The Wark O The Weavers

by David Shaw (1776 – 1856)

We’re a met thegither here tae sit an tae crack
Wi oor glesses in oor hands, an oor wark upon oor back
For there’s no a trade amang them a’ can either mend or mak
Gin it wasna for the wark o the weavers.

If it wasna for the weavers, what wad they do?
They wadna hae claith made oot o oor woo,
They wadna hae a coat neither black nor blue
Gin it wasna for the wark o the weavers

There’s some folk independent o ither tradesmen’s wark,
For women need nae barber an dykers need nae clerk
But there’s no ane o them but needs a coat an a sark
Na, they canna want the wark o the weavers

There’s smiths an there’s wrights an there’s mason chiels an a’
There’s doctors an there’s meenisters an them that live by law
An oor freens that bide oot ower the sea in Sooth America
An they a’ need the wark o the weavers

Oor sodgers an oor sailors, od, we mak them a’ bauld,
For gin they hadna claes, faith, they couldna fecht for cauld,
The high an low, the rich an puir – a’body young an auld,
They a’ need the wark o the weavers

So the weavin is a trade that never can fail
Sae lang’s we need ae cloot tae haud anither hale,
Sae let us a’ be merry ower a bicker o guid ale,
An drink tae the health o the weavers.

Ae: one
Bauld: bold
Bicker: wooden beaker
Chiels: chaps, boys
Cloot: cloth
Fecht: fight
Gin: if
Hale: whole
Haud: keep
Od: exclamation, polite version of ‘God’.
Puir: poor
Sark: shirt
Thegither : together
Want: do without
Wark: work
Woo : wool
Wrights: carpenters

Gordeanna McCulloch brought this song to Sangschule.

Its appearance in Buchan’s 101 Scottish Songs, “The Wee Red Book” in 1962, led to its popularity in the Folk Revival of that time. Buchan points out its early 20th century place in Ford’s Vagabond Songs and Ballads (1899 -1901), where another verse is given:

“The ploughman lads they mock us, and speak aye about’s,
And say we are thin-faced, bleach’d-like clouts;
But yet for a’ their mockery they canna do withoot’s –
Na, they canna want the honourable weavers.”

Ford’s note says that David Shaw, who also wrote “The Forfar Sodger”, was himself a handloom weaver and was the “accepted laureate of the fidging fraternity”- forever moving their hands and feet while working the loom.

In this song, Ford says he “claims a dignity for the craft it would be difficult to dispute”. It was originally composed for and sung at the annual meeting of the Forfar Weavers’ Friendly Society “but has been sung often since then, and far from the town of Forfar.” With the coming of weaving machines in the mid-19th century, the domestic weavers fell upon hard times but in another song, “Tammie Treadlefeet”, David Shaw still hopes “to see the day when trade would tak a loup”.