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Songs of the Ridings

His Last Sail


GRANDFATHER
T' watter is blue i' t' offin',
An' blue is t' sky aboon;
Swallows are settin' sou'ard,
An' wanin' is t' harvist moon.
Ower lang I've bin cowerin' idle
I' my neuk by t' fire-side;
I'll away yance mair i' my coble,
I'll away wi' t' ebbin' tide.

MALLY
Nay, Gransir, thoo moant gan sailin',
Thoo mun bide at yam to-neet;
At eighty-two thoo sudn't think
O' t' Whitby fishin' fleet.
North cone's up on t' flagstaff,
There's a cap-full o' wind i' t' bay;
T' waves wap loud on t' harbour bar,
Thoo can hardlins fish to-day.

GRANDFATHER 
It's leansome here i' t' hoose, lass,
When t' fisher-folk's at sea,
Watchin' yon eldin(1) set i' t' fire
Bleeze up, dwine doon, an' dee.
An' t' sea-gulls they coom flyin'
Aboon our red roof-tiles;
They call me doon the chimley,
An' laugh at other whiles.

"There's mack'rel oot at sea, lad,"
Is what I hear 'em say;
"Their silver scales are glestrin' breet,
Look oot across the bay;
But mack'rel's not for thee, lad,
For thoo's ower weak to sail."
My een wi' saut tears daggle(2)
When I hear their mockin' tale.

MALLY
Dean't mind their awfish(3) skreekin',
They 'tice folk to their death;
Then ride aboon yon billows
An' gloor at them beneath.
They gloor at eenless corpses
Slow driftin' wi' the tide,
Deep doon amang the weedy wrack,
Wheer t' scaly fishes glide.

GRANDFATHER
I'd fain lig wi' my kinsfolk,
Fore-elders, brothers, sons,
Wheer t' star-fish shine like twinklin' leets,
An' t' spring-tide watter runs.
T' kirkyard's good for farm-folk,
That ploo an' milk their kye,
But I could sleep maist soondly
Wheer t' ships gan sailin' by.

T' grave is whisht(4) an' foulsome,
But clean is t' saut sea-bed;
Thoo can hark to t' billows dancin'
To t' tune o' t' tide owerhead.
Yon wreaths o' floors i' t' kirkyard
Sean wither an' fade away,
But t' sea-tang wreaths round a droon'd man's head
Will bide while Judgment Day.

Sae fettle(5) my owd blue coble,
I kessen'd her "Mornin' Star,"
An' I'll away through t' offin'
Wheer t' skooals o' mack'rel are.
Thoo can look for my boat i' t' harbour,
When thoo's said thy mornin' psalm;
Mebbe I'll fill my fish-creel full -
Mebbe I'll nean coom yam.


1. Kindling 2. Grow moist 
3. Elfish 4. Silent 5. Get ready

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Jenny Storm

Young Jenny, she walked ower t' ribbed sea-sand,
(T' lairocks sing sae sweetly, O!)
Wheer she met a fisher-lad, net i' t' hand,
As t' tide cam hoamin'(1) in.

"Jenny, thy farm is twee mile away;
(T' wing-mouse flits sae featly, O!) 
Say, what is thou latin'(2) at dusk 'o day,
When t' tide cooms hoamin' in."

"I's latin' waif an' straif(3) by the feam, 
(O! esh an' yak are good for bield)
I's latin' timmer to big me a heam,
As t' tide cooms hoamin' in."

"What for is thou latin' waif an' straif?
(T' summer-gauze(4) floats ower hedge an' field)
What for is thou biggin' a heam an' a hafe,(5)
When t' tide cooms hoamin' in?"

"To-morn is t' day when I sal be wed,
(T' bride-wain's plenished wi' serge an' silk)
Jock's anchored his boat i' t' lang road-stead,
An' t' tide cooms hoamin' in.

To-morn we gan to t' kirk on t' brow,
(Nesh satin shoon as white as milk)
Fisher-folk wi' me, an' ploo-lads enow,
When t' tide cooms hoamin' in."

"Frae thy jilted lad what gift mun thou get?
(T' lairocks sing sae sweetly, O!))
Twee lucky-steanes, or fine ear-rings o' jet,
When t' tide cooms hoamin' in?"

"I'll tak nayther rings nor steanes frae thee,
(T' wing-mouse flits sae featly, O!))
But yon token I gave thee gie back to me,
Noo t' tide cooms hoamin' in."

"Thy token is safe i' t' Boggle Nook
(T' sea-mew plains when t' sun clims doon)
Thou can finnd it thisel, if thou'll gan an' look,
When t' tide cooms hoamin' in."

Young Jenny, she tripped ower t' yallow strand,
(White ullets(6) dance i' t' glent o' t' moon)
Her step was ower leet to dimple t' sand,
As t' tide cam hoamin' in.

I' t' Boggle Nook lay t' lad she sud wed;
(T' neet-hags skreek sae dowly, O!))
Foul sea-weed cluthered(7) aboon his head,
An' t' mouth she had kissed wi' blood was red,
As t' tide cam hoamin' in.

Nea tear she shed, nea word she spak,
(T' witches gloor sae foully, O!)
But an awfish(8) laugh flew ower t' sea-wrack,(9)
As t' tide cam hoamin' in.

They carried them heam by t' leet o' t' moon,
(T' neet-hags skreek sae dowly, O!) 
Him to his grave on t' brow aboon, 
Her to yon mad-house i' Scarbro' toon,
Wheer t' tide cooms hoamin' in.


1. Murmuring. 2. Searching for.
3. F'lotsam and jetsam. 4. Gossamer.
5. Shelter. 6.Owls 7. Tangled
8. Eldrich/hideous 9. Drifts of sea-weed

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Lile Doad

Listen to this verse read by Dave Fawthrop

The Lord's bin hard on me, Sir, 
He's stown my barn away.
O dowly, dowly was that neet
He stole lile Doad away!

'Twas Whissuntide we wedded,
Next Easter he was born,
Just as t' last star i' t' April sky 
Had faded into t' morn.
Throstles were singin, canty,(1)
For they'd their young i' t' nest; 
But birds don't know a mother's love
That howds her barn to t' breast.

When wark was ower i' summer,
I nussed him on my knees;
An' Mike browt home at lowsin'-time
Wild rasps an' strawberries.
We used to sit on t' door-sill
I' t' leet o' t' harvist-moon,
While our lile Doad would clench his fists
An' suck his toes an' croon.

But when t' mell-sheaf(2) was gotten,
An' back-end days set in,
Wi' frost at neet an' roke(3) by day,
His face gate pinched an' thin.
We niver knew what ailed him,
He faded like a floor,
He faded same as skies'll fade
When t' sun dips into t' moor.

Church bells on Kersmas mornin'
Rang out so merrily,
But cowd an' dreesome were our hearts:
We knew lile Doad must dee.
He lay so still in his creddle,
An' slowly he dwined away,
While(4) I laid two pennies on his een
On Holy Innocents' Day.

The Lord's bin hard on me, Sir,
He's stown my barn away.
O, dowly, dowly was that neet
He stole lile Doad away!

1. Briskly 2. The last sheaf of the harvest
3. Mist 4. Until

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Lord George


(These verses were written soon after the Old Age Pensions Bill came into operation. )

I'd walk frae here to Skipton,
Ten mile o' clarty(1) lanes,
If I might see him face to face
An' thank him for his pains.
He's ta'en me out o' t' Bastile,(2)
He's gi'en me life that's free:
Five shill'n a week for fuglin'(3) Death
Is what Lord George gives me.

He gives me leet an' firin',
An' flour to bak i' t' yoon.(4)
I've tea to mesh for ivery meal
An' sup all t' afternoon.
I've nowt to do but thank him,
An' mak' a cross wi' t' pen;
Five shillin' a week for nobbut that!
Gow! he's the jewel o' men.

I niver mell on pol'tics,
But I do love a lord;
He spends his savin's like a king,
Wheer other fowks 'll hoard.
I know a vast o' widdies
That's seen their seventieth year;
Lord George, he addles brass for all,
Though lots on 't goes for beer.

If my owd man were livin',
He'd say as I spak true;
He couldn't thole them yallow Rads,
But awlus voted blue.
An' parson's wife, shoo telled me
That we'll sooin go to t' poll;
I hope shoo's reight; I'll vote for George,
Wi' all my heart an' soul.

I don't know wheer he springs frae,
Happen it's down Leeds way;
But ivery neet an' mornin'
For his lang life I pray.
He's ta'en me out o' t' Bastile,
He's gi'en me life that's free:
Five shill'n a week for fuglin' Death
Is what Lord George gives me. 

1. Muddy. 2. Workhouse. 3. Cheating
4. Oven 

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Marra To Bonney

What would you do wi' a doughter-
Pray wi' her, bensil(1) her, flout her?-
Say, what would you do wi' a daughter
That's marra to Bonney(2) hissen?

I prayed wi' her first, of a Sunday,
When chapil was lowsin' for t' neet;
An' I laid all her cockaloft marlocks(3)
'Fore th' Almighty's mercy-seat.
When I looked for her tears o' repentance,
I jaloused(4) that I saw her laugh;
An' she said that t' Powers o' Justice
Would scatter my words like chaff.

Then I bensilled her hard in her cham'er, 
As I bensils owd Neddy i' t' cart.
If prayers willent teach thee, my dolly,
Happen whip-stock will mak thy tears start.
But she stood there as chuff as a mawmet,(5) 
Not one chunt'rin(6) word did she say:
But she hoped that t' blooid o' t' martyrs
Would waish all my sins away.

Then I thought, mebbe floutin' will mend her; 
So I watched while she cam out o' t' mill,
And afore all yon Wyke lads an' lasses
I fleered at her reight up our hill.
She winced when she heeard all their girnin',
Then she whispered, a sob i' her throat:
"I reckon I'll noan think o' weddin'
While women are given their vote."

What would you do wi' a doughter-
Pray wi' her, bensil her, flout her?-
Say, what would you do wi' a daughter
That's marra to Bonney hissen?

1. Beat. 2. A match for Bonaparte.
3. Conceited tricks. 4. Suspected. 
5. As proud as an idol. 6. Grumbling.

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Mary Mecca

Mary Mecca,(1) Mary Mecca,
I'm fain to see thee here,
A Devon lass to fill my glass
O' home-brewed Yorkshire beer.
I awlus said that foreigners
Sud niver mel on me;
But sike a viewly face as thine
I'd travel far to see.

Mary Mecca, Mary Mecca,
I'm sad to see thee here,
Wheer t' wind blaws hask(2) frae Norway
I' t' spring-time o' the year.
I'd liever finnd thee sittin',
Wi' a bowl o' cruds an' cream,
Wheer t' foxglove bells ring through the dells,
Anent a Dartmoor stream.

Mary Mecca, Mary Mecca,
The way thou snods thy hair,
It maks my heart go dancin'
Like winnlestraws(3) i' t' air.
One neet I heard thee singin',
As I cam home frae toon;
'Twas sweet as curlews makkin' love
Agean a risin' moon.

Mary Mecca, Mary Mecca,
I dream o' thy gray een;
I think on all I've wasted,
An' what I might hae been.
I'm nowt but muck off t' midden,
So all I axe is this:
Just blaw the froth from off my yal(4);
'Twill seem most like a kiss.

1. Metcalfe. 2. Keenly
3. Whisps of grass or straw 4. Ale

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