Classic English Folk Songs: cover Miscellany:
Classic English Folk Songs:
Supplementary material

South Riding Folk Arts Network logo: link to main index page
Droylsden Wakes Logo of the English Folk Dance and Song Society: link to EFDSS website

The following is the complete text relating to the custom in John Harland and T. T. Wilkinson, Ancient Ballads and Songs of Lancashire (2nd edition, 1875, 147-50):

Droylsden Wakes Song

MR. HIGSON in his History of Droylsden gives the following account, under the title of "Threedy-Wheel:"—

"A singular Wakes custom was introduced into Droylsden, about 1814, from Woodhouses, near Failsworth, where it had been prevalent for more than a third of a century. Chambers, in his Edinburgh Journal gives it a notice, as does also Bell, after Dixon, under the title of "The Greenside Wakes Song," in his annotated edition of the English poets. [ see below ] The ceremonial issued from Greenside, a hamlet in Droylsden, and consisted of two male equestrians grotesquely habited. One, John, son of Robert Hulme of Greenside, personified a man; the other, James, son of Aaron Etchells of Edge Lane, a woman. They were engaged with spinning-wheels, spinning flax in the olden style, and conducting a rustic dialogue in limping verse, after which they collected contributions from spectators. Latterly, a cart was substituted for a saddle, as being a safe position in case they grew tipsy. Both Bell and Chambers translate the rhyme into "gradely English," and render threedywheel, "tread the wheel;" but it is evidently thread the wheel, as will be seen by a perusal of the original idiomatic and more spirited version:—


IT'S Dreighlsdin wakes, un' wey're comin' to teawn,
To tell yo o' somethin' o' greet reneawn;
Un' if this owd jade ull lem'mi begin,
Aw'll show yo haew hard un how fast au con spin.
Chorus.— So it's threedywheel, threedywheel, dan, don, dill, doe.


Theaw brags o' thisel'; bur aw dunno' think it's true,
For aw will uphowd the, thy faurts arn't a few;
For when thou has done, an' spun very hard,
Of this Aw'm well sure, thy work is ill-marred.
Chorus.— So it's threedywheel, etc.


Theaw saucy owd jade, theaw'dst best howd thi tung,
Or else aw'st be thumpin' thi ere it be lung;
Un' iv'ot aw do, theaw'rt sure for to rue,
For aw con ha' monny o' one as good as you.
Chorus.— So it's threedywheel, etc.


What is it to me whoe yo con have?
Aw shanno' be lung ere aw'm laid i' my grave;
Un' when ot aw'm deod, un' have done what aw con,
Yo may foind one ot'll spin os hard os aw've done.
Chorus.— So it's threedywheel, etc.


Com, com, mi dear woife, aw'll not ha' thè rue,
Un this aw will tell yo, an aw'll tell yo true,
Neaw if yo'll forgie me for what aw have said,
Aw'll do my endavur to pleos yo' instead.
Chorus.— So it's threedywheel, etc.


Aw'm glad for to yeor 'ot yo win me forgive,
Un' aw will do by yo os lung os aw live;
So let us unite, un' live free fro' o' sin,
Un' then we shall have nowt to think on but spin.
Chorus.— So it's threedywheel, etc.


So now let's conclude, and here undeth eawr sung,
Aw hope it has pleost this numerous throng;
Bur iv it 'os mist, yo needn't to fear,
We'll do eawr endavur to pleos yo next year.
Chorus.— So it's threedywheel, threedywheel, dan, don, dill, doe.

Mr Higson informs us that this queer dialogue song, which is sung to a somewhat plaintive tune, has been collected from various persons, and collated with the version of one of the actors and singers, an elderly man, who has often been dressed as the female and taken that part in the dialogue or duet. On one occasion her husband got so tipsy that he fell off his horse in the yard of Cinderland Hall, and she had to extemporise and instruct another to take his part. They each bore a small spinning-wheel before them, which was turned lustily during the chorus, which may have been originally "speed the wheel." Amongst the variations, or interpolations, sometimes heard, is one that seems to indicate hemp or flax spinning at an early period:—

"The tow that aw spin is five shilling a peawnd,
Un that yo mun kneaw by mi wheel going reawnd,
So it's threedywheel," etc.

One brags to the other:—
"Aw con o'er-spin thee, by th'mass;"
And the rejoinder seems to be—
"Aw con o'er-sing thee, by th'mass,"
Another piece of abuse is—

"Theaw cankert owd besom, aw conno' endure
Ony lunger a temper loike thoine is, aw'm sure."

Altogether, the ballad, as it reaches us, seems but the débris of an ancient dialogue-song, in which man and wife quarrel over the domestic manufacture of linen yarn.

Here is the text as it appeared, made over into 'Gradely English', in Bell's Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England:

"The wakes, feasts, or tides of the North of England, were originally religious festivals in honour of the saints to whom the parish churches were dedicated. But now-a-days, even in Catholic Lancashire, all traces of their pristine character have departed, and the hymns and prayers by which their observance was once hallowed have given place to dancing and merry-making. At Greenside, near Manchester, during the wakes, two persons, dressed in a grotesque manner, the one a male, the other a female, appear in the village on horseback, with spinning-wheels before them; and the following is the dialogue, or song, which they sing on these occasions."

The Greenside Wakes Song

' 'Tis Greenside wakes, we've come to the town
To show you some sport of great renown;
And if my old wife will let me begin,
I'll show you how fast and how well I can spin.
Tread the wheel, tread the wheel, den, don, dell O.'

'Thou brags of thyself, but I don't think it true,
For I will uphold thy faults are not a few;
For when thou hast done, and spun very hard,
Of this I'm well sure, thy work is ill marred.
Tread the wheel, tread the wheel, den, don, dell O.'

'Thou'rt a saucy old jade, and pray hold thy tongue,
Or I shall be thumping thee ere it be long;
And if that I do, I shall make thee to rue,
For I can have many a one as good as you.
Tread the wheel, tread the wheel, dan, don, dell O.'

'What is it to me who you can have?
I shall not be long ere I'm laid in my grave;
And when I am dead you may find if you can,
One that'll spin as hard as I've done.
Tread the wheel, tread the wheel, dan, don, dell O.'

'Come, come, my dear wife, here endeth my song,
I hope it has pleased this numerous throng;
But if it has missed, you need not to fear,
We'll do our endeavour to please them next year.
Tread the wheel, tread the wheel, dan, don, dell O.

SRFN:   Miscellany:   Classic English Folk Songs   Top of page

Copyright © 2004 All Rights Reserved.
Built for South Riding Folk Network by Malcolm Douglas.