploits, the metaphor of the shuttle and the loom has rarely been used in ballads.

Margaret Christl with Ian Robb sang The Weaver on their 1976 Folk-Legacy album of traditional songs found in Canada, The Barley Grain for Me. They noted:

Edith Fowke has recently published The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs, and it is from that book that I learned Willie Drowned in Ero and The Weaver. People, years ago, had a great knack for writing smashing songs on very ‘everyday’ subjects.


Margaret Christl and Ian Robb sing The Weaver

As I roved out one moonlit night,
The stars were shining and all things bright.
I spied a pretty maid by the light of the moon,
And under her apron she carried a loom.

Chorus (after each verse):
To me right whack fol the diddle di do day,
Right whack fol the diddle di do day,
Too ra loo ra loo ra lay,
To me right whack fol the diddle di do day.

Says she, “Young man, what trade do you bear?”
Says I, “I’m a weaver, I do declare.
I am a weaver, brisk and free.”
“Would you weave upon my loom, kind sir?” said she.

There was Nancy Wright and Nancy Wrill;
For them I wove the Diamond Twill.
Nancy Blue and Nancy Brown;
For them I wove the Rose and the Crown.

So I laid her down upon the grass,
Braced her loom both tight and fast.
For to finish it off with a joke,
I topped it off with a double stroke.