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Origins: The Molecatcher

DigiTrad:
THE MOLECATCHER


Lighter 03 Feb 21 - 11:04 AM
GUEST 03 Feb 21 - 11:28 AM
Steve Gardham 04 Feb 21 - 08:29 AM
Steve Gardham 04 Feb 21 - 09:14 AM
Lighter 04 Feb 21 - 10:04 AM
Steve Gardham 04 Feb 21 - 02:13 PM
Lighter 04 Feb 21 - 05:15 PM
Joe Offer 04 Feb 21 - 05:21 PM
Joe Offer 04 Feb 21 - 05:48 PM
Reinhard 04 Feb 21 - 05:54 PM
Joe Offer 04 Feb 21 - 06:04 PM
Reinhard 04 Feb 21 - 06:04 PM
Lighter 04 Feb 21 - 06:55 PM
Joe Offer 04 Feb 21 - 07:33 PM
Bill D 04 Feb 21 - 08:50 PM
GUEST 04 Feb 21 - 10:28 PM
Lighter 05 Feb 21 - 07:27 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 05 Feb 21 - 05:25 PM
Lighter 05 Feb 21 - 08:20 PM
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Subject: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Feb 21 - 11:04 AM

A. L. Lloyd popularized this rudely amusing song (Roud 1052) in the '60s. The DT version is mostly his, collected from Bob and Ron Copper.

Lloyd in 1971 referred to a broadside from "Swindells of Manchester" printed "nearly a century and a half ago, in a slightly different version with a less stern moral."

This broadside seems not to be online.

The song's earliest appearance, however, appears to have been in

"Daniel Cooper's garland, containing four new songs. 1. Daniel Cooper. 2. The farmer and the mole-catcher. 3. G. in tears; or, All alive at L. 4. Roger and Sue."

The British Library dates the pamphlet to "?1765," which seems to be the default date for a great many of its undated garlands.

The garland was "Sold by M. Viner, and M. Nailer, in Bristol; W. Williams, in Monmouth; J. Blunt, in Ross; J. Price, in Kington; P. Hodges in Hereford; J. Bence, in Wotton-Underedge; and M. Cook, in Glocester ([Bristol])."

In other words, it was potentially widely distributed in the West of England.

All four songs in the "Cooper" garland are bawdy. Regrettably, however, the two pages of "The Farmer and the Mole-Catcher" have been sliced out (along with most all of the otherwise obscure "G. in Tears").

But a second early text, as luck would have it, appears in "The Frisky Songster, A New Edition" (“Sold by the Booksellers in Town and Country, 1776”). Presumably this printing is about the same as the missing "Cooper" text. The tale is located in (Old) Malden, in Surrey, now a London suburb.

I've separated the solid text into stanzas; the "safe in my trap" stanza is clearly misplaced, and should appear immediately after "took her behind.":

SONG LXXIX

THE MOLE CATCHER

In Malden, in Surry, at the sign of the Plough,
There lives a young couple, as I shall tell now,
And he had a wife that was buxom and gay,
And she with a farmer was used for to play.

The Man was a Mole-Catcher by his Trade.
He went to the field with his traps and his spade;
A catching of moles from morning till night,
The farmer he used for to play with his wife.

The man had a jealousy of the thing,
He hid in the bake house to see him come in,
Then seeing the farmer come over the style,
That made the Mole-catcher begin for to smile.

He came to the door, and this he did say,
Oh, where is your husband, good woman, I pray?
A catching of moles, you need not fear:
But little she thought her husband was there.

The farmer immediately pull'd her down in his lap,
Ay, says the Mole-catcher, I've you in my trap;
Then up stairs they went for to fill their design.
The Mole-catcher followed soon after behind.

Then out of the window her head she then put,
The farmer immediately pulled up her coats;
He could not come at her before, as we find,
So he was obliged to take her behind.

The Mole catcher the farmer's coat did tear,
For he was resolv'd to examine his ware:
As he was a peeping, he saw a long pin,
He said to his wife, my dear was he in.

O yes, with blushes then did she say,
O yes, he was in, but a little way;
O that is enough, he said to his wife.
This is the best mole e'er I caught in my life.

Just as they were in the midst of their sport,
The Mole catcher caught him fast hold by the coat;
Saying, you villain, what would you be at,
I think now I have got you safe in my trap.

I'll make you pay for ploughing my ground,
And as for the money, it shall be ten pound;
The farmer said, the money I don't mind,
For it has not cost me past six-pence a time.

So now to conclude with some of the loss,
The farmer's obliged to go to the Cross,
A spending his arse, I know not how,
He durst not go to the sign of the Plough.

The lyrics exploit the connotations of the word “plough.” “The [sign of the] Cross” may imply a pun on “cross-ploughing.” (Oxford’s earliest date, however, is about a decade later.) To “spend one’s arse” (evidently ‘to spend much or too much money’) isn’t otherwise recorded.

More information about revival recordings, many stemming from Lloyd's, is here:

https://mainlynorfolk.info/lloyd/songs/themolecatcher.html


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 21 - 11:28 AM

A version appeared in 'The seeds of Love' with the comment

'Text from Gradner, collected from George Digweed of Hampshire, collated with a text learnt from A.L. Loyd from Bob Copper of Sussex. Tune collected by Jekyll and Kaye-Butterworth.

The words are very different from the version above.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 08:29 AM

Hi Jon
I have seen the Daniel Cooper's Garland at BL 11621. b. 11. 5.2 and the Molecatcher is actually not there in the garland unfortunately otherwise I'd have copied it. The garland is in a small volume with 'Songs' on the spine. It was 'Bought of Kerslake, Bristol for £1 16s then in 2 volumes', and bound into one in 1847. There are 22 garlands in the volume all printed by one or other of the group you mention. Some of the songs are datable so a rough date should be possible. I'll get on it. I remember looking at this set of printers about 6 months ago and I don't remember them being that early, more towards 1820 but my memory might be inaccurate.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 09:14 AM

Jon,
Looks like my memory failed me. Most of the references that can be dated in the other 22 garlands hit on 1759, but Duke William is mentioned and he didn't become duke till 1764 so 1765 would be a good guess.

A song sung by Mr Lowe at Vauxhall doesn't help much as he was singing at Vauxhall from at least 1750 to 1780. Otherwise we have the Battle of Minden 1759, and Admiral Hawke, Boscowen and Belleisle
all get a mention pointing at about 1759.

The only ballad I had time to copy down was a version of The Little Dun Mare' which at least helps to date that.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 10:04 AM

Thanks, Steve. Good to know that 1765 is a likely date.

As you know, there's another "modern" text (with tune) in Kennedy's "Folksongs of Britain and Ireland," collected in 1950.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 02:13 PM

There are lots of oral versions, but unfortunately not all give full texts for obvious reasons. Gardiner collected 5 versions the longest at 6 stanzas, and Hammond had one version.
Sussex version in Songs and Southern Breezes, referred to above (Coppers). There are 2 traveller versions almost identical from Surrey and Essex. The Peter Kennedy version is similar to a version recorded by Vaughan Williams and is the one with most influence on the revival.

The bawdy 'bollocks' version in books like the Rugby Song Book appears to derive from the Louie Fuller version collected by Bob Copper.

A pity about the missing 1765 version but it was probably removed by whoever had the garlands bound up. It may still turn up in ECCO whence came the 1776 version.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 05:15 PM

Steve, if the song is mentioned anywhere else in ECCO, it's too well hidden for me!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 05:21 PM

Here's the entry from the Traditional Ballad Index:

Mole-Catcher, The

DESCRIPTION: The old molecatcher learns that his wife is carrying on with a young farmer. He catches them in the act, and demands ten pounds of the farmer for "tilling my ground." The farmer says that's a fair price, "For that won't amount t'above tuppence a time."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1905
KEYWORDS: adultery sex trick commerce humorous bawdy
FOUND IN: Britain(England(Lond,South,West))
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Kennedy 206, "The Mole-Catcher" (1 text, 1 tune)
Copper-SoBreeze, pp. 268-269, "The Molecatcher" (1 text, 1 tune)
MacSeegTrav 38, "The Molecatcher" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves-Circle 93, "The Molecatcher" (1 text)
Purslow-Constant, p. 61, "The Molecatcher" (1 text, 1 tune)
Palmer-ECS, #104, "The Mole Catcher" (1 text, 1 tune)
RoudBishop #83, "The Molecatcher" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT, MOLECATCH*

Roud #1052
RECORDINGS:
Alec Bloomfield, "The Mole-Catcher" (on FSBFTX19)
A. L. Lloyd, "The Molecatcher" (on Lloyd01)

File: K206

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2020 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


And here are the lyrics from the Digital Tradition:

THE MOLECATCHER

In Wellington town at the sign of the plough
There lived a molecatcher, shall I tell you how?

Singing to rel i day fol di lie laddie lie laddie di day

He'd go a molecatching from morning to night
And a young fellow came for to play with his wife

The molecatcher jealous of this very same thing
He hid in the wash house to see him come in

He saw the young fellow come over the stile
Which caused the molecatcher so crafty to smile

He knocked on the door and thus he did say
"Where is your husband, good woman, I pray?"

"He's gone a-molecatching, you need never fear"
But little did she think the molecatcher was near

She went up the stairs and gave him the sign
And the molecatcher followed them quickly behind

And while the young fellow was up to his frolics
The molecatcher caught him right fast by his bollocks

The trap it squeezed tighter, which caused him to smile
Saying, "Here's the best mole that I've caught in a while"

"I'll make you pay dearly for tilling my ground
And the money it'll cop you no less than ten pound"

"Ten pound," says the young fellow, "That I don't mind
It only works out about tuppence a grind"

So come all you young fellows and mind what you're at
And don't get 'em caught in the molecatcher's trap
______________
@bawdy @infidelity
collected by Gardiner from G. Digwood and Lloyd from R. Copper
sung by Nic Jones
filename[ MOLECATC
TUNE FILE: MOLECATC
CLICK TO PLAY
SOF

Popup Midi Player






I'm trying to figure out where the Digital Tradition lyrics come from. From the notes at the bottom of the lyrics, I would thing the DT lyrics came from Gardiner/Digwood, Lloyd, Copper, or Nic Jones. I have Gardiner/Digwood and Copper and will post them below because they're not the DT lyrics. If Lighter is correct (in the first message) that the DT lyrics from Lloyd, what book are they in? Or is it from a Nic Jones recording - but I couldn't find a Nic Jones recording.

Here's a recording by Peter Bellamy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7f84RDSIEd8


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Subject: ADD Version: The Molecatcher (Copper)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 05:48 PM

THE MOLECATCHER

At Manchester City the sign of the Plough,
There lives an old molecatcher, I can’t tell you how.
He goes a-molecatching from morning till night
While the jolly young farmer goes playing with his wife.

CHORUS
Singing law-til-i-day, law-til-i-little-i, law-til-i-day.

The molecatcher jealous of the very same thing,
So he hides in the bake-house and saw him come in,
And when that young farmer got over the stile
It caused the molecatcher to laugh and to smile.
Chorus

He knocked at the door and thus he did say,
Pray, where is your husband, good Woman, I say.
He’s gone a-molecatching, you need not fear,
But little did she think the molecatcher was near.
Chorus

She went upstairs—he followed the sign,
And the molecatcher Followed them closely behind,
And when that young farmer was in the midst of his sport
The molecatcher grabbed him quite fast by his coat.
Chorus

He clapped his hands and laughed at the sight,
Saying, This is the finest mole I’ve catched in me life.
I’ll make you pay well for ploughing my ground
And the money it shall be no less than ten pound.
Chorus

Very well, said the farmer, the money I don’t mind,
For it only costs me about twopence a time.
So come all you young farmer chaps, mind what you’re at
And never get caught in in a molecatcher’s trap.
Chorus

Source: Songs and Southern Breezes, by Bob Copper ©1973, pp 268-269


Melody available upon request


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Reinhard
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 05:54 PM

I don't know of any Nic Jones recording of this song.


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Subject: ADD Version: The Molecatcher (Reeves)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 06:04 PM

THE MOLECATCHER

In Wellington town at the sign of the Plough
There lived a molecatcher—shall I tell how?
He had but one wife, she was buxom and gay
And she and another young farmer would play.

The molecatcher being jealous all of the same thing,
He stepped in the brewhouse to see him come in.
He saw the young farmer get over the stile,
Which made the molecatcher begin for to smile.

He knocked at the door and thus he did say,
Where is your husband, good woman, I pray?
He’s a-catching the moles, you need never fear.
She little did think the molecatcher was near.

So he went upstairs to do his design
And the molecatcher followed him quickly behind.
Said he, Little do you think, old chap,
I have caught you in my trap.

I will make you pay dear for tilling my ground
And as for the money, it shall be ten pound.
Ten pound, said the farmer, I never will mind
For it will only cost me about threepence a time.

So now the young farmer must live at the last
For he spent all his money at the sign of the Cross.
He spent all his money, I cannot tell how.
I dare him hang up at the sign of the Plough.

Notes from Reeves:
    Collected by Gardiner from Mr. George Digweed at Micheldever, Hants, May 1906

    6.1 at the last: ? a corruption of at a loss
    6.1 at the sign of the Cross: probably a euphemism for ‘in the support of bastard (i.e. cross-bred) children’, just as ‘the sign of the Plough’ implies fornication.



#93 in The Everlasting Circle, by James Reeves ©1960, p 191

No melody - text only in Reeves.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Reinhard
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 06:04 PM

The Molecatcher

Sung by A.L. Lloyd on "The Best of A.L. Lloyd", 1966, "from an unpublished set provided by Dr Vaughan Williams"

Near Manchester city at the sign of ‘The Plough’
There lived a molecatcher, I can tell you how.

Chorus (after each verse):
Singing lor te lie day, well well,
Lor te lie little lie,
Lor te lie day

He goes a-molecatching from morning till night
And a young fellow came for to play with his wife.

Now the molecatcher jealous of this very same thing,
He hid in the wash house to watch him come in.

Now when this young fellow come over the stile
That caused the molecatcher so foxy to smile.

He knocked at the door and this he did say,
“Oh where is your husband, good woman, I pray?”

“He's gone a-moletrapping, you need have no fear,”
But little she thought the molecatcher was near.

She went off upstairs and he followed her sign
And the ole molecatcher crept close up behind.

Now when that young fellow's in the midst of his frolics
The molecatcher trapped him quite fast by the jackets.

The trap it bit tight and he laughed at the sight,
Saying, “Here's the best mole that I've caught in me life.”

“I'll make you pay well for ploughing my land
And the money it will cost you no less than ten pound.”

“Very well,” says the young fellow, “The money I don't mind,
That only works out about tuppence a time.”

So come all young fellows and mind what you're at,
Don't you ever get caught in the molecatcher's trap.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 06:55 PM

"Probably...'in the support of bastard...children.'"

LOL. The plain sense is that he "spent all his money at the [inn with the] sign of the Cross."


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 07:33 PM

Lighter, I kinda wondered about that comment from Reeves, too. I listened to the A.L. Lloyd recording, and I really enjoyed it, especially this verse:
    Now when that young fellow's in the midst of his frolics
    The molecatcher trapped him quite fast by the jackets.
I couldn't find a Lloyd recording on YouTube to link to.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 08:50 PM

It was recorded by Bernard Wrigley

I have an LP..


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Feb 21 - 10:28 PM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTF_0xsn5CM

There's Wrigley doing the song on YouTube.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Lighter
Date: 05 Feb 21 - 07:27 AM

Thanks, guys.

In the 18th century, it was sufficient to catch the farmer's "coat."

But since then, the original's X-rated scene at the window has been dropped.

MacColl's rendition of "The MC" is still available from the bandcamp.com site, but Lloyd's (on "The Best of A. E. Lloyd") isn't easy to find.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 05 Feb 21 - 05:25 PM

There is an excellent version of this song by Gordon Hall from Sussex

On John Howson's Veteran Label. Over seven minutes in length which I

recommend. There's more to it than in the versions shown above.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Molecatcher
From: Lighter
Date: 05 Feb 21 - 08:20 PM

Unmatched length was typical of much of Hall's repertoire.

Fascinating....


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