> Tim Hart & Maddy Prior > Songs > Paddy Stole the Rope

Paddy Stole the Rope

[ Roud 2037 ; Ballad Index OCon068 ; Bodleian Roud 2037 ; trad.]

Bob Scarce sang How Paddy Stole the Rope at The Ship in Blaxhall near Woodbridge, Suffolk, on 10 October 1953. This BBC recording made by Peter Kennedy was included in 2013 on the Alan Lomax Archive album Singing at The Ship Inn.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior recorded Paddy Stole the Rope in 1969 for their second duo album Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 2. The record's sleeve notes comment:

In the days before unemployment benefit a man out of work had the choice of starving or stealing. This humorous account of two Irishmen who find themselves out of work and choose not to starve comes from the singing of Harry Knight of Laughton, Lewes, Sussex.

Bill List of Brundish, Suffolk, sang Paddy and the Rope to Keith Summers in 1977. This recording was included in 2007 on The Musical Tradition anthology A Story to Tell: Keith Summers in Suffolk 1972-79. Summers noted:

Bob Scarce‚Äôs most popular song was Paddy and the Rope, about two hapless would-be church robbers. I would guess I heard Bob sing this on three occasions, and each time, Fred List's brother Billy, who accompanied the Framlingham crowd, was there. A few months later I heard Billy List sing Paddy and the Rope in Dennington Bell—after which he turned to me, winked, and said, “Got it in the end”.

Tony Harvey of Tannington sang Paddy Stole the Rope on the Veteran Tapes cassette Songs Sung in Suffolk Vol 6 (VT106, ca. 1987-91). This recording was also included in 2000 on the Veteran anthology Comic Songs Sung in Suffolk. John Howson noted:

This comic song, which is one Tony learned from Billy List, does not seem to have turned up too often, although it was collected from Harry Knight of Laughton, Lewes, Sussex and in 1953 the BBC recorded Bob Scarce in Suffolk singing it. Interestingly, it was recorded more recently in Ireland by Jimmy McBride from Jimmy Grant of Meenyanly, Donegal. His tune is probably older than Tony's, which is in fact a variant of McNamara's Band.

Lyrics

Bill List sings Paddy and the Rope

There was once two Irish labouring men, to England they came over;
They tramped about in search of work from Liverpool to Dover.
Says Mick to Pat, “I'm tired of this, we're both left on the lurk;
And if we don't get work, bedad, we'll go and rob a church.”

“What, rob a church?” says Mick to Pat; “How could you be so vile?
Sure something bad will happen as we're strolling up the aisle.
But if you'll go I go with you we'll get out safe, I hope;”
So, listen, and I'll tell true how Paddy stole the rope.

So off they went with theft intent, the place they wanted finding.
They got into a village church where nobody was minding.
They scraped together all they could and then prepared to slope,
“Ah,” says Pat, “hold on now, Mick, what shall we do for rope?

We have no bag to hold our swag, or e'er we go outside,
Surely something stout and strong, the bundle must be tied.”
So then they spied the church bell rope, so swift as antelope,
They scrambled to the belfry high to try and steal a rope.

So, like a sailor, up he went, “I'm near the end,” said he,
“I think the piece that's underneath quite long enough will be.”
So, holding on by arm and leg, he took his clasp knife out,
Then right above his head an end he cut that rope so stout.
He quite forgot it held him up, so, by the powers of soap,
Down to the bottom of the church fell Paddy and the rope.

Says Mick to Pat, “Come out of that”, while he on the floor lay moaning,
“That's not the way to steal a rope, no wonder now you're groaning.
I'll show you how to steal a rope, so just lend me the knife.”
“Ah,” says Pat, “be careful Mick, or else you'll lose your life.”

Mick bounded up the other rope, and, like an artful thief,
Instead of cutting it above, he cut it underneath.
The piece fell down and he was left to hang up there and mope;
“Bad cess unto the day,” said he, “when we came stealing rope.”

Now as Paddy on the floor lay moaning while Mick hung up on high,
“Come down,” says Pat. “I can't,” says Mick, “for if I drop, I'll die.”
The noise soon brought the beadle round, the sexton and police,
Although they set poor Micky free, the pair got no release.

They took them to the station where the conduct now they rue,
And if they had no work before, they have plenty now to do;
And with their ingenuity they have a larger scope
than when they broke into the church And tried to steal the rope,
Tried to steal the rope.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior sing Paddy Stole the Rope

There were once two Irish labouring men; to England they came over;
And they tramped about in search of work from Liverpool to Dover.
Says Mike to Pat, “I'm tired of this; we're both left in the lurch;
And if I don't get work, bedad, I'll go and rob a church.”
“What, rob a church!” says Pat to Mike; “How could you be so vile?
For something sure would happen while we're going down the aisle.
But if you do I'll go with you; and we'll get safe out, I hope;”
So, listen and I'll tell you now how Paddy stole the rope.

While off they went with theft intent to the place they wanted finding;
And they broke inside of a country church where nobody was minding.
And they scraped together all they could, they were prepared to slope,
When Paddy says, “Now hold on, Mike, what have we got for rope?
For we have no bag to hold our swag, and before we get outside,
With something strong and stout, my lad, this bundle must be tied.”
And just then he spied the church bell rope, and before you could turn about,
He did ride up the belfry high to climb that rope so stout.

And holding on by one hand and leg, he pulled his clasp knife out,
And right above his hand and head he cut that rope so stout.
Well, he quite forgot it held him up, and, by the Holy Pope,
Down to the bottom of the church fell Paddy and the rope.

“Come out of that,” says Mike to Pat, “and will you stop your moaning,
“If that's the way you steal a rope, it's no wonder that you're groaning.
I'll show you how to steal the rope, if you lend to me your knife.”
“O Mike, go easy,” says old Pat, “or else you'll lose your life.”
So Mike climbed up the other rope, just like an antelope
But instead of cutting it off above, he cut it off below.
Down fell the other piece of rope and Mike was left on high.
“Come down”, says Pat. “I can't,” says Mick, “for if I drop, I'll die.”

Well their noise it brought the beagles out, the sexton and police,
And though they got poor Micky down, they spared them no release.
And for their ingenuity they have now a wider scope
Than when they broke inside a church to go and steal the rope.