Doffin' Mistress, The
DESCRIPTION: "Oh do you know here or do you not, This new doffin' mistress we hae got, [Something-or-other] is her name, And she helps her doffers at every frame." The weavers tell of her exploits. They contemptuously tell the boss they will work hard for her, not him
EARLIEST DATE: 1904
KEYWORDS: work weaving
FOUND IN: Ireland Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 220, "The Doffin' Mistress" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leyden-BelfastCityOfSong 14, "The Doffing Mistress" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hammond-SongsOfBelfast, p. 27, "The Doffing Mistress" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Jon Raven, _VIctoria's Inferno: Songs of the Old Mills, Mines, Manufacturies, Canals, and Railways_, Roadside Press, 1978, p. 139, "The Doffing Mistress" (1 text)
Anne Briggs, "The Doffing Mistress" (on IronMuse1, IronMuse2, Briggs3, Briggs4)
cf. "The Sea Apprentice" (tune)
The Sea Apprentice (File: HHH739)
NOTES [268 words]: The "Doffing Mistress" was responsible for a gang of mill-workers (doffers). These women inspired surprising loyalty (presumably because they protected the workers, who were often children, from the senior management -- which, of course was rapacious enough to hire young children). As a result, they were often honored with processions and celebrations when they retired, married, or went to work for another establishment.
In Yorkshire at least, the "doffer" had a very specific job, according to Arnold Kellett, The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition, and Folklore, revised edition, Smith Settle, 2002, p. 49: "doffer[:] textile worker taking filled bobbins from the spinning machine." Those who put new bobbins in the place of the full ones were "bobbin-liggers," according to p. 15.
A version of this song in Sing Out!, Volume 28, #3 (1980), p. 26, notes for instance that the mistress "hangs her coat on the highest pin." This might be interpreted as some sort of dominance game -- but the children could not easily reach the highest pin, so she was leaving the lower pins available for the workers.
The same article says that this has been called "the national anthem of the textile mills in Belfast," even though the doffers were replaced by machines in the 1930. (And, of course, the textile mills were not a nation and could not have a NATIONAL anthem. But I'm nitpicking.) - RBW
Also collected and sung by David Hammond, "The Doffin' Mistress" (on David Hammond, "I Am the Wee Falorie Man: Folk Songs of Ireland," Tradition TCD1052 CD (1997) reissue of Tradition LP TLP 1028 (1959)) - BS
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