The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #51834   Message #2458185
Posted By: theleveller
06-Oct-08 - 03:55 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Who Wrote Dalesman's Litany? (Moorman)
Subject: RE: Origins: Who Wrote Dalesman's Litany?
The actual litany:

From Hull, Hell and Halifax
Good Lord deliver me

Is much older than the Dalesman's Litany. The earliest written record I've come across is from a poem by John Taylor, written between 1612 and 1653. He was known as The Water Poet because he was a Thames boatman in London. It goes:

"There is a Proverbe, and a prayer withall,
That we may not to these strange places fall,
From Hull, from Halifax, from Hell, 'tis thus,
From all these three, Good Lord deliver us.
This praying proverb's meaning to set down,
Men do not wish deliverance from the Town:
The towns named Kingston, Hull's furious River:
And from Hull's dangers, I say Lord deliver.
At Halifax, the law so sharp doth deal,
That whoso more than 13 Pence doth steal,
They have a jyn* that wondrous quick and well,
Sends thieves all headless unto Heav'n or Hell.
From Hell each man says, Lord deliver me,
Because from Hell can no redemption be:
Men may escape from Hull and Halifax,
But sure in Hell there is a heavier tax,
Let each one for themselves in this agree,
And pray, from Hell good Lord deliver me."

My grandfather taught me the Litany when I was a child. He said that it was written by or about people who had been disposessed of their land and living for one reaosn or another (plague, enclosures etc.)and made into beggars. The things they feared most were being press-ganged in Hull, dying without benefit of clergy and going to hell, and the Halifax gibbet, where people were beheaded for stealing goods worth more than 13 pence.

Before I had heard The Dalesmans's Litany, I decided to write a song called The Beggar's Litany, which we now perform frequently and which causes quite a lot of contention as people tend to assume that it's traditional.


I am an honest travelling man, a beggar by my trade,
In the village of old Eastburn is where I was born and raised
Until the squire turned me out with no place to lay my head
And to the begging I did go to earn my daily bread.

Just keep my body from the press gang who would take me off to sea
Keep my soul from the devil and from torment keep me free
#Keep my head from the gibbet axe and hear my litany
From Hull, hell and Halifax, good Lord deliver me.

I roam the roads of Yorkshire from the moorlands to the sea
I take my pleasures easy and I take my pleasures free
I call no man my master, no mistress do I serve
I ask for no man's blessing and I seek for no man's curse.


I eat when I am hungry and I drink when I am dry
And if I find a willing lass, all night with her I'll lie
But when the dawn is breaking and the sun is in the sky
We'll kiss and laugh and go our ways with many a fond goodbye.


Well I've been whipped in Beverley and branded on the cheek
And in the stocks in Huddersfield I've sat for half a week
But in the eve when I sit down with such a jovial band
There's not a more contented man alive in all the land.


Anyone interested can hear it here