> Shirley Collins > Songs > The Tailor and the Mouse

The Tailor and the Louse / The Tailor and the Mouse

[ Roud 16577 ; Master title: The Tailor and the Louse ; Ballad Index ReCi129 ; VWML HAM/4/25/4 ; Mudcat 72632 ; trad.]

Roy Palmer: Everyman’s Book of British Ballads Room for Company James Reeves: The Everlasting Circle

Shirley Collins sang the children’s song from Cecil Sharp’s English Folk Songs for Schools, The Tailor and the Mouse, in 1959 on her first LP Sweet England.

Dave Hillery sang The Tailor and the Louse on the 1972 Topic album Room for Company which accompanied Roy Palmer’s book of the same name, which noted.

The reference to the tailor’s battle with a louse in the previous song is here expanded. The piece is now rather nonsensical, but it started life in the middle of the eighteenth century as a mock-heroic ballad entitled A bloody battle between a taylor and a louse.

John Kirkpatrich and Sue Harris sang The Tailor and the Louse in 1977 on their Topic album Shreds and Patches. They noted:

Perhaps because tailoring is not among the robuster trades, tailors are often a laughing stock in folk songs, especially when it comes to heroics. Twenty four tailors were frightened when a snail put out its horns. A timorous tailor fought a duel with an insect, using his needle as a fencing foil. In the present case, the song originally concerned an epic battle between tailor and louse in which, for once, the tailor gained the victory. The words have got a bit run down, but the tune is a beauty. H.E.D. Hammond collected it from a farm-worker, G. Udal of Halstock, Dorset, about midway between Yeovil and Beaminster. [VWML HAM/4/25/4]


Shirley Collins sings The Tailor and the Mouse

There was a tailor had a mouse
    Hi diddle um come feed-al
They lived together in one house
    Hi diddle um come feed-al

Chorus (after each verse):
Hi diddle um come tarum tirum,
Through the town of Ramsey,
Hi diddle um come over the lea,
Hi diddle um come feed-al

The tailor thought his mouse was ill
He gave him part of a blue pill

The tailor thought the mouse would die
He baked him in an apple pie

The pie was cut, the mouse ran out
The tailor chased him all about

The tailor found his mouse was dead
So he bought another one in his stead

The Tailor and the Louse in Room for Company

It’s of a tailor and a louse,
    Hey ho the weaver;
They lived together in one house,
    Gentlemen, the tailor.

He got so stout that he went out;
He caught the colic in his eye.

The louse was seen down in the street,
With a pair of pattens on his feet.

The louse was seen upon the post,
A-eating of a round of toast.

The louse was seen behind the pump,
A-scratching of his rub a dump.

The louse was sick and like to die;
They sent for Doctor Funny Eye.

They had six fleas all dressed in black
To carry the louse to petty back.

They had a bug to toll the bell,
To carry the louse’s soul to hell.