Tune of the Day: On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at
Often considered the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire, this folk song is of course sung in the Yorkshire dialect. Its title, “On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at”, means “On Ilkley Moor without a hat”.
The song tells of a lover courting the object of his affections, Mary Jane, on Ilkley Moor without a hat (“baht 'at”). The singer chides the lover for his lack of headwear – for in the cold winds of Ilkley Moor this will mean his death from exposure. This will in turn result in his burial, the eating of his corpse by worms, the eating of the worms by ducks and finally the eating of the ducks by the singers.
The song is sung to the Methodist hymn tune “Cranbrook”, composed by Canterbury-based shoemaker Thomas Clark in 1805, which was later used as a tune for “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”. However, “On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at” became so popular that the origin of the music as a hymn tune has been almost forgotten in the United Kingdom. It is still used for “While Shepherds Watched” in some churches, but no longer widely recognized as a hymn or carol tune, except perhaps in the United States, where it is customarily used with the lyrics of Philip Doddridge's “Grace! 'Tis a Charming Sound”.
Thanks to Heather for suggesting this tune!