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The Cropper Lads

[ Roud - ; TYG 62 ; trad.]

The Yorkshire Garland website notes on The Cropper Lads:

Croppers, although relatively few in numbers, played a central part in the activities of the machine-breaking Luddites in Yorkshire. Prior to the introduction of machinery to do the job they had been top-grade apprenticed craftsmen, trained to produce a smooth even nap on the woollen cloth after it had been woven. They cropped the woven cloth with heavy shears and were highly skilled, and relatively highly paid so had more to lose than most by the introduction of the machinery. Prior to this they had blacked any cloth produced in a gig mill and therefore had already shown their anti-machinery stance and solidarity with the weavers. Thus croppers joined the Notting­ham­shire Luddites in raids on mills to break the machinery which resulted in desperate battles between mill-owners backed by the police and militia, and the Luddites, which resulted in much bloodshed and even death. The main action took place in and around Huddersfield.

Great Enoch was the name given to a big hammer used to smash the machinery, rather ironically as it was named after Enoch and James Taylor of Marsden near Huddersfield who were the ingenious blacksmiths who invented the cropping machine.

Bill Price sang Cropper Lads in 1972 on his Folk-Heritage album The Fine Old Yorkshire Gentleman.

Roy Harris sang The Cropper Lads in 1972 on his Topic album Champions of Folly.

Louis and Sally Killen sang The Cropper Lads unaccompanied in 1975 on their LP Bright Shining Morning. He also sang in in 1980 on his Collector album Gallant Lads Are We: Songs of the British Industrial Revolution. He commented in the first album's sleeve notes:

I first heard this song, sang in three parts by a male voice choir, when it was used as the introduction to a serialised dramatisation of the novel The Masters of Bankdam on BBC radio in 1948. In the 1820's-30's the men who worked in the cropping sheds of the Yorkshire woollen mills took great exception to being made redundant by the machines spawned of the industrial revolution. The followed the example of the Luddites (named after their leader, “General” Ned Ludd) and secretly “combined” to break and burn the new machines. Harried by the local militia and the Dragoons, they eventually lost their fight and the machines came to stay. But the Croppers are still remembered and their song still sung in Yorkshire to this day.

Ian Giles with Folly Bridge sang The Cropper Lads in 1992 on their second WildGoose cassette, Unabridged.

Brian Peters sang The Cropper Lads in 1992 on his Harbourtown album The Seeds of Time.

Maddy Prior & the Girls (Rose Kemp and Abbie Lathe) sang Cropper Lads in 2002 on their CD Bib & Tuck. This track was also included in 2005 on Maddy Prior's anthology Collections.

Mawkin:Causley sang Cropper Lads in 2009 on their CD The Awkward Recruit.

Bryony Griffith sang The Cropper Lads in 2014 on her CD Nightshade. She noted:

I first heard this at The Grove folk club in Leeds and later learnt it from the version on the Yorkshire Garland website by harmony group Three Score and Ten. 2012 was the 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprisings in and about Huddersfield, where I'm from, so I thought I ought to learn it.

Rachael McShane sang Cropper Lads in 2018 on her Topic album with The Cartographers, When All Is Still. She noted:

I've been singing this song from Huddersfield in Yorkshire for quite a long time. The Croppers were highly skilled, well-paid craftsmen in the weaving industry. The song mentions ‘Great Enoch’, a huge hammer used to smash machinery during the Luddite uprising, which they sardonically named after Enoch & James Taylor of Marsden—the blacksmiths who invented the machines that threatened their jobs.

Lyrics

Louis & Sally Killen sing The Cropper Lads Maddy Prior & the Girls sing Cropper Lads

Come Cropper lads of great renown
Who love to drink strong ale that's brown
And strike each haughty tyrant down
With hatchet, pike and gun!

Come Cropper lads of great renown
Who love to drink good ale that's brown
And strike each haughty tyrant down
With hatchet, pike and gun!

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Oh the Cropper lads for me (my lads)
And gallant lads they be!
With lusty stroke the shear frames broke,
The Cropper lads for me!

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Oh the Cropper lads for me
And gallant lads they be!
With lusty stroke the shear frames broke,
The Cropper lads for me!

What, though the Specials still advance
And troopers lightly round us prance,
Us Cropper lads still lead the dance
With hatchet, pike and gun!

What, though the Specials still advance
And soldiers nightly round us prance,
The Cropper lads still lead the dance
With hatchet, pike and gun!

And when at night, when all is still
And the moon is hid behind yon hill,
We still advance to do our will
With hatchet, pike and gun!

And night by night, when all is still
And the moon is hid behind the hill,
We forward march to do our will
With hatchet, pike and gun!

Great Enoch still shall lead our van,
Stop him who dares, stop him who can.
Step forward, every gallant man,
With hatchet, pike and gun!

Great Enoch still shall lead the van,
Stop him who dares, stop him who can.
Press forward, every gallant man,
With hatchet, pike and gun!

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Luddites & Mill Song.