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The following is quoted from William Chappell, The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Time (London: 1859, II, 659-60):

The Hathersage Cocking

"The barbarous amusement which is the subject of this song, was with the Athenians at first partly a religious and partly a political institution, and afterwards continued for improving the seeds of valour in the minds of their youth, but eventually perverted, both there and in other parts of Greece, to a common pastime, without any political or religious intention. It was afterwards adopted by the Romans, and by them probably introduced into England. Cockfighting has been called by some a royal diversion; and the Cockpit at Whitehall was added to the palace by Henry the Eighth, and enlarged by Charles II., for the purpose of giving greater patronage and importance to the amusement.

"This tune is an especial favourite in Derbyshire and Warwickshire, and may frequently be heard in the alehouses, to these and other words. It was contributed in 1835, by the late Mr. Ward, a teacher of music in Manchester, who used occasionally to entertain his friends by singing it in the provincial dialect. From the testimony of two persons he then traced it back one hundred and twenty years. I do not, however, think that any such tracings are very reliable as to the integrity of a tune, and beg the reader to compare the two following.

"There are several old ballads about cockfighting still extant, as 'The Wednesbury Cocking,' in the Douce Collection [ note ], commencing—

'At Wednesbury there was a cocking,
A match between Newton and Scrogging,
The colliers and nailers left their work,
And all to Spittles went jogging,
To see this noble sport.
Many noted men there resorted,
And though they'd but little money,
Yet that they freely sported,' &c.

"Hathersage is situated in the midst of a mountainous tract of country near the eastern extremity of Hope Dale. The churchyard is the reputed burial-place of Little John, the companion of Robin Hood.

"I received but one stanza of the ballad from Mr. Ward, and have not found it in print."

Wednesbury Cocking: staff notation. Click on image for midi rendition


[We omit G A MacFarren's harmonisation here, and quote the melody line only.

Chappell goes on to compare the tune with O Good Ale, Thou art my Darling, "from a broadside with music", and with O Rare Turpin, Hero, noted in 1840 from the singing of the comic singer Charles Sloman.]



Note: a facsimile of the broadside example referred to by Chappell can be seen, with others, at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

The Wednesbury Cocking

There are also copies of another song, The Wednesbury Concert. One song is clearly a parody of the other.

Broadside issues of our own cock-fighting song can be seen as The Bonny Grey.


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