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Lyr Req: A Length of Yarn (John Kirkpatrick)

19 Sep 97 - 09:04 AM (#12557)
Subject: John Kirkpatrick "yarn" title/lyrics?
From: Ian Bittle

I am looking for the title and/or lyrics for a song I heard John Kirkpatrick perform many years ago with Martin Carthy in Dallas.I believe it was an original and dealt with a fisherman's untimely end. The focal point was "a piece of yarn" and was from a mother/sweetheart point of view, I believe. I've never heard it since, but it haunts me now. Any help?

19 Sep 97 - 10:02 AM (#12560)
Subject: RE: John Kirkpatrick
From: AndyG

Hi, I do know the song, its title is something like "All for a piece of Yarn".
I also know a girl who sings it and I'll try to get the lyrics from her. Assuming that nobody posts them before I get the chance, which won't be until next week at the earliest, I'll try to get them to you.

It might have been recorded on JK's album Blue Ballon, but I can't dig up a track list.


19 Sep 97 - 10:04 AM (#12561)
Subject: RE: John Kirkpatrick
From: AndyG

Make that Blue Balloon


23 Sep 97 - 09:07 AM (#12953)
Subject: RE: John Kirkpatrick
From: Wolfgang (Hell)

Martin Carthy once recorded "Little ball of yarn" (it is in the DT). Could that be the one?


28 Sep 97 - 10:14 PM (#13420)
Subject: RE: John Kirkpatrick
From: Ian Bittle

Thanks for the responses. I'm working on getting a copy of Blue Balloon. It's one of John's that I missed somehow. I really appreciate your info.

03 Oct 97 - 05:09 PM (#13907)
Subject: RE: John Kirkpatrick
From: LaMarca

Don't have the song myself, but I remember Kirkpatrick singing it with Carthy on their tour here 10-12 years ago. The song is about the tradition of fishermen's wives and sweethearts knitting their loved ones intricate Arran-style sweaters. Each cable pattern is unique to the knitter, which has the somewhat gruesome advantage of making a drowned man easier to identify by the pattern of the sweater he's wearing. The song was a lament for the men for whom the sweaters were knit. I'd love to get the lyrics...

14 Oct 97 - 07:27 AM (#14702)
Subject: Lyr Add: A LENGTH OF YARN (John Kirkpatrick)
From: AndyG

At Last (or even At Length)

as promised, the lyrics to:

As recorded by John Kirkpatrick on "Blue Balloon" (1987)

All through the town in a hundred houses
In every one, the lights still burn.
All through the town by a hundred hearts
For a word of news, the hearts are yearning.
Deaf to the log fires hissing and cracking.
Deaf to the kettles singing and whistling.
Only one sound fills their ears
And that's the sound of the storm waves crashing.

An old one sits in her empty room
And grim she glares at the candle flame,
No need to watch her hands at work
Nor the ball of wool at her feet unrolling.
One year to the day since the wagoner's cart
Brought home her son, all drenched from drowning
Brought him home to his new young wife
And paid no heed to his mother's weeping

'Oh, cursed be the creaking wagoner's wheels,
That freeze my blood each time they pass.
Cursed be the sea whose crashing waves
Robbed me of my son, rob me of my sleeping,
And cursed and cursed be the sweet young wife,
Who stole a son from his mother's loving,
Stole him living, stole him dead
And scarcely gave him three months' mourning.

`Nine months I held him in my womb
And my son's blood ran free with mine.
Nine months I held him at my breast
His food all milk of a mother's making.
And nine long years I watched him grow
And nine years more to make him man.
Now all I had is lost and gone,
She's a hard and heartless whoring hussy.'

All through the town the lantern swings
As the creaking wheels come rolling by.
All through the town, the doors fling wide
To see who still stands and who they carry.
There's one more man that's lost his life.
There's one more house that's gained its grieving.
But an old one's tears are bitter and hard
As she stares at the clothes on his body clinging.

'I know the hand that sheared the fleece,
That was the hand of my father dear.
I know the hand that spun the yarn,
That was the hand of my own sister.
And mine was the hand who knit this smock,
And mine the son who wore my stitching.
And here it lies on another man's back
And it grieves my heart beyond all telling.

'See here, there's a place where a length of yarn
Is tied in knots, all ragged and charred.
That's the time the candle fell
Burnt my wool to a smoldering cinder.
Oh, damn the work to make it good!
And damn the wool and damn the candle!
And damn this man who wears my cloth
And damn the one who gave its wearing.'

A young one sits in her empty room,
In floods the tears come flowing down.
Feels her belly softly stir,
Feels her breast a gently swelling.
There's one more child that's lost its father,
One more woman that's lost her man.
There's one more mother all alone
With one more curse that's hard to carry.

And all for a length of yarn.

John Kirkpatrick.


14 Oct 97 - 07:55 AM (#14705)
Subject: RE: John Kirkpatrick
From: AndyG


v2 l5: One year to the day since wagoner's cart


14 Oct 97 - 12:55 PM (#14721)
Subject: RE: John Kirkpatrick
From: Shula

Dear Andy G.,

Would have made a dandy addition to the Women's Song Circle. Know this is getting to be my favorite refrain, but, with great appreciation for these splendid lyrics, and without apology, request the tune. This'un's too good not to be able to sing!



15 Oct 97 - 08:57 AM (#14784)
Subject: RE: John Kirkpatrick
From: AndyG

Corrected correction :(
v2 l5: One year to the day since the wagoner's cart

Sorry but I don't have the skills needed to give you the tune. However I can now confirm (see my first post), that John Kirkpatrick recorded the song on the LP/Cassette Blue Balloon, (1989 I think).