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   The Stirrings In Sheffield           On Saturday Night      

The Stirrings in Sheffield on Saturday Night: staff notation. Left-click to play midi rendition.

Of hammers and files no more heard the din is
Round the door of the warehouse the workmen arrange
While the master his bankbills and snug little guineas
Is counting, or strutting about to get change.
Having reckoned, they ne'er stop, but jog to the beer shop
Where fumes of tobacco and stingo invite
And the oven inhabits a store of Welsh rerebits
To feast jolly fellows on Saturday night.

chorus:   Saturday night, boys, Saturday night
What Stirrings in Sheffield on Saturday night.


Now while cheerful liquor around they are pushing
The many-mouthed chorus melodious flies.
Though oft interrupted by merchants who rush in
With "Cockles alive O" or "Hot mutton pies".
Perhaps you may choose, sir, to pore o'er the news, sir
And tell whether matters go wrong or go right
All ranks and conditions commence politicians
While sat in the alehouse on Saturday night.

But while o'er the tankard such fun they are raising
Full often will fate these enjoyments annoy
A good scolding wife puts her unwelcome face in
An intruding guest, she breaks thus on their joy
So here again, Billy, why, sure man, thou'rt silly
'Od burn thee, come home, or I'll dit up thy sight.
Nay, so now, my jewel, says he, this is cruel
To begrudge one a sup on a Saturday night.

Here maids with their baskets are to and fro walking
In shambles to bargain with butchers for meat
While some boy ballad singer so slowly is stalking
And warbles so sweetly his lays in the street.
Here's calendars crying and people come buying
Around the hoarse fellow in crowds — such a sight
For as suits your palates, confessions or ballads
Are all at your service on Saturday night.

When through the dark alleys if slyly one passes
What fun you may have if an ear you will lend
Such sighs and soft wishes from lads and from lasses
Who tell their fond tale at a dark entry's end.
When he to his true-love cries, Polly, adieu love
And kisses and squeezes his lassie so tight
She'll blushing say, Fie, sir, then softly she'll cry
Can't you stay a bit longer? It's Saturday night.


A nine-stanza version of this song appears in The Songs Of Joseph Mather And Miscellaneous Songs Relating To Sheffield, printed by Pawson and Brailsford in 1862 with an introduction and notes by Joseph Wilson. The song is not attributed to Joseph Mather (c.1737-1804), and John Wilson is uncertain about the authorship, but he received his copy of the song from Thomas Rowbotham of the Peoples' College.

The five-line stanza version reproduced here is from Roy Palmer, A Touch On The Times (Penguin Education, 1974). Roy Palmer writes, "This broadside, dating from the end of the eighteenth or the beginning of the nineteenth century, went to the tune of Nottingham Ale (better known as Lillibulero)." He adds that there are similar ballads referring to Birmingham and Manchester. Palmer abridged Wilson's text and added a chorus (with "Birmingham" changed to "Sheffield") from a broadside issued by Wrighton of Birmingham, Saturday Night At Birmingham; and used the tune printed by William Chappell in Popular Music Of The Olden Time (1859, II, 573-4).

Alan Cullen's musical documentary The Stirrings In Sheffield On Saturday Night was first presented at Sheffield Playhouse on 6th May 1966. The four-line stanza version of the song The Stirrings In Sheffield On Saturday Night, which opens Act One, uses the words of the nine-stanza version printed in 1862, but the music is by Roderick Horn, a member of the same company as Alan Cullen.

The 1966 musical documentary, abbreviated to Stirrings, has since given its name to a Sheffield restaurant and a distinguished Sheffield-based folk/acoustic magazine.

Dave Sissons


Song and notes reproduced from Stirrings 89 (September-November 1996).

Click on the staff notation for a midi rendition.