While Shepherds Watched

To the Tune Cranbrook written by Thomas Clark

On Ilkley Moor Baht ’at

(On Ilkley Moor Without a Hat • Yorkshire’s “National Anthem”)

In 1805 a hymn tune called Cranbrook was composed by a cobbler of Canterbury, Thomas Clark. A hundred years later it was still being sung in Wesleyan Chapels at Christmas time to While Shepherds watched their flocks by night.  It was originally composed as a setting for While Shepherds Watched. Only later did it become more familiar for On Ilkley Moor Without a Hat.

According to tradition, the members of a Halifax Wesleyan Church were picnicking beneath the Cow and Calf rocks, after their annual walk across the moors from Dick Hudson’s, when two of their party disappeared into the bracken.  On their return to the main group, a member of the choir bellowed out “Wheer wor ta bahn when ah saw thee?” “Tha’s bin a-courtin’ Mary Jane”, commented another.  Further lines in common metre were contributed until the choir burst naturally into the tune Cranbrook.

Over the years, more verses have been added, and it has been accepted as Yorkshire’s “National Anthem”

From the New Oxford Book of Carols regarding While Shepherds Watched p144 – Tune V, now universally known as Cranbrook, is one of the earliest and certainly the best known of the enormous number composed by the remarkable cordwainer (shoemaker) and musician Thomas Clark, who became the leading Dissenting composer of the late Georgian period. The setting we give is the earliest we have found… We prefer this to the blander revisions that the composer made for successive publications.  It is better known throughout the English speaking world to the Yorkshire words On Ilkla Moor baht ’at.

This is a fine echo carol.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night…                                          …flocks by nightAll seated on the ground,The angel of the LordThe angel of the LordThe angel of the Lord came down,The angel of the Lord came down,And glory shone around.And glory shone around.And glory shone around.“Fear not,” said he, (for mighty dread…                                 …mighty dreadHad seized their troubled minds);“Glad tidings of great joy…“Glad tidings of great joy…“Glad tidings of great joy I bring“Glad tidings of great joy I bringTo you and all mankind.To you and all mankind.To you and all mankind.“To you in David’s town this day                                  …this dayIs born of David’s lineA Saviour, who is Christ theA Saviour, who is Christ theA Saviour, who is Christ the Lord,A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord,And this shall be the sign:And this shall be the sign:And this shall be the sign:“The heav’nly Babe you there shall find                                  …there shall findTo human view displayed,All meanly wrapped inAll meanly wrapped inAll meanly wrapped in swathing bands,All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,And in a manger laid.”And in a manger laid.”And in a manger laid.”Thus spake the Seraph; and forthwith                                …and forthwith Appeared a shining throngOf angels praising God,Of angels praising God,Of angels praising God, who thusOf angels praising God, who thusAddressed their joyful song:Addressed their joyful song:Addressed their joyful song:“All glory be to God on high,                    …God on high,And to the Earth be peace;Goodwill henceforth from Heav’nGoodwill henceforth from Heav’nGoodwill henceforth from Heav’n to menGoodwill henceforth from Heav’n to menBegin and never cease.”Begin and never cease.”Begin and never cease.

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