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Lyr Req: wearing the britches / breeches

GUEST 12 Jul 06 - 04:21 AM
Declan 12 Jul 06 - 06:17 AM
CeltArctic 12 Jul 06 - 10:45 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 12 Jul 06 - 02:03 PM
Malcolm Douglas 12 Jul 06 - 02:03 PM
Declan 12 Jul 06 - 08:09 PM
GUEST 13 Jul 06 - 08:15 AM
Jim Dixon 14 May 07 - 07:51 AM
Jim Dixon 16 May 07 - 06:25 AM
Jim Dixon 18 May 07 - 06:44 AM
Jim Dixon 19 May 07 - 01:04 PM
Greenacres 10 Mar 08 - 05:29 AM
MartinRyan 10 Mar 08 - 05:45 AM
Thompson 11 Mar 08 - 02:45 AM
Jim Dixon 01 Oct 13 - 10:50 PM
Jim Dixon 02 Oct 13 - 12:32 AM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Wearing the Britches
Date: 12 Jul 06 - 04:21 AM

Hello everybody out there
Can anybody be helpful with the lyrics to " Wearing the Britches"? I doesn`t seem to be able to find anything on my search on the internet.
I would be very grateful. Thanks in advance.
Bjarne Schmidt

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Subject: Lyr Add: TAILOR TO MY TRADE
From: Declan
Date: 12 Jul 06 - 06:17 AM

Surprisingly, this song doesn't appear to be on Mudcat or the DT already.

These lyrics are as they appear on the sleeve notes of Kieran Halpin & Ton McConville's "Port of Call" Album.

Come all young men where e'er you be and listen to my lamentation
I courted a girl of beauty rare and loved her beyond admiration
Soon in time she became my wife, it wasn't for love it was for riches,
And then in time it caused great strife, to see which one would wear the britches.

Paddy Kane it is my name, my height it is five foot eleven,
My wife she is not very tall, she measures only four feet seven,
How often do we shout and ball with nothing going with rogues and witches,
Her head comes often to the wall, still she says she'll wear the britches.

I am a tailor to my trade, at cutting out I am quite handy,
But all the money that I make, she leaves it out on tea and brandy,
The hedges I have nearly stripped, I've left them free of rods and switches,
Her hide with blows I have left black, still she says she'll wear the britches.

One morning at the tea and eggs, contented sitting by the fire,
She threw the teapot at my legs, it made me leap and then retire,
How often do I shout and moan, as I go hopping on my crutches,
I wished I'd broke my collar bone, the day I let her wear the britches

So come all young men where e'er you be, don't wed a maid if she's enchanting,
For if you do, when she is young, with all young men she'll be gallanting,
Now my advice to any young man, is marry for love and not for riches,
If you can't get a maid with a civil tongue, who'll give you leave to wear the britches.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: wearing the britches
From: CeltArctic
Date: 12 Jul 06 - 10:45 AM

An intriguing song - is there an author?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: wearing the britches
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 12 Jul 06 - 02:03 PM

And is there a tune? ABC please!

I know this is far-fetched, but a few lines are reminiscent of "Devilish Mary", which as far as I've been able to ascertain is fairly rare, mostly confined to a few singers in Georgia and Alabama ...

I don't see this as an ancestor of that song, but I wonder if some orphaned lines of the "Britches" song gave somebody else the idea to make up "Devilish Mary."

Which raises the more general question: is there an ancestor to "Devilish Mary," and is it related to this song in any way?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: wearing the britches
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 12 Jul 06 - 02:03 PM

They probably got the song from Peter Kennedy's Folksongs of Britain and Ireland (number 215, page 472). The text there is almost identical, but with some extra verses. That set came from Joe Tunney of Belleck, County Fermanagh. Kennedy recorded him in 1958. Joe got it from Patrick Keown of Garrison (also Fermanagh). Paddy Tunney (a relation of Joe's) also sang it, and it has been known to turn up in England as well. It appears at number 1588 in the Roud Folk Song Index.

It was printed on broadsides in various places, and under various titles, during the 19th century. The writer, so far as I know, is not named.

Examples at  Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

The lamentation for the loss of the breeches (and other titles)

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: wearing the britches
From: Declan
Date: 12 Jul 06 - 08:09 PM

Attribution on the record is Trad Arr.

The tune is the same as (or similar to) the one used for the song "Olaim Puins" aka "An Déirc". I suspect its used for many other songs, but none of them spring to mind at the moment. The latter song is on one of Danú's albums - maybe "Think before you Think"?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: wearing the britches
Date: 13 Jul 06 - 08:15 AM

thank you all for your information and help
all the best
Bjarne Schmidt

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Subject: Lyr Add: THE BREECHES (from Bodleian)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 14 May 07 - 07:51 AM

From Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, Harding B 25(275).

Printer: J. K. Pollock (North Shields)
Date: between 1815 and 1855

Come, all young men; pray lend an ear to my sad lamentation.
I courted a maid I loved so dear. I courted her to admiration.
At length I have made her my wife. It's not for beauty but for riches;
And oft-times it causes strife to know which of us two should wear the breeches.

I am a tailor by my trade. Cutting out I am quite handy;
And all I earn for this bold dame, she lays it out in tea and brandy.
Oft-times as we fight and brawl, there's nothing going but rogues and bitches;
But still she sware, with this and all, be hanged if she won't wear the breeches.

O, Patrick Kean it is my name. My height is five foot eleven.
My wife she is not quite so tall. She's but four foot seven.
The hedges I have often stripped. I've left them bare from rods and switches.
Her hide with blood I've often stained but still she wears the breeches.

If I should chance to spend an hour with a friend to take a noggin,
My wife comes in and shows her power, and rattles like a dragon.
"O get you gone, you drunken sot! Is this the way you spend my riches?"
While I take up with what I've got since I gave you leave to wear the breeches.

One evening at my tea and eggs, contented by the fire,
She broke the teapot about my legs, which caused me to retire.
O now I may sigh and mourn, as I am going upon my crutches.
I wish she'd broke my collarbone, the day I let her wear the breeches.

My wife took sick and very bad, and in a few weeks died,
And I pretend to be very sad. The devil a bit I cried!
It's let them all say what they will, she'll break no more plates or dishes.
Although she's dead, her tongue lies still, and now she wears the wooden breeches.

[Similar broadsides:
Harding B 28(157), between 1820 and 1824: THE BREECHES ("Come all ye young men wherever you be ...")
Harding B 11(2591), between 1840 and 1866: MY WIFE MUST WEAR THE BREECHES ("Come all young men pray give ear ...")
Harding B 25(1052): THE LAMENTATION FOR THE LOSS OF THE BREECHES ("Come all men I pray hear my sad lamentation ...")]

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Subject: Lyr Add: STRUGGLE FOR THE BREECHES (from Bodleian)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 16 May 07 - 06:25 AM

Here's another song on the subject of "wearing the breeches." Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads has several versions: 2806 c.13(286), Firth b.25(410), Firth b.27(224), Firth c.20(156), Firth c.20(157), Firth c.26(237), Harding B 11(4126), Harding B 16(261b), Harding B 16(262a), Johnson Ballads 1692. Not all verses are present in all versions, and the sequence of verses varies. Also, there are variations in wording. The transcription below is my own collation. I have noted some of the more significant variations.

Most broadsides don't explicitly say so, but the song is meant to be a duet, with the man and woman singing alternate lines. There probably should be some variation in this pattern also, but I leave that to you to figure out.


About my wife I mean to sing a very comic song.
I hope that you will tell the truth, let it be right or wrong.
You know you are [or "my wife she is"] an arrant scold, both out of doors and in.
I knew, you brute, it was a lie [or "untruth"] before you did begin.

CHORUS: You are inclined, I still do find, the breeches for to wear.
No, dear, not I, but I will die, or I will have my share.

Every morning I must rise before the day does break.
Unto the door, I do suppose, your water for to make [or "you then try to make" or "your notice for to take"].
No, it is to light the fire and have the breakfast by.
You've such a craving appetite, in bed you cannot lie.

Don't contradict me now, you jade, nor let my passion rise.
You stupid sot, I heed you not, because you are not wise.
I tell you for to hold your tongue. Your temper I can't bear.
You ass! If I should hold my tongue, my fingers I'd besmear.

You promised when I married you that you would me obey.
You promised for to cherish me, but then you went astray.
Woman's made of crooked mind, and formed on the sixth day.
Yes, they're made of purer stuff, but men are filth and [or "made of"] clay.

Keep silent now, or I will tell your faults [or "the truth"] to all around.
You silly man, do all you can, for I will stand my ground.
King Solomon said, of virtuous wives [or "maids"] he could but find a few.
It's lies to say that he was wise. He was a fool like you.

Since you provoke me now so far, I'll let the truth be known.
I know right well my faults you'll tell, but pray first tell your own.
It's neither in or out of bed I've any peace with you.
You silly fool [or "simpleton"], don't talk of bed. It's little there you do.

Then in a public house you go, and there you sit you down.
You sot, where I do spend threepence, you do spend half-a-crown.
I have the young one[s] for to nurse, and rock the cradle too.
For fear you should do something worse, I leave you that to do.

Before that you get out of bed there is a dram for you.
You share it—out of three glasses you have two.
And when you down to breakfast sit, your tongue it does go on.
'Cause you do eat at buttered toast, and I eat a dry scone.

When it draws near dinnertime, to me you [or "you never"] show your face.
That's true, but I might show to you some droller looking place.
And when we down to dinner sit, there you do grunt and groan.
That is because you eat the beef and leave me nought but bone.

My father was a wealthy lord. He had horses, ploughs and carts.
Yes, feathered fowls have wings of gold, we hear, in foreign parts.
My mother was a lady gay. That's well known to be true.
I wish that she had broke your back and made a man [or "lord"] of you.

When the teatime it does come, then you must take the pot.
I look for a strong cup of tea but the devil a drop I've got.
And when that we do go to bed, you'll not agreeable be.
Because you act not like a men, but turn your back to me.

You know I've acted like a man, since you and me was [or "I were"] joined.
The devil a bit of manhood ever in you did I find.
If in anything I acted wrong, explain it to me now.
There's many a man that harrows [or "must harrow"] what another man does [or "other men do"] mow [or "plough"].

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From: Jim Dixon
Date: 18 May 07 - 06:44 AM

Yet another song about wearing the breeches, of which the Bodleian has 3 copies that are nearly identical: Firth c.20(159), Harding B 16(37a), and Johnson Ballads fol. 109.


I've often heard Will's wife declare
That the breeches she would wear
And with him then she would resist
To fight with him both nails and fist
To gain, to gain the breeches.

One day while they were at it driving,
Who to be master they were striving,
A gentle tap came to the door,
Which made them for a while give o'er
A-fighting for the breeches.

Will went to the door, the business asked. *
"The master of the house I want."
"To see him, sir, I'm sure you can't
Until he's got his breeches.

"For spouse and he they can't agree,
And the business soon shall see,
And in about five minutes or so,
We the master then shall know
Who's to wear the breeches."

They both set to with equal rage.
For to be master each did strain.
At length poor Will was forced to yield,
Got soundly drubbed to quit the field.
He lost, he lost the breeches.

O then she went unto the door
Where Will had oft times been before.
"Your business, sir, I pray," said she.
"I am master of the house, you see,
For now I wear the breeches."

[*A line that rhymes with this one seems to be missing from all versions. Maybe they really sang it that way.]

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Subject: Lyr Add: MY WIFE WEARS THE BREECHES (from Bodleian
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 19 May 07 - 01:04 PM

Another one from the Bodleian, Harding B 25(1304). This time I have tried to preserve the spelling, punctuation and typography exactly as I found them.

My Wife wears the Breeches.

ALL you that would hear a true song,
  Come listen unto my relation,
And if you think I am wrong,
  Come judge me by the whole nation.
Each day I'm growing thin in the cheeks,
  By reason you'll think it no wonder,
I only had one pair of breeks,
  And my wife she has put them upon her,
    And left me the soushin* to wear.

Then I sent for a tailor that was nigh,
  In order for to take my measure;
For sure I was ready to die,
  Bare-naked in cold frosty weather;
But he cut out large trousers with speed,
  And sewed them with braw firm stitches,
But as soon as she found me in bed,
  She drew them on top of the breeches,
    And left me the tailor to pay.

And thus being rob'd of my clothes,
  Depriv'd of both trousers and breeches,
I drew on an old pair of hose,
  For poverty ne'er can make riches;
To quarrel with women is vain,
  For me I will never contend it;
But if I was single again,
  I'll wear my own clothes there's an end on't,
    And now to be single and free.

Last night I went out with a friend,
  And into a change-house did venture.
My wife was the first that came ben,
  And whipt up a gill off the counter;
Then pint-sloups and tankards let fly,
  And call'd me a thousand old wretches,
But sure I was glad to deny,
  That e'er I wore trousers or breeches,
    And made my escape to the door.

All you that would choose a good wife,
  Ne'er marry for beauty or riches,
They are oft the beginners of strife,
  Contending who shall wear the breeches.
For beauty will fade like the dew,
  A cow may soon die in the byre,
But give me the maid that is true,
  And trusty till life do expire,
    And that is the riches for me.

But since that we cannot agree,
  Concerning our wearing apparel,
I think in my mind I am free,
  To wed with some country girl.
Will always be loveing and kind,
  In poverty, sickness, and riches,
And never attempt to incline,
  To wear either trowsers or breeches,
    And this is the lassie for me.

[* What's a soushin?]

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: wearing the britches / breeches
From: Greenacres
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 05:29 AM

[* What's a soushin?] Sousheen (in Irish) is 'a small blanket', apparently.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: wearing the britches / breeches
From: MartinRyan
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 05:45 AM

Yep. "Súsa" is a blanket. "Sousheen" would be an anglicised diminutive.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: wearing the britches / breeches
From: Thompson
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 02:45 AM

An ode to spousal abuse. Very nice.

"Breeches" is pronounced "britches" normally, btw.

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From: Jim Dixon
Date: 01 Oct 13 - 10:50 PM

From Revolted Woman: Past, Present, and to Come by Charles George Harper (London: Elkin Mathews, 1894), page 32:


1. Listen, females all, no matter what your trade is,
Old Nick is in the girls, the Devil's in the ladies!
Married men may weep, and tumble in the ditches,
Since women are resolved to wear the shirt and breeches.

CHORUS: Ladies do declare a change should have been sooner,
The women, one and all, are going to join the Bloomers.

2. Prince Albert and the Queen had such a jolly row, sirs;
She threw off stays and put on waistcoat, coat, and trousers.
It will be fun to see ladies, possessed of riches,
Strutting up and down in Wellingtons and breeches.

3. Bloomers are funny folks, no ladies can be faster:
They say 'tis almost time that petticoats were master.
They will not governed be by peelers, snobs, or proctors,
But take up their degree as councillors and doctors.

4. No bustles will they wear, nor stocks, depend upon it;
But jerry hats and caps instead of dandy bonnet.
Trousers to their knees, and whiskers round their faces;
A watch-chain in their fob, and a pair of leather braces.

5. The tailors must be sharp in making noble stitches,
And clap their burning goose upon the ladies' breeches.
Their pretty fingers will be just as sore as mutton
Till they have found the way their trousers to unbutton.

6. The Bloomers all declare that men are sad deceivers;
They'll take a turn, and be prigs, dustmen, and coalheavers—
Members of Parliament, and make such jolly fusses;
Cobble up old ladies' shoes; drive cabs and omnibuses.

7. Their husbands they will wop, and squander all their riches;
Make them nurse the kids and wash their shirts and breeches.
If men should say a word, there'd be a jolly row, sirs!
Their wives would make them sweat and beat them with their trousers.

8. The world's turned upside down; the ladies will be tailors,
And serve Old England's Queen as soldiers and as sailors.
Won't they look funny when the seas are getting lumpy,
Or when they ride astride upon an Irish donkey?

9. The ladies will be right; their husbands will be undone,
Since Bloomers have arrived to teach the folks of London—
The females all I mean— how to lay out their riches
In Yankee-Doodle-doos and a stunning pair of breeches.

10. Female apparel now is gone to pot, I vow, sirs,
And ladies will be fined who don't wear coats and trousers;
Blucher boots and hats, and shirts with handsome stitches,—
Oh, dear! what shall we do when women wear the breeches?

11. Now some will wear smock-frocks and hobnail shoes, I vow, sirs;
Jenny, Bet, and Sal, cock'd hat and woollen trousers.
Yankee-Doodle-doo, rolling in the ditches;
Married men prepare to buy the women breeches!

[There are also 3 broadsides of this song in the Bodleian collection, under the title "The New Bloomer Costume, or the Ladies Who Wear the Breeches"

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Subject: Lyr Add: A PARODY ON THE HABIT-SHIRT (Bodleian)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 Oct 13 - 12:32 AM

From the Bodleian collection:

Tune—"Tally O the Hounds."

To wear the breeches, ladies all,
Are very fond of trying,
Then habit-shirts must have a fall,
And bonnets have a crying,
For ladies they will have the day,
So longing is their passion;
For women all, both great and small,
Vow breeches are the fashion.

'Twas modesty some years ago,
Was seen in those fair creatures;
But now their shapes they like to show,
And beauteous think their features.
To save the dirt, the habit-shirt
Was then the ladies' passion;
For ladies they will have the sway,
For breeches are the fashion.

The taylor's trade will be enrich'd,
To be one is a pleasure;
For when a lady must be breech'd,
The taylor takes his measure.
His measure then he takes to them,
His such a pleasant trade is,
He thinks no crime at any time,
To make breeches for the ladies.

The ladies thus new fashions find,
Which ne'er was known to no man,
With habit-shirts, and trowsers too,
You'll scarce know man from woman:
With dresses neat they are complete,
The men they all bewitches:
Then men mus all!—to women fall,
When ladies wear the breeches.

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