On IIKley Moor Baht'at


A couple sings "On Iilkley Moor Baht'at" at a wedding in Yorkshire.

I learned this song from an old album of British field recordings that my dad brought home from the library. I thought until recently that it must be very obscure. But it turns out this Yorkshire dialect ballad is widely known in the UK and beyond. It has become a kind of regional anthem for Yorkshire. A YouTube search will find you renditions by school kids, orchestras, glee clubs, a rap version by Brian Blessed and even a 1970 rock version by Bill Oddie based on the Joe Cocker’s cover of "With a Little Help from My Friends."

Like so many irreverent songs this one started life as a protestant hymn. In the mid-nineteenth century, story has it, the song was refashioned to tell a tale of dalliance that occurred on a choir outing. If you can’t follow the Yorkshire dialect. Here’s the synopsis:

Where have you been since last I say you?
On Iilkley Moor without your hat!
You’ll catch your death of cold
And we’ll have to bury you.
The worms will come and eat you up.
Then the ducks will come and eat the worms.
Then we shall come and eat the ducks.
So we shall all have eaten you.
That’s how we’ll get back what we lent you.

I humbly beg pardon of my English friends for my awful butchery of the Yorkshire dialect.

Lyrics: 

Wheear 'ast tha bin sin' ah saw thee, ah saw thee?
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at
Wheear 'ast tha bin sin' ah saw thee, ah saw thee?
Wheear 'ast tha bin sin' ah saw thee?
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at

Tha's been a cooartin' Mary Jane
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at . . .

Tha's bahn' to catch thy deeath o' cowd
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at . . .

Then us'll ha' to bury thee
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at . . .

Then t'worms'll come an' eyt thee up
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at . . .

Then t'ducks'll come an' eyt up t'worms
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at . . .

Then us'll go an' eyt up t'ducks
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at . . .

Then us'll all ha' etten thee
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at . . .

That's wheear we get us ooan back
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at . . .

Instruments: