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The Dalesman's Litany

[ Roud - ; TYG 70 ; GlosTrad Roud - ; words F.W. Moorman, music Dave Keddie]

Frederic William Moorman, professor of English Language and Literature at Leeds University, wrote the poem The Dalesman's Litany in about 1900. It was published in 1918 in his book Songs of the Ridings.

Tim Hart sang The Dalesman's Litany in 1968 on his and Maddy Prior's first duo album, Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 1. The record's sleeve notes comment:

The words of this song were collected by F.W. Moorman who was president of the Yorkshire Dialect Society during the latter part of the 19th century. The beautiful haunting melody was written only a few years ago by Dave Keddie of Bradford to whom we are indebted for allowing its inclusion on this record. Although the lyrics were originally in broad dialect Tim translated them where necessary to enable more people to understand them.

Dave Burland sang The Dalesman's Litany in 1971 as the title track of his Trailer album A Dalesman's Litany. Roy Bailey sang it in the same year, accompanied by Leon Rosselson on guitar and John Kirkpatrick on accordion, on his eponymous Trailer album Roy Bailey.

Cliff Haslam sang Dalesman's Litany in 1976 on the Living Folk album Here's A Health to the Man and the Maid.

Louis Killen sang The Dalesman's Litany in 1976 on his Collector album of Songs of the British industrial revolution, Gallant Lads Are We. His sleeve notes commented:

In the nineteenth century, industrialisation attracted of forced many workers into vast new towns where social provisions were disastrously inadequate—“'twas the same as being in hell”. A confused and contradictory song, but the choices were like that. (A dalesman is a man from the rural hill country to the north of industrial Yorkshire.)

Jon Boden sang The Dalesman's Litany as the 14 March 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

Fay [Hield] is from Keighley so I fear will never forgive Tim Hart for his mispronunciation (‘Keeley’). I’ve at least got that right although, as ever, the southern accent lets me down with this song.

Moore Moss Rutter learned The Dalesman's Litany from the singing of Dave Burland and recorded it in 2011 for their eponymous first CD, Moore Moss Rutter.

Pete Wood sang The Dalesman's Litany on his 2014 CD Young Edwin. He noted:

Though not recognised by some as a traditional song, it speaks eloquently about the iniquities imposed on workers in the industrial revolution. And, of course, I did many a time “walk at neet through Sheffield Lanes”.

Duncan Brown sang The Dalesman's Litany in 2016 on his and Danny Spooner's CD of songs of the working life, Labour and Toil. The album's notes commented:

Written around 1900, the song expresses a countryman's lament a being forced to work in Yorkshire's manufacturing towns. What a delight it must have been to finally be able to return to his beloved country—probably in the Yorkshire Dales. The lines “From Hull and Halifax and Hell, good Lord deliver us” were from a much older Yorkshire saying, based on the belief that Hull and Halifax were the two towns in that area where you got the harshest punishment from the magistrates for breaking the law.

Jack Rutter sang The Dalesman's Litany in 2017 on his CD Hills. He noted:

I got this song from the singing of Dave Burland a few years ago now and couldn’t really resist including it on this album.


F.W. Moran's poem Tim Hart sings The Dalesman's Litany

It's hard when fowks can't finnd their wark
Wheer they've bin bred an' born;
I were young I awlus thowt
I'd bide 'mong t' roots an' corn.
I've bin forced to work i' towns,
So here's my litany:
Frae Hull, an' Halifax, an' Hell,
Gooid Lord, deliver me!

It's hard when folks can't find their work
Where they've been bred and born.
When I was young I always thought
I'd bide amidst fruits and corn.
But I've been forced to work in town
So here's my litany:
From Hull and Halifax and Hell,
Good Lord, deliver me!

When I were courtin' Mary Ann,
T' owd squire, he says one day:
“I've got no bield1 for wedded fowks;
Choose, wilt ta wed or stay?”
I couldn't gie up t' lass I loved,
To t' town we had to flee:
Frae Hull, an' Halifax, an' Hell,
Gooid Lord, deliver me!

When I was courting Mary Jane
The old squire, he says to me,
“I've got no rooms for wedded folk;
Choose whether to go or to stay.”
I could not give up the girl I loved
So to town I was forced to flee:
From Hull and Halifax and Hell,
Good Lord, deliver me!

I've wrowt i' Leeds an' Huthersfel',
An' addled2 honest brass;
I' Bradforth, Keighley, Rotherham,
I've kept my barns an' lass.
I've travelled all three Ridin's round,
And once I went to sea:
Frae forges, mills, an' coalin' boats,
Gooid Lord, deliver me!

I've worked in Leeds and Huddersfield
And I've earned some honest brass.
In Bradford, Keighley, Rotherham
I've kept my bairns and lass.
I've travelled all three Ridings round
And once I went to sea:
From forges, mills and coaling boats,
Good Lord, deliver me!

I've walked at neet through Sheffield loans3,
'T were same as bein' i' Hell:
Furnaces thrast out tongues o' fire,
An' roared like t' wind on t' fell.
I've sammed up coals i' Barnsley pits,
Wi' muck up to my knee:
Frae Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham,
Gooid Lord, deliver me!

I've walked at night through Sheffield lanes
T'was just like being in hell.
Where furnaces thrust out tongues of fire
And roared like the wind on the fell.
I've sammed up coals in Barnsley pit
With muck up to my knee:
From Barnsley, Sheffield, Rotherham,
Good Lord, deliver me!

I've seen grey fog creep ower Leeds Brig
As thick as bastile4 soup;
I've lived wheer fowks were stowed away
Like rabbits in a coop.
I've watched snow float down Bradforth Beck
As black as ebiny:
Frae Hunslet, Holbeck, Wibsey Slack,
Gooid Lord, deliver me!

I've seen fog creep across Leeds bridge
As thick as the bastile soup.
I've lived where folks were stowed away
Like rabbits in a coop.
I've seen snow float down Bradford Beck
As black as ebony:
From Hunslet, Holbeck, Wibsey Stack,
Good Lord, deliver me!

But now, when all wer childer's fligged,5
To t' coontry we've coom back.
There's fotty mile o' heathery moor
Twix' us an' t' coal-pit slack.
And when I sit ower t' fire at neet,
I laugh an' shout wi' glee:
Frae Bradforth, Leeds, an Huthersfel',
Frae Hull, an' Halifax, an' Hell,
T' gooid Lord's delivered me!

But now that all our children have gone
To the country we've come back.
There's forty miles of heathery moor
'Twixt us and the coal-pit stack.
And as I sit by the fire at night
I laugh and shout with glee:
From Hull and Halifax and Hell,
The Good Lord delivered me.

1 shelter;   2 earned;   3 lanes;   4 workhouse;   5 fledged

At the times of writing of both poem and song, all the places mentioned were in the West Riding of Yorkshire except for Hull which was in the East Riding. The narrator's original home in the Yorkshire Dales would have been in either the West or North Riding.


Transcriped by Reinhard Zierke. The names of the places were really hard to get, so many thanks to Stuart Preston, Terry Rigby, Simon Talbot, and Chris Rust for invaluable help. I only found F.W. Moorman's original poem later.