> Nic Jones > Songs > The Butcher and the Tailor’s Wife

The Butcher and the Tailor’s Wife

[ Roud 1528 ; Ballad Index BdBuTaWi ; VWML RVW2/3/196 ; Bodleian Roud 1528 ; trad.]

Folk Songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Nic Jones recorded The Butcher and the Tailor’s Wife in 1970 for his first album Ballads and Songs. He noted:

Another song that I obtained from a broadside is The Butcher and the Tailor’s Wife. The poor tailor is subjected to a multitude of indignities throughout a great many songs, for example The Tailor’s Breeches, Benjamin Bowmaneer, The Tailor and the Louse, and The Bold Trooper. Here we pour ridicule on him yet again.

Mary Humphreys and Anahata sang The Little Lousy Tailor in 2012 on their CD A Baker’s Dozen. Mary Humphreys noted:

Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote down the tune (and the words to the refrains) of this song from Mr Gothard who lived at Church Street, Wilburton in 1906 [VWML RVW2/3/196] . He failed to notate the text but must have known it from one of his extensive collection of broadsides. From my own experience it is almost impossible to notate songs and write the words simultaneously, so we shouldn’t criticise this omission. It took a great deal of finding a broadside called the Lousy Tailor, but the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library Take-6 website came up trumps with a version collected from Mr Booker in Warnham, Sussex by Francis Collinson in 1950. I have adapted it slightly and relocated it to the Fens. It is just the sort of boisterous tale that would raise a laugh in the public house where it was most likely collected by Vaughan Williams.

Dave Townsend and Gill Redmond sang The Lousy Tailor in 2012 on their WildGoose CD New Road to Alston. They noted:

As always, the woman is beautiful, the butcher is lustful, and the tailor is ineffectual. Married men will be reminded of those moments when their wives say “I’ve had this really good idea…” The tune was collected by Vaughan Williams from Mr Gothard of Wilburton, Cambridgeshire, in 1906, and Roy Palmer very conveniently matched it to a broadside text printed by Harkness.


Oh it’s of a wealthy tailor, in London town did dwell,
And he had a handsome wife, and her name was Mary Bell.

She’s gone to the butcher’s, a joint of meat to buy,
“What is your will, dear woman?” the butcher did reply.

Well, the joint of meat it was cut down, refuse it she did not,
And straightway she goes and she puts it in the pot.

And when the tailor he come in, she told him what she had,
And the poor tailor jumped for joy, his heart was very glad.

“Oh Husband, dearest husband, I’ll tell you what must be
Tomorrow night the butcher, he has to lie with me.

You take a broadsword in your hand, and under the bed go
And the first man that enters, then, be sure to run him through.”

“Oh I never handled sword or gun, my dear and loving wife,
And butchers, they are bloody dogs, I think he’ll have my life.”

“Oh don’t you be down-hearted, with courage stout and bold
And if the butcher you will come, you’ll wear a chain of gold.”

And the butcher’s thinking it was time to see the tailor’s wife,
And thinking they might form a plot or trick or take his life,

He takes a brace of pistols with powder and with ball,
“And the first man that molests me now, by Jove I’ll make him fall!”

And when the butcher he come in, she takes him by the hand,
She led him to her bedchamber, says, “I’m at your command.”

He takes a brace of pistols and lays them on the bed,
And the poor tailor’s struck with fear: he lay as if quite dead.

And the butcher’s taken off his clothes a-going into bed,
How he was struck when he did spy one of the tailor’s legs!

“Is this your husband’s dog?” he says, “I’ll shoot him for the fright.”
“Oh spare my life!” the tailor cries, “and you can have my wife!”


Song lyrics copied from Selected English Folk Singers: Nic Jones with adaptions to the actual singing of Nic Jones by Garry Gillard.