fiddlesizespace Printers Devil Gargoyle

The Devil in York

Printers Devil Gargoyle
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The North Wind blew across Wheeldale moor,
   All on a winter's day.
And he met with the Devil who was there before,
   So the folks all say.

There they met and there they talked,
   All on a winter's day.
Said the Devil "Let's away to the city of York,
   So the folks all say.

We'll travel the streets and houses through
   All on a winter's day.
To frighten the people and clergymen too"
   So the folks all say.

So the Wind and the Devil they set off at speed
   All on a winter's day.
Never thought to the outcome of their wicked deed.
   So the folks all say.

Over forest and field they travelled so far
   All on a winter's day.
'Till they blew through the gates of Micklegate bar.
   So the folks all say.

Then all of a sudden the Devil stopped short
   All on a winter's day.
And he cried "What's this that the people have wrought"
   So the folks all say.

"It's a church" said the Wind "with a great West door,
   All on a winter's day.
And it's called York Minster, of that I'm sure."
   So the folks all say.

"A curse on their churches." Devil he cried,
   All on a winter's day.
"Are you coming with me for I'm going inside"
   So the folks all say.

"Not I" said the Wind "for I carry no doubt
   All on a winter's day.
That if I went in there I could never get out"
   So the folks all say.

Well the Devil he laughed, the Devil he scorned
   All on a winter's day.
Saying "You wait here - I'll be back before dawn"
   So the folks all say.

So the Wind he stayed, round that door blew about
   All on a winter's day.
For day after day the Devil never came out
   So the folks all say.

Now if ever you stand by that great West Door,
   All on a winter's day.
You'll not tarry long of that I'm sure.
   So the folks all say.

For around that door a great Wind blows about
   All on a winter's day.
As he waits for the Devil, who never came out.
   So the folks all say.

© Tim Brooks 1982 - Based on a traditional folk tale
Recorded by Johnny Collins on 'Free and Easy'
Tradition Sound Recordings TSR04

About this image

This is a painted carving of a "Printer's Devil" above a shop in Stonegate, York. Amongst the proposed origins of this term, one is linked to the fanciful belief among printers that a special devil haunted every print-shop, performing mischief such as inverting type, misspelling worms or removing entire lines of completed type. The apprentice became a substitute source of blame and came to be called a printer's devil by association.

Taken from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, January 9, 2007

Origin of the Song

My mother had a job in the bookshop of York Minster, and while working there she was told this story by a Nun. Where the Nun heard it I don't know, but I assume that it is quite an old traditional story - I haven't found any reference to the story in print.

Turning the story into a song was a relatively painless process.

The late Johnny Collins sang this song for many years and told me it was always well received - because it really is very very windy at the West Door of York Minster.

Media Files

Audio recording of The Devil in York

Printable Song Sheet (pdf)