Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lancashire and Cumbrian versions of a Yorkshire ditty

One of the mercifully few things on which my wife and I rather fail to agree is the song "On Ikley Moor baht 'at." I think it's one of the best things ever to come out of Yorkshire: my wife doesn't like it.

Although the song was adopted as an unofficial Yorkshire anthem, the tune was originally from Kent. It is called Carnforth, was composed by the Canterbury cobbler Thomas Clark around the start of the nineteenth century and was first published in 1805 as a setting for "Grace 'tis a charming sound" by Philip Doddridge. However, it soon became more widely known as a tune for "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks."

The story I have heard about how it came to be associated with Ilkey Moor in Yorkshire is that a choral society was visiting Ilkey, had been practicing "While Shepherds watched" to the tune Carnforth, and that during their lunch break one of the Sopranos and one of the Basses went for a walk together on the moor. The rest of the choir decided to play a trick on the two singers, so they worked out these humorous words, and when the couple returned from the Moor, they were surprised to be serenaded with the first performance of "On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At."

I was taught the song by my mother, who was a Lancashire lass and could talk with a broad Lancashire accent or in BBC English depending on what was suitable for the occasion, but always managed to sound like a Yorkshirewoman while singing this one. Ikley Moor is cold and windy, and "baht 'at" is Yorkshire for "without a hat."

The words I know to the song (there are other versions) are

1. "Wheer hast tha' bin sin I saw thee (I saw thee)
On Ilkley Moor baht 'at?
Wheer hast tha' bin sin I saw thee (I saw thee)
Wheer hast tha' bin sin I saw thee? (bin sin I saw thee)


(Chorus)
On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At, On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At, On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At!

2. Thou's bin a-courtin' Mary Jane (Mary Jane)
On Ilkley Moor baht 'at?
Thou's bin a-courtin' Mary Jane (Mary Jane)
Thou's bin a-courtin' Mary Jane (courtin' Mary Jane)

(Chorus)
On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At, On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At, On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At!

3. Thou's goin to catch thee death o'cowld (death o' cowld)
On Ilkley Moor baht 'at
Thou's goin to catch thee death o'cowld (death o' cowld)
Thou's goin to catch thee death o'cowld (catch thee death o' cowld)

(Chorus)
On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At, On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At, On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At!

4. Then we shall 'ave to bury thee (bury thee)
On Ilkley Moor baht 'at (etc)

5. Then worms'll come and eat thee up (eat thee up)
On Ilkley Moor baht 'at (etc)

6. Then ducks'll come and eat up t'worms (eat up t'worms)
On Ilkley Moor baht 'at (etc)

7. Then we shall come and eat up t'ducks (eat up t'ducks)
On Ilkley Moor baht 'at (etc)

8. Thus we shall all have etten thee (etten thee)
On Ilkley Moor baht 'at (etc)

9. That's 'ow we get our oan back (oan back)
On Ilkley Moor baht 'at (etc)



I was provoked to look for some of an original version of the song today on hearing a news report about how efforts are being made to save the song by reinventing it, because modern children don't know it as very few people sing it any more. Brian Blessed was doing a rap version (and I'm very sorry, Brian but I didn't think it was very good.)


Ironically, when I looked on Youtube for a decent version of the song the best two I found were sung by Lancastrians and Westmorland folk respectively (at some stage I will have to put together a West Cumberland version!)

This is a Lancastrian version of the song, arranged by P.M. Adamson



This is a Westmorland version of the song (sung by Lakeland Voices who are based in Kendal.)



It's a little earthy and politically incorrect for modern tastes but somehow I doubt that this song will ever be entirely forgotten.

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