> Mike Waterson > Songs > The Wensleydale Lad

The Wensleydale Lad / The Fine Old Yorkshire Gentleman

[ Roud 21176 ; Master title: The Wensleydale Lad ; TYG 8 ; trad.]

Mary and Nigel Hudleston: Songs of the Ridings

Bill Price sang The Fine Old Yorkshire Gentleman in 1972 as the title track of his Folk-Heritage album The Fine Old Yorkshire Gentleman. He noted:

The Fine Old Yorkshire Gentleman (or The Wensleydale Lad) turns up in many forms in different parts of the county. This version was collected in Horton-in-Ribblesdale in 1960, verse 2 and 5 being added from Holroyd’s Yorkshire Ballads (1892). It tells the story of a country lad’s first visit to town, and how his native wit triumphs over the city dwellers sophistication.

Mike Waterson sang The Wensleydale Lad accompanied on chorus by his sisters Lal and Norma, his niece Maria and Jim Eldon on his 1977 Topic LP Mike Waterson. The song was also added to the Watersons’ Green Fields CD reissue. A.L. Lloyd noted on the original album:

This is one of the three hundred-odd Yorkshire songs collected mostly in the 1850s and 1860s by Abraham Holroyd, an ex-weaver, ex-soldier turned printer in a Bradford back street. It appears in Holroyd’s Collection of Yorkshire Ballads, published posthumously in 1892. It is sometimes called Leeds Church. Mike got this piece from Paul Graney, who has supplied good northern songs to a lot of singers.

Graham Metcalfe sang Wensleydale Lad in 1996 on his WildGoose album Songs From Yorkshire and Other Civilisations. He noted:

A song in my own tongue. This is a combination of a version collected by F.W. Moorman around 1900, and two verses from Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Translation available on request.


Mike Waterson sings The Wensleydale Lad

Wey, what wi’ me father and mother at home
I never had nae fun
Well, they kept me goin from morn till night
So I thowt from them I’d run

Why, in Leeds I’ve heard it were comin on
So I thowt I’d have a spree 1
So I put me Sunday clothes on
I went whistlin merrily

Chorus (after every other verse):
Wi’ me bumpsy bumpsy ay
Bumpsy bumpsy Annie
Wi’ me bumpsy bumpsy ay
And me bumpsy bumpsy Annie

Well, first thing I seen was a factory 2
And I never seen one before
There was shuttles a-weavin, shuttles o’ tape,
They sell by many’s the score

Why, and Owd Ned, he turned every wheel
And to every wheel a strap
Well, I says to maister man, By gum
Owd Ned’s a right strong chap!

Wey, next I went to Leeds owd church
Never been in one in me days
I was most ashamed o’ mesen
Cause I didn’t know the ways

There was thirty forty people in tubs 3
So down wi’ them I sat
When a saucy owd bugger come up and said,
Hi kid, tek off thi hat

Then in there come this great Lord Mayor 4
And over his shoulder’s a club
He got into a white sack-poke
And got in the topmost tub

And then in there come this t’other chap 5
And I think his name were Ned
He got into the bottom most tub
And he mocked all t’other chap said

Well, then there began this clatterin row
And I couldn’t mek out what about
Then the chap in the topmost tub
He began a-shoutin out

He was tellin us rich folks went to heaven
While poor folks went to hell
Wey, I thowt to mesen, Ye silly owd bugger, 6
You don’t know road yersen

Wey, then they began to preach and pray
And they prayed for George our King 7
Then the chap in the topmost tub
He says, Good folks, let’s sing

Well, some they sang very well
The others did grunt and groan
Every bugger sang just what they would 8
So I gi’ed ’em “Darby and Joan”

When the preachin and prayin was over
And the folks was gannin away
Wey, I went to the chap in the topmost tub
Says, Hi kid, what’s to pay?

Why nowt, says he, me lad
Thee must be either daft or fey
So I swung my club stick over my shoulder
Went whistlin out again

Notes by Greer Gilman

1 A lovely place, Wensleydale, but very far from the bright lights.

2 Factories are still a wonder, not yet seen as a threat. At least not to a farm lad; skilled weavers felt otherwise. The great frame-breaking in the North and Midlands, the Luddite rebellion, was 1811-1816. “The cropper lads in the county o’ York / Have broken shears at Foster’s Mill” (there’s a cracking version of this on Swan Arcade’s Nothing Blue album). Another more poignant song about these times is The Handweaver and the Factory Maid (on Brass Monkey’s See How it Runs)

3 By tubs, our lad means pews; the saucy owd bugger is the verger, come to deal with this gaping bumpkin. Hi, kid is a flip anachronism, not heard in England until the talkies. In the published text of the song, it’s Noo, lad.

4 The great Lord Mayor is a bishop with his crook; the white sack-poke (flour sack) is his surplice. Tub is a contemptuous or jocular word for a pulpit, and not only in Yorkshire; a tub-thumper is a ranting preacher. Here, the topmost tub is one of those crow’s nest pulpits, up a winding stair. (There’s a fine one in Whitby.) A Jack-in-the-pulpit sort of pulpit.

5 T’other chap is the deacon, and his mockery is his part in the liturgy, reading the responses.

6 These two verses aren’t in the printed text--too bolshy? The lad may be green, but he’s shrewd.

7 George our King would be George III (ruled 1760-1820) or George IV (1820-1830), at the latest.

8 An early experiment with sampling? Ambient hymn-singing? A lovely sly comment on the psalmody of the day.


Transcribed from the singing of Mike Waterson by Greer Gilman. Thanks for this and her extensive notes.