The Butcher and the Chambermaid / The Brisk Butcher / The Copshawholme Butcher / The Ten Dollar Bill
Harvey Nicholson sang The Copshawholme Butcher in a field recording by Jack Little in The Plough in Wreay, Cumberland on 15 September 1953. This recording was published in 1982 on the Reynard Records album Pass the Jug Round. It was also included in 1998 on the Topic anthology Who's That at My Bed Window? (The Voice of the People Series Volume 10). Sue Allan commented in the original record's sleeve notes:
This is a 19th century broadside ballad found in various parts of the country, and known variously as The Brisk Young Butcher, The Exeter Butcher, and The Christmas Goose. The place names and some details vary in these versions, but the basic story remains the same. Harvey Nicholson, who sings this song, says he learned it on his travels. Copshawholme, now Newcastleton, was once a railway centre and it is quite possible that Harvey, a railway plate-layer, worked there for a period. This is the one recording which was not lodged in the county archives, as it had been considered ‘too earthy’ for that! Fortunately Jack Little, who recorded this song, kept the recording himself, otherwise it might have been lost for ever.
Here we have a racy song, come down from the North-East. Now doubt it is a tale all to true. Mr Tom Cook, from whom we got the song, has one eye and one ear-ring. He said he sang it “in honour of the ladies, as free of their hips as of their lips, God bless their skill.” The ladies present saluted gracefully by raising their gleaming pint mugs.
Maddy Prior sang The Brisk Butcher in 1968 on her and Tim Hart's first duo album Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 1. By any standards, this butcher is a nasty sort of guy. The record's sleeve notes comment:
This song was first published on a broadsheet in the 19th century as the Leicester Chamber Maid. Like so many ballads of this period a simple girl is beguiled by an amorous city gentleman, yet she finally triumphs with much celebration, and the ballad concludes with a fine moral. (Nottingham University Library Collection)
Brian Osborne sang The Brisk Young Butcher in 1976 on his Traditional Sound album Ae Fond Kiss. He noted:
An example of early 19th century broadside humour. Collected by Hammond in Dorset around 1905.
Finest Kind sang The Ten Dollar Bill on their 2003 album Silks & Spices. They noted:
Shelley [Posen] learned this ballad back in the 1970s in Chapeau, an Irish-French village in the Ottawa Valley. It was sung by several local singers under different titles: Loy Gavan referred to it as The Ten Dollar Bill, Geordie and Elva Brunette and their daughters as The Christmas Goose. That’s how the song is known in England where it originated, but there’s another moniker too: The Brisk Young Butcher. Must be a pretty good song to have three titles!
The matter-of-fact (if indirectly expressed) sexual subject matter and never-fail punchline once gave Chapeau singer Loy Gavan a bit of trouble: a local woman criticized him—perhaps in jest—for singing such a “dirty” song. Stung, the gallant old bachelor replied, and insisted thereafter, that “there isn’t a word in it to offend a lady.”.
Danny Spooner sang Copshawholme Butcher on his 2013 CD Gorgeous, Game Girls. He noted:
A wonderful tale of getting one's just deserts. Often in songs of amorous dalliance the young woman is left to cope as best she can with the outcome. Here the male is cleverly and rightly made aware of his responsibility arising from the encounter.
Harvey Nicholson sings The Copshawholme Butcher
It was of a brisk young butcher from Copshawholme he came,
He travelled from Newcastleton upon a certain day.
He says, “A frolic I will have, my fortune for to try.”
So he set off to Morpeth some cattle for to buy.
Now, when he arrived in Morpeth, he lighted at the inn,
He called for an ostler and boldly stepped in.
He ordered whisky of the best for he was roaming blind,
And pleasantly fixed his eye upon a chambermaid.
He asked for a candle to light him up to bed,
And when the maid came in the room, these very words he said,
“One sovereign I'll give to you for to enjoy your charms.”
And all the night that lovely maid lay in the butcher's arms.
He rose early next morning prepared to go away,
The landlord says, “You're honest, sir, but you've forgot to pay”
“Oh no, sir,” says the butcher, “you need not think it strange,
One sovereign I gave your maid and I haven't got the change.”
Now, about a twelve months after he came to town again
He did as he had done before; he lighted at the inn.
He went into the public house and sat down, you see,
And she brought a baby three months old and placed it on his knee.
Now the butcher did wonder much and at that kid did stare,
But when the joke he did find out away did cuss and swear.
“Ha, ha,” says the chambermaid, “You need not think it strange:
One sovereign you gave to me and I've brought you back your change.”
Maddy Prior sings The Brisk Butcher
It's of a brisk young butcher as I have heard them say,
He started out of London town all on a certain day.
Says he, “A frolic I will have, my fortune for to try;
I will go into Leicestershire some cattle for to buy.”
When he arrived at Leicester town he came into an inn,
He called for an hostler and boldly he walked in.
He called for liquor of the best, he being a roving blade,
And quickly fixed his eyes upon the lovely chambermaid.
When she took up a candle to light him up to bed,
And when she came into the room, these words to her he said:
“One sovereign I will give to you all to enjoy your charms.”
And this fair maid all night to sleep all in the butcher's arms.
'Twas early the next morning he prepared to go away,
The landlord said, “Your reckoning, sir, you have forgot to pay”
“Oh no”, the butcher did reply “pray do not think it strange,
One sovereign I gave your maid and I haven't got the change.”
They straight way called the chambermaid and charged her with the same,
The golden sovereign she laid down, prepared she'd get the blame.
The butcher then went home, well pleased with what was passed
And soon this pretty chambermaid grew thick about the waist.
'Twas in a twelve months after he came to town again
And then as he had done before he stopped at that same inn.
'Twas then the buxom chambermaid she chanced him for to see,
She brought a babe just three months old and placed him on his knee.
The butcher sat like one amazed and at the child did stare
But when the joke he did find out, how he did stamp and swear.
She said, “Kind sir, it is your own, pray do not think it strange:
One sovereign you gave to me and here I've brought your change.”
So come all you brisk and lively blades, I pray be ruled by me,
Look well into your bargains before your money pay.
Or soon perhaps your folly will give you cause to range
If ever you sport with pretty maids be sure to get your change.