Tim Hart and Maddy Prior: ‘Copshawholme Fair’

The amazing voice of the young Maddy Prior, taken from the 1969 album by her and Tim Hart, ‘Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 1’.

 

A traditional song about the Spring hiring fair in Copshawholme which is located on the English Scottish border. Apparently the last time this hiring fair was held was in 1912.

On a Friday, it fell in the month of Avril,
O’er the hill came the morn’ with the blithe sunny smile.
And the folks were a-throngin’ the roads everywhere,
Makin’ haste to be in at Copshawholme Fair.

I’ve seen ’em a-comin’ in from the mountains and glen,
Both rosy-faced lasses and strappin’ young men
With a joy in their heart and unburdened o’ care,
A-meetin’ old friends at Copshawholme Fair.

There’s lads for the lasses, there’s toys for the bairns,
There’s jugglers and tumblers and folks with no arms,
There’s a ballad-singer here and a fiddler there,
There are nut-men and spice-men at Copshawholme Fair.

There are peddlers and there’re potters and gingerbread stands,
There are peepshows and puff and darts and the green caravans,
There’s fruit from all nations exhibited there
With kale plants from Harwich at Copshawholme Fair.

And now about the hiring if you want to hear tell
You should ken it as afar as I’ve seen it myself.
What wages they addle, it’s ill to declare,
The muckle they vary at Copshawholme Fair.

Just the gal I have seen she’s a strapping young queen.
He asked what her age was and where she had been,
What work she’d been doin’, how long she’d been there,
What wages she wanted at Copshawholme Fair.

Just then the pit lass stood a wee while in gloom
And she blushed and she scraped with her feet on the ground.
Then she plucked up her heart and did stoutly declare,
“I’ll have five pound and ten at Copshawholme Fair.”

Says he, “But m’lass, that’s a very big wage.”
Then he, turning about like he’d been in a rage,
Says, “I’ll give ye five pounds but I’ll give ye nae mair,
And I think you maun take it at Copshawholme Fair.”

He took out a shilling for to hold the pit wench
In case it might enter her head for to flinch,
But she grabbed at it, muttering, “I should o’ had mair,
But I think I will tak’ it at Copshawholme Fair.”

Now the hirin’s o’er and off they all sprang
In to the ballroom for to join in the throng,
And “I Never Will Lie With My Mammy Nae Mair”
The fiddles play briskly at Copshawholme Fair.

Now this is the fashion they thus pass the day
Till the night comin’ on they all hurry away,
And some are so sick that they’ll never go more
With the fighting and dancing at Copshawholme Fair.

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5 thoughts on “Tim Hart and Maddy Prior: ‘Copshawholme Fair’

  1. Copshawholme (now called Newcastleton) is now in Scotland, although it was in England when this song was written. It is a good example of why the idea of a separate England and Scotland is such a ridiculous and false concept for those of us who live in the borderlands. Heck, the kingdoms of Northumbria and Cumbria both predate the kingdoms of England and Scotland by hundreds of years and both straddled what is now the border for a hundred miles or more on each side. Neither the powers that be in London or Edinburgh have any regard for the Middlelanders. When (and I do now think it is when) Scotland becomes independent I will feel like I have lost a part of myself as will everybody involved in the folk traditions of the borderlands no doubt.

  2. I didn’t know that about Copshawholme. You are so right about folk traditions, of course – they make us different from those who have different traditions, but they don’t divide us in a political sense.

  3. And folk music has no restrict for borders. I can hear Indian ragas in Irish fiddle music and native American chants in the singing of the Sami people of Lapland. Personally, I am convinced that many of the tunes of the folk traditions of the world go right back to Mesopotamia, maybe 20000 years or more ago. God may have confused our language but he let us keep our common melody.

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