My Father's a Hedger and Ditcher (Nobody Coming to Marry Me)
DESCRIPTION: "My father's a hedger and ditcher, my mother does nothing but spin, They say I'm a pretty young girl But the money comes slowly in." The girl laments, with variations on a theme, that "there's nobody coming to marry me, Nobody coming to woo."
EARLIEST DATE: 1806 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 10(39))
KEYWORDS: love courting oldmaid
FOUND IN: US(MW,SE) Britain(England(South),Scotland(Aber)) Ireland
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Ford-VagabondSongsAndBalladsOfScotland, p. 189, "Naebody Comin' to Marry Me" (1 text)
Greig-FolkSongInBuchan-FolkSongOfTheNorthEast #18, p. 1, ("My daddy's a delver o' dykes") (1 text)
Greig/Duncan7 1385, "Naebody Comin' to Marry Me," Greig/Duncan7 1386, "My Daddy's a Delver o' Dykes" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Williams-FolkSongsOfTheUpperThames, pp. 226-227, "There's Nobody Comes to Marry Me" (1 text) (also Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 470)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 185, "Nobody Coming to Marry Me" (1 text)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore4 185, "Nobody COming to Marry Me" (1 excerpt, 1 tune)
Gardner/Chickering-BalladsAndSongsOfSouthernMichigan 181, "Me Father Is a Lawyer in England" (2 short texts, 2 tunes, both very mixed; "A" has the first verse of "Me Father Is a Lawyer in England,"; the second is "Me father is a hedger and ditcher, and the third and the chorus are from "The Cobbler"; the "B" text is also clearly mixed though the elements are less clear)
Mary Ann Carolan, "My Father's a Hedger and Ditcher" (on Voice20)
Bodleian, Harding B 10(39), "Nobody Coming to Marry Me" ("Last night the dogs did bark"), Laurie and Whittle (London), 1806; also Harding B 25(1371)[many illegible words], "Nobody Coming to Marry Me"
NOTES [569 words]: At first glance, the "Hedger and Ditcher" stanza (which is the first in Brown though not in Ford) seems unrelated to the rest, but it seems likely to be a reference to the girl's inadequate dowry. There is every likelihood that this is a stage song; most of the (rather unhelpful) references in Brown are to printed and popular versions.
Roud lists many more versions, but many are of what I would consider separate songs (e.g. "My Father's a Lawyer in England," which often goes with "My God How the Money Rolls In").
It's just possible that there is a link to British politics in here somewhere. In the years around 1910, the Liberal government of H. H. Asquith was trying to pass a variety of reforms, and had them vetoed by the House of Lords. This was understandable; Britain at the time was trying for social reforms *and* conducting a naval arms race against Germany, and it cost a great deal. The Liberals were proposing extreme tax increases (Smith, p. 481)
The Liberals, having been stymied again and again by the Lords, eventually tried to pass a law restricting the veto power of the Lords. Which, naturally, the Lords vetoed.
Asquith tried various tricks. He called a general election on the issue, and won it -- barely. He tried to persuade the King (originally Edward VII, then George V after Edward's death) to appoint, or at least threaten to appoint, enough liberal peers to override the overwhelming conservative majority (probably at least 75%; some put it at 90%) in the Lords (Longford, p. 148).
The Lords opposed to the reform measure were known as the "Ditchers," because they would die in the last ditch. Those willing to go along with the change were, for whatever reason, known as "Hedgers."
The acrimony was intense; Longford, p. 149, records that all pretense of genuine debate was halted: "The mood... was plain honest anger. The point was not to convince the opponent but to run him through."
In the end, the reform law was passed by the Lords, very grudgingly -- so grudgingly that the Lords took the almost unknown step of recording the Division of the House (Longford, p. 152). The large majority of the Lords did not attend (nothing unusual about that -- a quorum in the Lords was three peers, though the body had over 500 members). Over 100 Ditchers voted against. Fewer than 100 peers voluntarily voted for. 37 lords led by Lord Curzon, who opposed the bill, finally voted in favor -- better to lose the veto than dilute the Lords. The final vote was 131 to 114.
It had taken two years, and it brought down Unionist (conservative) leader Arthur Balfour, who had been strangely quiet the whole time -- a critic of the period might well have said he "does nothing but spin."
I don't really think the two are connected, but it *is* an interesting parallel. For more on the whole incident, see "Home Rule for Ireland" and "A Loyal Song Against Home Rule"; also Massie, pp. 640-662 -- the chapter entited "The Budget and the House of Lords." - RBW
The broadside Bodleian Harding B 10(39) notes: "(Intended as a Companion to the second appearance of Miss Bailey's Ghost, Just Published) Sung by Mrs Jordan, with Unbounded Applause at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane." That "No rest in the grave: or The second appearance of Miss Bailey's ghost" is a parody of "Nobody Coming to Marry Me" : "Nobody coming to bury me," etc. [the latter found in Bodleian Harding B 17(219a) - RBW] - BS
Last updated in version 2.7
- Longford: Lord Longford, A History of the House of Lords, Sutton, 1988, 1999
- Massie: Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought, Random House, 1991
- Smith: Goldwin Smith, A Constitutional and Legal History of England (no copyright date listed but written after 1979; I use the 1990 Dorset edition)
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