Alps and Sanctuaries of Piedmont and the Canton Ticino, by Samuel Butler

Appendix A

Wednesbury Cocking (See p. 55)

I know nothing of the date of this remarkable ballad, or the source from which it comes. I have heard one who should know say, that when he was a boy at Shrewsbury school it was done into Greek hexameters, the lines (with a various reading in them):

“The colliers and nailers left work,

And all to old Scroggins’ went jogging;”

being translated:

[Greek text]

I have been at some pains to find out more about this translation, but have failed to do so. The ballad itself is as follows:

At Wednesbury there was a cocking,

A match between Newton and Scroggins;

The colliers and nailers left work,

And all to old Spittle’s went jogging.

To see this noble sport,

Many noblemen resorted;

And though they’d but little money,

Yet that little they freely sported.

There was Jeffery and Colborn from Hampton,

And Dusty from Bilston was there;

Flummery he came from Darlaston,

And he was as rude as a bear.

There was old Will from Walsall,

And Smacker from Westbromwich come;

Blind Robin he came from Rowley,

And staggering he went home.

Ralph Moody came hobbling along,

As though he some cripple was mocking,

To join in the blackguard throng,

That met at Wednesbury cocking.

He borrowed a trifle of Doll,

To back old Taverner’s grey;

He laid fourpence-halfpenny to fourpence,

He lost and went broken away.

But soon he returned to the pit,

For he’d borrowed a trifle more money,

And ventured another large bet,

Along with blobbermouth Coney.

When Coney demanded his money,

As is usual on all such occasions,

He cried, — thee, if thee don’t hold thy rattle,

I’ll pay thee as Paul paid the Ephasians.

The morning’s sport being over,

Old Spittle a dinner proclaimed,

Each man he should dine for a groat,

If he grumbled he ought to be  —

For there was plenty of beef,

But Spittle he swore by his troth,

That never a man should dine

Till he ate his noggin of broth.

The beef it was old and tough,

Off a bull that was baited to death,

Barney Hyde got a lump in his throat,

That had like to have stopped his breath,

The company all fell into confusion,

At seeing poor Barney Hyde choke;

So they took him into the kitchen,

And held him over the smoke.

They held him so close to the fire,

He frizzled just like a beef-steak,

They then threw him down on the floor,

Which had like to have broken his neck.

One gave him a kick on the stomach,

Another a kick on the brow,

His wife said, Throw him into the stable,

And he’ll be better just now.

Then they all returned to the pit,

And the fighting went forward again;

Six battles were fought on each side,

And the next was to decide the main.

For they were two famous cocks

As ever this country bred,

Scroggins’s a dark-winged black,

And Newton’s a shift-winged red.

The conflict was hard on both sides,

Till Brassy’s black-winged was choked;

The colliers were tarnationly vexed,

And the nailers were sorely provoked.

Peter Stevens he swore a great oath,

That Scroggins had played his cock foul;

Scroggins gave him a kick on the head,

And cried, Yea — thy soul.

The company then fell in discord,

A bold, bold fight did ensue;

—— and bite was the word,

Till the Walsall men all were subdued.

Ralph Moody bit off a man’s nose,

And wished that he could have him slain,

So they trampled both cocks to death,

And they made a draw of the main.

The cock-pit was near to the church,

An ornament unto the town;

On one side an old coal pit,

The other well gorsed around.

Peter Hadley peeped through the gorse,

In order to see them fight;

Spittle jobbed out his eye with a fork,

And said, — thee, it served thee right.

Some people may think this strange,

Who Wednesbury never knew;

But those who have ever been there,

Will not have the least doubt it’s true;

For they are as savage by nature,

And guilty of deeds the most shocking;

Jack Baker whacked his own father,

And thus ended Wednesbury cocking.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:42