Mudcat Café message #813804 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #53006   Message #813804
Posted By: Geoff the Duck
29-Oct-02 - 03:02 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Ilkey Moor Batat, What does it mean?
Subject: RE: Origins: Ilkey Moor Batat, What does it mean?
The song "On Ilkley Moor Baht 'at" (Baht = without, 'at = hat)originated as the result of a choir taking an outing on Ilkley Moor. The moor is in Yorkshire near Leeds and Bradford (and not anywhere near Hull). Ilkley Moor is part of a larger region of moorlands known as Rombalds Moor which also contains the area where the Bronte sisters lived and wrote. The moor is very similar to those described in Wuthering Heights, and pictured in many films of the same. In other words, it can be very wild and windswept in poor weather (actually, it is very pleasant on a hot sunny Summer's day).
Rombalds Moor was the home of Giant Rombald, who used to throw large stones across the moor. Some of these landed at the edge of Ilkley Moor and later became a well known landmark and a popular picnic spot for residents of Bradford and Leeds, who could travel by train to Ilkley, and then hike up the hill to the moor.
The song was inspired by two members of the choir disappearing off from the main party for a kiss and cuddle (or some such similar activity). Somebody from the choir penned the words, and fitted them to a Welsh tune previously used for the Christmas carol, "While Shepherds". The rest, as they say around here, is Geography!

The song is rarely sung by people from Yorkshire, mainly because we are sick and tired of it, and of namby-pamby Southerners attempting to break into it whenever they first discover that a Tyke (Yorkshireman or woman) has entered the building. When it is sung, somebody always insists on adding extra bits at the end of the chorus line. The one which is probably the first to have been added is "Where the ducks fly backwards", which is part of an old saying from Bradford's days as an industrial town based on woollen mills. The saying referred to the large amount of heavy black smoke from coal fired mill chimneys. People used to say that in Bradford, the ducks fly backwards to keep the muck (or soot) out of their eyes!
I suspect that ducks playing football was added by those from farther afield who didn't understand the reference to ducks flying backwards, so they replaced it with a nonsense one instead.

To address the initial posting of this thread, the story is (translated and paraphrased for an international audience):-
Where have you been since I last saw you.
I've been courting Mary Jane.
(on Ilkley Moor without a hat
& presumably without other warm protective clothing ;-) .....)
You are certain to catch your death of cold.
Then we shall have to bury thee.
Then the worms will come and eat thee up.
Then the ducks will come and eat up the worms.
Then we shall come and eat up the ducks.
Then we shall all have eaten thee!

All in all an early ecological ballad celebrating the food chain, or on the other hand something to embarrass a young courting couple who happened to get caught out!

Not, of course, that I have any personal part in this drama....
Geoff the (Bradford born) Duck!