“Four and Twenty Tailors”


Four-and-twenty tailors chase a snail (ending in defeat); depending on the version, four-and-twenty others (blind men, young maids, auld wives) have equally unlikely adventures


This is a very amorphous piece; the Digital Tradition version has very little in common with Kinloch's except the initial reference to the Hunting of the Snail, and the meters are different. There seems to be a whole genre of Improbable Scots Songs, many of which are not traditional. But there are so many references in the DT text that I imagine the piece belongs in the Index.

It is perhaps significant that the "heroes" of this alleged "adventure" are tailors, since tailors were regarded as the most feeble of all workers; see, e.g., the notes to "Benjamin Bowmaneer." - RBW

Cross references


  1. Kinloch-BBook XIII, pp. 48-49, (no title) (1 text)
  2. Ford-Vagabond, pp. 271-272, "Neerie Norrie" (1 text)
  3. Opie-Oxford2 495, "Four and twenty tailors" (1 text)
  4. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #90, p. 86, "(Four and twenty tailors)"
  5. Montgomerie-ScottishNR 143, "(Four-and-twenty Highlandmen)" (1 text)
  6. DT, TAILOR4
  7. Roud #1036
  8. BI, KinBB13


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1784 (Gammar Gurton's Garland, according to Opie-Oxford2)
Found in: Britain(Scotland)