Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Yan Tan Tethera

Song By Jake Thackray

Yan Tan Tethera, Old Molly Metcalfe, is a song written by the late Jake Thackray from Leeds, West Yorkshire, showing that the life of a shepherdess isn't as idyllic as its romantic image suggests.

The refrain reflects an old method of counting sheep in the North of England, derived from an ancient Celtic language.

John Philip "Jake" Thackray (1938 - 2002) was an English singer-songwriter, poet and journalist. Best known in the late 1960s and early 1970s for his topical comedy songs performed on British television, his work ranged from satirical to bawdy to sentimental to pastoral, with a strong emphasis on storytelling.

Although Thackray claimed when he first sang the song that Molly Metcalfe was his aunt, he later revealed that the lady in question is fictitious.


Related Scottish Country Dances

Yan Tan Tethera

Yan Tan Tethera By Jake Thackray

Old Molly Metcalfe counting sheep
Yan tan tether mether pip she counted
Up upon Swaledale steep and bleak
Yan tan tether mether pip she said.

Grow little sheep come hail come snow
Yan tan tether mether pip she counted
Fine warm wool for a gentleman's shoulderblades
Yan tan tether mether pip she said.

Over the heather when the weather is cold
Yan tan tether mether pip she counted
Stiff Molly Metcalfe goes bow-leggedly
Yan tan tether mether pip she said.

Grow little sheep, come wind come rain
Yan tan tether mether pip she counted
Fine warm wool for a lady's counterpane,
Yan tan tether mether pip she said.

On her back in the bracken with frozen bones
Yan tan tether mether pip she counted
Daft Molly Metcalfe singing alone
Yan tan tether mether pip she said.

Grow little sheep, come death come dark
Yan tan tether mether pip she counted
No such wool for Old Molly Metcalfe,
Yan tan tether mether pip she said.


Yan Tan Tethera Song Video

Yan Tan Tethera Song - Information Video
Sheep Image
Yan Tan Tether Mether Pip


Published in jakethackray.com - Old Molly Metcalfe
Dance Information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence.
Text from this original Yan Tan Tethera article on Wikipedia.
Text from this original Jake Thackray article on Wikipedia.
Image Copyright Fir0002/Flagstaffotos. GFDL v1.2. License

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