The Cutty Wren

Album: English Rebel Songs (1776)
  • songfacts ®
  • Written in 3/4 time, "The Cutty Wren" is one of the oldest of English folk songs. Like most songs of great antiquity there are variants, in this case "The Hunting Of The Wren" is best known. Although it was first published in 1776, it is thought to have been written during the English Peasants' Revolt of 1381. There are variations from all over the British Isles, and in the United States, the song became "Billy Barlow" in the early 20th Century.
  • "The Cutty Wren" is Number 236 in the Roud Folk Song Index, and is one of the most enigmatic of folk songs.
  • Chumbawamba recorded the song because eight hundred years after the English Peasants' Revolt, the government of the day, under Margaret Thatcher, tried to institute a poll tax, as had the government of the youthful Richard II when Wat Tyler led the original revolt. It is possible that the wren alluded to is Richard II but it may have a more mystical allusion. Although double entendres are far from unknown in folk songs, and if this is a reference to killing the king, it is hardly surprising that it would be dressed up in this fashion. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above
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