'Ware Out Mother

Trad / Charley Yarwood

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Nightmares, Mother had, of navvies in the cellar
And dark eyes looking through the window outside
How we used to vex her and how we used to taunt her
How we would laugh and chant to her dismay

'Ware out Mother there's a navvy in the cellar
And two more looking through the window outside

Mother heard there was to be a river builded
Just a stone's throw away from the window outside
How we hugged each other, as we told our mother
"It's a canal, there'll be navigators too."

We told Mother we'd see barges full of jewels
And wondrous things pass our window outside
But where's this river from? We said it flows from China
"Woah" thought Mom, "there'll be alligators too."

One night Jimmy led the navvies into town
And they looked like beggars through the window outside
There were navvies in the ale house, arguments and street fights,
Mother was delicate, she stayed in bed all week

One night Jimmy had a gentle way with words
And more pairs of hands than was decent, alright.
"Will you come along, me saucy little Susie,
Just let me put a few arms around your waist."

Soon our mother saw this navvy with her daughter
And she locked her up in the cellar downstairs
"Do you go along, you naughty filthy hussy,
Else I'll put this stick about your back."

Jim gave a wink, or it might have been a blink,
And he organised a tunnel 'neath the window outside
Not a body saw them, then they struck foundations
"Right" thought Jim, "I shall blow a little hole."

Muffled bang, and there was dust and rubble everywhere
And Jim was in the cellar of his Susie once more
How they hugged each other, yet no-one told our mother
She still has her dreams, but she never learnt the truth

Work moved on apace and soon the navvies were to leave
They filled in the hole 'neath the window outside
Of tears there were buckets and promises a shed full
But off went Jim and the navvies with him too

Mrs Marina Russell of Upwey, Dorset, sang 'Ware Out Mother in December 1907 to song collector Henry Hammond. It was printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society Vol. 8 (1930).

music

No more words were collected.

Sam Richards and Tish Stubbs sang 'Ware Out Mother in 1979 on their Transatlantic album 'The English Folksinger'. It (one verse) was published in their folk song collection book of the same name (published by Collins, 1979, ISBN 000411068 4) where they stated that "Just this one verse was collected. We surmise on the evidence of countless songs collected since, especially from gypsies, that this was a piece of 'tuning' for dancing, probably step dancing. It may have been followed by verses of mouth music."

Ian Woods and Charley Yarwood sang a much extended version on their 'Hooks & Nets' (Traditional Sound Recordings TSR 044 (LP, UK, 1984)). The credits for this track were given as 'Charley Yarwood/Trad'. The sleeve notes written by Charley state "Only one verse and one chorus of this song were collected from Mrs Russell of Upwey, by Hammond. Tom Brown gave me a photocopy of this fragment from the EDFSS Journal saying 'Do you want to do anything with this?' I did. The original may also be found in 'The English Folksinger' by Sam Richards and Tish Stubbs, who suspect that there may never have been any more; it being used interspersed with mouth music for dancing."
This is the track you can hear on this page by selecting 'Play'.

The Melrose Quartet sing the song on their 2017 CD 'Dominion'. In the sleeve notes they state that they learnt it from the singing of Charlie Yarwood. The CD can be purchased from their website.