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Jone O’ Grinfilt


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Jone O’ Grinfilt

by Joseph Lees of Glodwick (1748-1824)


This absolute cracker comes from ‘A Lancashire Garland’, Selected and Edited by G. Halstead Whittaker, Second Impression, 1936, printed at Elipse Works, Staylybridge by Geo. Whittaker & Sons. There was some controversy over the true authorship of this humourous Oldham poem, which became extremely popular and was widely sung and recited across the district. Incidentally, the poem evidently provided the title 'Oldham Brave Oldham' for the book written by Brian R. Law for Oldham Council in 1999.


It tells of a time when the army was passing through Oldham, reportedly in 1805, during the French Revolutionary wars, recruiting to its ranks. Jone was evidently experiencing hard times, probably as a result of disruption to trade caused by the war, and the prospect of receiving 'the king's shilling', a smart uniform, regular pay and having a few adventures in foreign parts was attractive.


You can read, by clicking the link, about Joseph Dunkerley's similar experience during the Napoleonic wars when he joined the militia in 1803.


'Grinfilt' is 'Greenfield' a district located only a couple of miles east of Oldham town centre. There is something of 'Don Quixote de la Mancha' about Jone.


Please note that 'Jone O' Grinfilt' is very early Lancashire dialect - John Collier ('Tim Bobbin') published in 1756, but of the well-remembered Lancashire dialect writers only the long-lived Sam Bamford might really have published anything by 1805. The language of 'Jone O' Grinfilt' betrays its primitive origins - and I find it quite hard to read.


You can link to an explanatory Glossary, but to get you going, 'sodger' is 'soldier' and 'Jone' is really just 'John'.




Jone O’ Grinfilt

by Joseph Lees 

Says Jone to his woife on a whot summer’s day,

"Aw’m resolvt i’ Grinfilt no lunger to stay;

For aw’ll goo to Owdham os fast os aw can,

So fare thee weel Grinfilt, an’ fare thee weel Nan;

For a sodger aw’ll be, an’ brave Owdham aw’ll see,

An aw’ll ha’e a battle wi’ th’ French."


"Dear Jone," said eawr Nan, un’ hoo bitterly cried,

"Wilt be one o’ th’ foote, or theaw means for t’ ride?"

"Ods eawns! wench aw’ll ride oather ass or a mule,

Ere aw’ll keawr i’ Grinfilt os black os th’ owd dule

Booath clemmin’, un’ starvin’, un’ never a fardin’,

It ‘ud welly drive ony mon mad."


"Ay, Jone, sin’ we coom i’ Grinfilt for t’ dwell,

Wey’n had mony a bare meal, aw con vara weel tell."

"Bare meal, ecod! ay, that aw vara weel know,

There’s bin two days this wick ‘ot wey’n had nowt at o’;

Aw’m vara near sided, afore aw’ll abide it,

Aw’ll feight oather Spanish or French."


Then says my Noant Margit, "Ah! Jone, theaw’rt so whot,

Aw’d ne’er go to Owdham, boh i’ England aw’d stop."

"It matters nowt, Madge, for to Owdham aw’ll goo,

Aw’st ne’er clem to deeoth, boh sumbry shall know:

Furst Frenchmon aw find, aw’ll tell him meh mind,

Un’ if he’ll naw feight, he shall run."


Then deawn th’ broo aw coom, for weh livent at top,

Aw thowt aw’d raich Owdham ere ever aw stop;

Ecod! heaw they staret when aw getten to th’ Mumps,

Meh owd hat i’ my hont, un’meh clogs full o’ stumps;

Boh aw soon towd ‘um, aw’re gooin’ to Owdham

Un’ aw’d ha’e a battle wi’ th’ French.


Aw kept eendway thro’ th’ lone, un’ to Owdham aw went,

Aw ax’d a recruit if they’d made up their keawnt?

"Nowe, nowe, honest lad" (for he tawked like a king),

"Goo wi’ meh thro’ th’ street, un’ thee aw will bring

Wheere, if theaw’rt willin’, theaw may ha’e a shillin’."

Ecod! aw thowt this wur rare news.


He browt meh to th’ pleck, where they measurn their height,

Un’ if they bin th’ height they sen nowt abeawt weight;

Aw ratche meh un’ stretch’d meh, un’ never did flinch:

Says th’ mon, "Aw believe theawr’t meh lad to an inch."

Aw thowt this’ll do; aw’st ha’e guineas enoo’.

Ecod! Owdham, brave Owdham for me.


So fare thee weel, Grinfilt, a soger aw’m made:

Aw’ve getten new shoon, un’ a rare nice cockade;

Aw’ll feight for Owd Englond os hard os aw con,

Oather French, Dutch, or Spanish, to me it’s o’ one;

Aw’ll mak’ ‘em to stare, like a new started hare,

Un’ aw’ll tell ‘em fro’ Owdham aw coom.







Some Explanations

Whot - hot

Ha'e - have

Hoo - she

Ods eawns - Gods wounds (euphemism)

Oather - either

Keawr - sit, cower

Dule - devil

Clemmin - dying of hunger

Starvin - dying of cold

Fardin - a fathing (a quarter of a penny)

Welly - nearly

Ecod - By God (euphemism)

Wick - week

Ot - that

Sided - decided

Noant - aunt

Sumbry - somebody

Broo - brew, brow, hill

Staret - stared

Mumps - a place at the edge of Oldham

Eednway - straight on

Lone - lane

Keawt - count, tally of recruits

Shillin - shilling one twentieth of a pound

Rare - good

Pleck - place

Sen - say

Ratche - reach, extended

This'll do - I'm on to a good thing

Enoo - enough

Shoon - shoes









I'm including G. Halstead Whittaker's comments that accompany this poem in 'A Lancashire Garland', because I think it gives interesting background to the poem - really a song.

'The authorship of this luscious old song of the green country yokel of over a century ago was a mater of newspaper controversy about sixty years ago [about 1876]. It is now accepted that Joseph Lees (Joe o' Rondle's) was its chief begetter aided, maybe, by the witty and eccentric Joss Coupe. These two were "mates," and Joss claimed that the song was written while they were sheltering under a hedge during a rainstorm. They were tramping from Manchester back to Oldham, and hadn't a cent or an expectation between them. Badly in want of liquid sustenance they began stringing lines togerher, and the resulting song well reflects the mood of its authors. Whether Coupe wrote the first verse, Lees the next, and so on as has been reported, is doubtful, het there is a disjointed charm about the whole. The song finished, it was sung at Wakes and public places, and was a tremendous success. This was in 1805. Not being printed, it was imitated and sung by others until thirteen versions or variations were being sung. There were then many strolling entertainers roaming the country - motley and happy - and the popularity of the original verses yielded subsistence for the singers of any of these "Grinfilt" songs for some time.


Broadsheet copies of the original song were printed later, and it was sung in hall and cottage, at Wakes and merrymakings everywhere. It is said to have been sung before King George III, who, no doubt, would appreciate its humour, liveliness, topicality - if he understood the "twang."


Lees was a handloom weaver, but became a schoolmaster. He sang "Jone o' Grinfilt" first at a Christmas party at Glodwick in 1805, and gave immense pleasure. Here is this song, "a fragment from Time's dustheap" - as Ammon Wrigley says - "still giving as much pleasure to the people of our time as it gave to the people of a hundred years ago, yet the big local magnates of Lees's day and all their works have vanished as completley as if they had never been.


Lees died in 1824, Joshua Coupe died in 1843, at Chadderton. Coupe became a sort of troubadour, he wore a cockade and passed himself off among strangers as The Jone o' Grinfilt. Samuel Bamford in his "Walks in South Lancashire" describes how he met the ballad-monger, and obtained from him the "full, true and particular account" of the origin of this evergreen Lancashire song, which well merits its inclusion in Bell's Songs and Ballads of the English Peasantry.


Lees also wrote the "Oldham Rushbearing," sung to the tune "Jockey to the Fair":

"Twas in the month of August bright

When yellow harvests glad the sight,

When jocund reapers on the plain

With sickles cut the grain.

When plenty smiles the orchard through,

And apples redden on each bough;

Then lovely Jane, in neat array

O'er the green meadows tript away

To Oldham rushbearing."

etc., etc.'


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