The ship carpenter’s wife, song

Eddie Butcher, singing in English
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Oh, come all you gay fellows, you flourishing folk,
It is truly a fact now I’m going to unfold,
It is truly a fact now I’m going to unfold,
It’s concerning a woman by auction was sold.

A ship carpenter lived a few miles out of here
He being little or rather too fond of his beer;
He was hard up for cash – it’s as fact as my life –
For ten shillings by auction he sold off the wife.

He called for a bailsman including the sale
Up in the high market where he could not fail,
When the auctioneer came with his hammer so smart
While the carpenter’s wife she stood up in a cart.

Oh, now she’s put up without grumble or frown,
The first was a sailor, he bid half a crown;
He swore he would make her a lady so spruce,
He would fatten her up on cabbage and goose.

The next was a cobbler, he gave a loud bawl,
– Nine shillings I’ll give for her, muscles and all.
– Oh, look at her beauty, her shapes and her size,
She is mighty well tempered and sober likewise.
– I’m blowed, says the sailor, she’s one out of four
And ten shillings I’ll give you, oh, but damn the screw more!

– Oh, thank you, oh thank you, said the bold auctioneer,
She’s going, she’s going – are there nobody here?
For to bid any more I’m afraid it’s no job,
She’s going, she’s going, she’s away for ten bob.

Then the hammer was struck and concluded the sale
And the sailor he paid down the cash on the nail,
Shook hands with his Bessy, then give her a smack
And then straight straddle-legs he did jump on her back.

They called for a fiddler and a fifer to play,
They danced and they sang there until it was day
To Jack and his Bess to their hammock did go
While the fiddler and fifer played ‘Rosin the bow’.

Now Jack is content with his ten-shilling wife
And long may they flourish and prosper through life
And long may they flourish and prosper through life
The young sailor that bought the ship carpenter’s wife.


Wife auctions were a topic of the English broadside press and, in actuality, a vulgarly recognized means of divorce or repudiation. Thomas Hardy introduced the topic to literary fiction in his Mayor of Casterbridge and John Ashton has documented the practice from various sources, citing prices that ranged from twenty-five guineas down to a glass of ale: see notes to A. But this English song is rare today outside Ireland, which also boasts – if that is the term And long may they flourish and prosper through life another wife-auction song noted recently in Belfast: Morton1 p. 19–21, and the disc Folk songs sung in Ulster I.