Poverty Knock

According to “Victoria’s Inferno”, Jon Raven (1978), the text and melody are from the singing of a Tom Daniel (d. 1970, ae 76), a Batley, Yorkshire weaver, and had been collected from him by A. E. Green in 1965.  An example of a song venting of woes and sometimes referred to as a “protest song”, but not in the manner we might think of it today.

Jos. Morneault

Poverty poverty knock, my loom it is saying all day
Poverty poverty knock, Gaffer’s too skinny[1] to pay
Poverty poverty knock, keeping one eye on the clock
I know I can guttle[2] when I hear me shuttle go
Poverty poverty knock

Up every morning at five,
It’s a wonder that we keep alive!
Tired and yawning on the cold morning
And back to the dreary, old drive.

Oh dear, I’m going to be late!
Gaffer[3] is stood at the gate,
With his hands in his pockets our wages he’ll dock us;
We’ll have to buy grub on the slate.


We have to wet our own yarn
by dipping it in yonder tarn.[4]
It’s cold and it’s soggy, it makes me feel groggy,
And there’s rats in that dirty old barn.

Sometimes a shuttle flies out
And gives some poor woman a clout.
She lies there bleeding while nobody’s heading;
Who’s going to carry her out?


The tuner[5] should tackle my loom,
But he just sits there on his bum!
He’s always busy a-courting our Lizzie
And I just can’t get him to come.

And Lizzie’s so easily led;
I reckon he takes her to bed.
She used to be skinny, now look at her pinny,[6]
It’s just about tied by a thread.


Oh my poor head how it sings,
I should have woven three strings!
The threads they keep breaking, my poor heart is aching;
Oh God, how I wish I had wings!

And when our wages they’ll bring
We’re often short of a string.
While we are fratchin’[7] with gaffer for snatchin’,
We know to his brass he will cling.



[1] In this case, cheap or stingy

[2] eat

[3] foreman

[4] A small lake or pond, or in this case, likely a barrel or such of collected water.

[5] Maintenance man

[6] Pinafore, or sleeveless garment often worn as an apron.

[7] arguing

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