Old Ned's a Rare Strong Chap

Melody -

When I liv'd at whoam wi' feyther and mother I ne'er had any fun,
They made me negur1) from morn to neet so I thowt fro' them I'd run;
Then my brass I sav'd for a spree, Manchester came deawn to see,
And don'd mysel' in my Sunday duds, and set off reet full of glee.

To th'Piccadilly first I went and then into the teawm I coom,
And there I seed fine things and look'd at the Infirmary moon2);
And there I seed such dandies, by gum they made me mad,
They made such game o' my county talk 'cause I wur a country lad.

A rosy cheek'd lady then I met, eh! such a dashing blade;
Hoo3) ask'd me if I'd walk wi' her, and hold 'n my arm she laid.
Thinks I, hoo's fawn in love wi' me, it s'll be a decent job,
But we had not walk'd aboon twenty yards ere I catched her fist i' my fob.

To a factory next I went, I ne'er had been i' one before;
There were twisting thrums aml reels and strops, I'm sure were mony a score.
They said owd Ned turn'd every wheel, and even wheel a strop;
By gum, thowt I to myself, owd Ned's a rare strong chap.

To the owd church then one Monday marn to see folks wed I went,
And tho' I did no gawm beawt wur4), to learn it I wur bent;
What creawds o' folk wur there, a mon hit me with a stick,
And said, 'Young man, doff your hat, I'd have you do it quick'.

Then I stood up among the ruck5). Thinks I, What comes on next?
So throng they wur and jumbled so, and they wur aw perplex'd;
For whither a mon geet hold o' the reet lass I think he could na tell,
I wur shov'd and jamm'd among 'em so, I'd near been wed mysen.

Then after this to the play I went, where a mon come eawt to sing,
And he squeek'd and squall'd and quaver'd so, he made aw the place to ring.
Some said that he sung weel, and some did grunt and groan;
Says I, I'll beat such singing as this, so I sung Bob and Joan.

When aw wur o'er and done, and aw the folk come eawt,
Away I went to the Blackymoor's Yead and geet a gill6) o' stout;
And there I seed such game, by gum I'd like to ha'e stay'd,
But my brass aw being done I whistled whoam again.'

1) labour? 2)clock, 3)She 4)know what it was, 5)crowd, 6)half-pint.
Despite its northern origin, the earliest printed version of this ballad seems to be that issued by William Wright of Birmingham in the 1820s or 1830s. It must date from after 1825, when a gas-lit clock 'the Infirmary moon' was installed at the hospital in Manchester's Piccadilly. By the same year, 20,000 power-looms were working in the town, which explains the episode of the steam-driven factory. 'Owd Ned' was the affectionate name given to the steam-engine. Oral versions circulating in Lancashire and Yorkshire use the tune of 'The Fine Old English Gentleman', and move the action to Oldham and Leeds respectively. Although the factory is still mentioned, the chief event is now the church visit.

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