Jon confesses, “I forgot to do this in the autumn and there’s no sensible place to put it now, but it’s such a great chorus song it seems a shame to miss it off. So here it is.”

According to Bert Lloyd’s notes at Mainly Norfolk this actually two songs welded together celebrating both sheep shearing and the harvest. The latter naturally falls into autumn, but the sheep shearing of the title is more early summer to prevent the animals overheating during the hottest months. Sheep would have naturally moulted, but breeding to develop the yield of wool now means that human intervention is needed. So strictly speaking this could probably have gone into June on the basis of title, but the harvest bolt doesn’t really work there. Anyway, timely or not it’s a rousing chorus and I like the suggestion that the verses were repeated until all glasses (or tankards) were charged. I’m not sure about the suggested pagan link other than to say I would be more surprised if harvest festivals were proved to be a recent invention.



20 Responses to “Sheepshearing”

  1. Dave Eyre says:

    In”The English Year” Steve Roud writes:

    The harvest festival as we know it today was the single-handed invention of one of the great eccentric clergymen of the 19th century, Robert Stephen Hawker.

    He goes on to say:

    He suggested it to his parishioners in 1843 but within ten years [the idea had spread]

    It seems your instincts were right!

  2. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Yep…………I think the chorus would make this popular.

    As nobody has time to check the archive could I be cheeky and note here that I have added some new lyrics to the “Week before Easter” (17 April slot) that some may find interesting.

  3. Jane Ramsden says:

    In fine voice there, Jon. I like sheepshearing songs, being a Rams den! And the exhortation to drink ale is hardly needed in my house!

    Thanks, Dave, for the timely reminder that I have not yet read my Roud English Year book, nor my Hutton Stations Of the Sun, but they are on the list!

    @ Muzza: I noticed your absence and hope you are back to full Morris-St-George mettle! Words noted about grass not always greener, and appreciate what you have, as may be more than the next man. In fact, learn to appreciate the next man too!

  4. Simon says:

    Brilliant Muzza!

  5. Jan says:

    I’ll second that!

  6. Diana says:

    Like this one very much. Very jolly.

  7. Jane Ramsden says:

    Superbly well sung, Jon.

    Another lovely sheep song is ‘Searching For Lambs.’ I was going to post a YouTube link to Loreena McKennitt’s live, tho’ slow version of this traditional song, but to my mind more interesting is the version by Martha Tilston from her album ‘Lucy & the Wolves.’ Aside from the wonderful nature sounds in the background, her voice takes on a clever, cultivated bleating quality like a lamb. Judge for yourselves:

    And since we are ‘on sheep’ today, there is a fine collection called ‘Ten Poems about Sheep,’ in the form of a pamphlet published by Candlestick Press, but selected and introduced by Neil Astley of Bloodaxe fame. If his well-framed foreword does not persuade you to stop eating ‘these cared-for victim animals’ on the spot, it surely encourages you to join poets (some also farmers) like Ted Hughes, Gillian Clarke & Jo Dickinson in their celebration of sheep & sheep behaviour.

    To complement today’s song, Ted Hughes’ 3-part poem simply called ‘Sheep’ has a longish mid-section about shearing. Here’s a (post-shearing) taster:

    “…she suddenly feels much lighter
    She feels herself free, her legs are her own and she scrambles up
    Waiting for that grapple of hands to fling her down again
    She stands in the opened arch of his knees she is facing a
    bright doorway

    With a real bleat to comfort the lamb in herself
    She trots across the threshold and makes one high clearing
    To break from the cramp of her fright
    And surprised by her new lightness and delighted

    She trots away, noble-nosed, her pride unsmirched.
    Her greasy winter-weight stays coiled on the foul floor, for
    somebody else to bother about.
    She has a beautiful wet green brand on her bobbing brand-new
    She baas, she has come off best.”

    For those who like very palatable poetry, there are several ‘Ten Poems about…’ pamphlets obtainable from Candlestick Press from Bicycles to Birds, and more, which could make great gift cards for all occasions. Link here:

  8. Reynard says:

    Strange as it is, just today I got a packet from Martha Tilston with three CDs that I ordered a month ago; amongst them Lucy & the Wolves with the beatiful Searching for Lambs.

    And, since all the Pace Eggnogg has been drunk by now, I’ll let Lord Nelson rest for a year until the next festivities.

  9. Diana says:

    Well I have been proved wrong and Jane right, so well done Reynard. I never suspected you for a minute. Glad you admitted it before I lost my marbles!

  10. Diana says:

    I forsee trouble ahead now – was it really you Reynard who admitted taking on the persona of Nelson or was it someone utilising you name. There is only Jane, Simon and one or two others who have pictures of some sort to enable recognition.

  11. Jane Ramsden says:

    I think the mystery is well and truly solved now, Diana. I knew Reynardo would come clean in the end! Lol! However, do not be complacent about avatars. It would not be difficult for me to assume a certain person’s identity with his own avatar… and he hasn’t even got one on here! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    @ Reynard: Yes, Martha Tilston’s ‘Searching For Lambs’ is so inventively good and beautiful, I think I might have to acquire ‘Lucy and the Wolves’ missen!

  12. Diana says:

    Clever you Jane, still I am glad the culprit owned up – so no more sleepless nights wondering who it was! Old crafty has got a lot to answer for though! Like a certain toy I felt that someone was winding us up.

  13. Muzza (N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    @Jane…………..lovely youtube link to Martha Tilson…the birds in the background would be ideal for “The Three Ravens!”.
    @Diana……..if you go to Jane’s link to “Candlestick Press”..
    there is a pamphlet…’10 poems about revenge’
    But you wont need it as we are all forgiven now and starting with a clean slate………
    no more shapeshifting from me!

  14. Diana says:

    Muzza I will go to Jane’s link and get said poems – will keep them in reserve just in case they are required in the future. It was rather strange seeing me writing to myself – glad you wrote your comment exonerating me. I am daft enough as it is!

  15. Muzza (N.W Surrey-UK) says:

    Here I am …….on 26th….2nd day of being struck down by a ‘man cold’ and, therefore, I missed ANZAC DAY on 25th and a blatant oportunity to link you to
    back to bed..ohhhh my head!

  16. Diana says:

    Oh poor you Muzza. Stay in bed and take lots of drinks (not alcholic mind you). Also paraceamol tablets. Hope soon better.

  17. OldMuzza (N.W Surrey-UK) says:

    Surprising the little gems that come to light when looking back over the comments from the past years …..
    for some reason I have been highly amused today by Reynard’s /Lord Nelson’s comment from 2012……….
    ‘Just today I got a packet from Martha Tilston’………(just me then!)
    No sign of the man cold this year and I have remembered it’s ANZAC Day

  18. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Anzac Day…………….

  19. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Cor blimey Guvnor…don’t know what happened there…was trying to repost the Youtube link from 4 comments above(Band played Waltzing Matilda) but ended up with Bacca pipes!!!..Sorreeeeee

  20. Old Muzza (NW Surrey UK) says:

    The world’s gone mad……now ‘the Last dalesman’ has popped up two comments above….how the heck did that happen?………and even my email system has defeated me since OUTLOOK decided to ‘improve it’…..I’m getting too old for all this technology….I’ll stick to good old folk songs.

Your Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /customers/a/0/f/ on line 121