Th’ Shurat Weaver’s Song. by Samuel Laycock. Tune …………. Rory O’More.

Confound it! aw ne’er wur so woven afore
Mi back’s welly brocken, mi fingers are sore;
Aw’ve bin starin’ an’ rootin’ among this Shurat,
Till awm very near getten as bloint as a bat.
Every toime aw go in wi’ mi cuts to owd Joe,
He gi’es me a cursin’, an’ bates mi an; o;
Aw’ve a warp i’ one loom wi’ both selvedges marr’d,
An’ tother’s as bad, for he’s dressed it to’ hard.
Aw wish aw wur fur enough off, eawt o’ th’ road,
For o’ weavin’ this rubbitch awn getting reet stowd;
Aw’ve nowt i’ this world to lie deawn on but straw,
For aw’ve only eight shillin’ this fortni’t to draw.
Neaw aw haven’t mi family under mi hat,
Aw’ve a woife an’ six childer to keep eawt o’ that;
So awm raythur among it, at present, yo see,
Iv ever a fellow wur puzzled, it’s me!
Iv one turns eawt to steal, folk’ll co’ me a thief,
An’ aw codno’ put th’ cheek on to ax for relief;
As aw [sedd] " i’ eawr heawse t’other neet to mi woife,
Aw never did nowt o’ this soart i’ mi loife.
One doesn’t loike everyone t’know how they are,
But [we'n] suffered so long thro’ this ‘Merica war,
‘At there’s lots o’ factory folk getten t’ fur end,
An’ they’ll soon be knock’d o’er iv these toimes doesn’t mend.
Oh dear! iv youd Yankees could only just see
Heaw they’re clamming an’ starving poor weavers loike me,
Aw think they’d soon settle their bother, an’ strive
To send us some cotton, to keep us alive.
There’s theawsands o’ folk just i’ th’ best o’ their days,
Wi traces o’ want plainly seen i’ their face;
An’ a future adore ‘em as dreary and dark ---
For when th’ cotton gets done we shall o’ be beawt wark.
We’n bin patient an’ quiet as long as we con,
Th’ bits o’ things we had by us are welly o’ gone;
Aw’ve bin trampin’ so long mi owd shoon are worn eawt,
An’ mi halliday clooas are o’ on ‘em “up th’ speawt.”
It wur nobbut th’ last Monday aw sowd a good bed, -
Nay, very near gan it, - to get us some bread;
Afore these bad toimes cum aw used to be fat,
But neaw, bless yo’re life, awm as thin as a lat!
Mony a toime i’ mi loife aw’ve seen things lookin’ feaw,
But never as awkward as what they are neaw;
Iv there isn’t some help for us factory folk soon,
Awm sure we shall all be knock’d reet eawt o’ tune.
Come, give us a lift, yo at ha nowt to give,
An help yo’re poor brothers an’ sisters to live;
Be kind an’ be tender to th’ needy an’ poor,
An’ we’ll promise when th’ toimes mend we’ll ax yo no moor.

Title:Th' Shurat Weaver's Song

Author:Samuel Laycock

Publication:Ashton And Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:January 10th, 1863

Keywords:charity, dialect, pawn, poverty, war, work


This forty-eight line poem consists of twelve quatrains written in rhyming couplets. After the unstressed syllable[s] at the beginning of most of the lines (technically an example of anacrusis), the metre settles into dactyls, with a ‘stress/unstress/unstress’ pattern. For example, if you see how the stress pattern falls in the second line the middle part of it is clearly waltz-like – ‘Mi / back’s welly / brocken, mi / fingers are / sore’. This metre gives the poem an easy, rolling rhythm which manages to sound like natural speech but can still be set easily to music. The tune this is intended for is an Irish ‘planxty’ dating from the 1840s.

As indicated by the title, the speaker is a weaver required to work the Indian ‘Surat’ cotton variant (grown in the Gujarat region in the northwest of the country) because of the blockade on American cotton from the southern United States during the Civil War. The speaker is male with a large family and bemoans his lot because the raw material is hard to work and he gets paid through ‘piece work’. Lines 7 and 8 are interesting in that they give an indication of the kinds of technical problems which weavers encountered in the textile industry when they worked cotton which was not suitable. After laying the blame for the crisis directly at the door of warring Americans, the middle of the poem expands into a broader account of the social effects of the Cotton Famine, recognising that ‘theawsands’ of people who are in the prime of life are suffering hardship. By the end of the piece, despite earlier declaring a reluctance to ‘ax for relief’, the weaver makes a plaintive bid for charity. This is one of eleven Cotton Famine poems which feature in Brian Hollingworth’s Songs of the People: Lancashire dialect poetry of the industrial revolution (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977), the most significant anthology of such works during the twentieth century.

- SR.