> The Watersons > Songs > Sedgefield Fair

Sedgefield Fair

[ Roud 294 ; Master title: Sedgefield Fair ; TYG 15 ; Ballad Index RcOlJoWa ; Mudcat 1755 ; trad.]

The Broadside from Grimsby sang Caistor Fair (Old John Wallace) in 1973 on their Topic album of songs and ballads collected in Lincolnshire, The Moon Shone Bright, and their band member John Conolly sang Brigg Fair / Caistor Fair on his 2013 CD The Man from Fiddlers’ Green. He commented:

Jolly jinks at Caistor Fair provide a contrast to Joseph Taylor’s classic love song, set in Brigg. The two towns are ten miles apart, in rural North Lincolnshire.

The Watersons sang Sedgefield Fair with Mike Waterson in lead in 1981 on their Topic album Green Fields. A.L. Lloyd commented in the album sleeve notes:

Sedgefield is just north of Stockton-on-Tees, and in the nineteenth century its fair was renowned for draught horses. In this comedy song the sellers had poor luck. “Titty fa lairy, fire up (or flare up) Mary” was quite a favourite chorus for many mid-nineteenth century songs. Some say it refers to the steam threshing machine then coming into favour. David Hillery got the song from Jack Beeforth of Wragby, Yorks, and then passed it on to the Watersons.

And Greer Gilman noted;

Dicky Thompson seems to be Mrs. Willy from Westerdale’s cousin; they share the same light touch with livestock.
The dialect is North and East Riding, mostly.

The steam threshing machine’s theory is supported by Jim Copper’s The Threshing Song which has the line “Flare up Mary” in the chorus. This song was recorded in 1951 by BBC Radio and included in 1955 on the Alan Lomax collection World Library of Folk and Primitive Music: England.

Denys Troughton from Lythe, Yorkshire, sang Mickleby Fair in a recording made by John Howson in 1987. It was included in 2011 on the Veteran anthology CD of traditional folk music, songs and stories from England and Ireland, Stepping It Out Again!. John Howson noted:

Denys learned this song locally when he was young. The first verse comes from a song which is most commonly called Bryan O’Lynn. The song was widely collected in Ireland, North America and England, particularly in Yorkshire. The second verse usually turns up in another song from that county: Mutton Pie, also known as The Yorkshire Farmer, but the third verse remains a mystery. In some versions the fair mentioned is Wibsey, Sedgefield or Lockington but Denys’s version has been localised with Mickleby, which is half way between Whitby and Staithes, close to Lythe where he was brought up.


The Watersons sing Sedgefield Fair

Awd Dicky Thompson, he had a grey mare
And he took ’er away ti Sedgefield Fair.
But he browt her back, whoa yes he did,
Because he hadn’t a farthin bid.

Chorus (after each verse):
(Singin) Titty fa lairy, fire up Mary
Up to the jigs o’ Sedgefield Fair

Now he turned her away into Wragby Wood.
He thowt his awd mare might deea some good,
But she ran her awd head right intiv a tree.
“Gor dang,” says Dick, “t’awd mare’ll dee.”

Now he browt her some hay, it were all in a scuttle,
And her poor awd belly began for to ruttle.
So he browt her some corn, it were all in a sieve,
“Gor dang,” says Dick, “t’awd mare’ll live.”

Now he took ’er away inti’t field to ploo
To see what good ’is awd mare could do.
But at every end, she give a great fart–
“Gor dang,” says Dick, “we’ll plough until dark.”

Now all of his sheep got intiv his fog
And he sent away home for t’ black and white dog.
And every end he give a great shout,
It were, “Get away by ’em and fetch ’em out!”

Then all of his hens got intiv his corn
And he swore he would shoot ’em, as sure he’s born.
So he got his awd gun and he squinted and squared
And he missed t’awd hens and he shot his grey mare.

Denys Troughton sings Mickleby Fair

Our old fella went to Mickleby Fair,
He bought three horses and yan was a mare,
Yan was blind, t’other couldn’t see,
Yan had it’s head where it’s tail ought to be.

Chorus (after each verse):
To me jack, wack folly-diddle-die
To me jack, wack folly-diddle-die.

Now our old woman was [side a snape?]
She bakes side cakes that nane could eat,
Some made of brass and some made of bran,
Now they rattled in your belly like an old tin can.

There is an old peggitt up stands behind the door,
‘Cause poor lass, many a long hour
A washing and a scrubbin’ from morn ‘til night
Old bags of Glory is never out of sight.

Last chorus:
To me folly diddle-die-do, folly-diddle-day.


Thanks to Greer Gilman for the Watersons’ transcription and the notes.