I Can Hew

I Can Hew is a dance for 4, 6 or 8. The Hounds musicians generally sing this a cappella or with simple instrumental accompaniment. All dancers join in on the final chorus.

Source: Written by Julia E. Schult in 2004. Derived from (but significantly different from) a Cotswold version by Nat Case & Tom Baxter of Uptown-on-Calhoun Morris.

Tune: Collier Lads (aka I Can Hew) (David Dodds), as A(BA)4 beginning with walk on during chorus.

T:I Can Hew
T:Tune: Collier Lads
C:David Dodds
AB | c2 A2 ee | e<e d2 cd |
w: I can hew, boys, I can hack it out; I can
e>e  ee  dc | AG A2 AB |
w: hew the coal,_ I can dance and shout. I can
c2 A2 ee | e<e d2 cd |
w: hew, boys, coal that's black and fine; I'm a
e>e ee dc | AG A2 |]
w: col- lier lad_ work- in' down the mine.

Formation: 4, 6, or 8 alternating between a set and a line, each dancer with one long stick. Stepping is border style single steps throughout.

Order of figures:

  • Walk on - line into a set
  • Cotswold Hey (6 dancers) OR Square Hey (4,8 dancers)
  • Chorus - set into line
  • Hey in a Line (2x if 4,6; 1x if 8)
  • Chorus - line into a set
  • Out and Swing
  • Chorus - set into a line
  • Linear Bombast
  • Chorus - line into All In

Walk On: Dancers walk on single file during chorus music to end up in the following formation:

Musos  1 2 3 4 5 6

We usually come on from behind the musicians, so 6 leads on. At end of chorus (“I'm a COLLier's lad”) even numbers turn to face odds; All strike backhand and continue right to loop into a set (standard numbering). Strike is on “COLL” in the music; see end of Chorus description below.

Hey: Two whole heys (note square heys in sets of four when done for 4 or 8 dancers).


“Miners” are odd numbers, “Rock Faces” are even.

  • On phrase “I Can Hew”: Miners swing stick broadly, like a pickax, and strike Rock Face sticks, which are presented horizontally at about Pete's waist height (slightly above most waists).
  • On next word “Boys”: Rock Faces immediately strike Miner's stick, as an echo to the first strike.
  • Continue same sticking pattern through phrase “Coal that's black and fine”. (Count is 1,2,strike,4,strike,6, 1,2,strike,4,strike,6.)
  • Then on phrase “I'm a COLLier's lad”, shift weight to left foot so stick can strike backhand on COLL, and stepping commences on right foot simultaneously. Step in a “turn single” small circle moving to R until you are in your new place. (5 steps)
  • Chorus alternates from line to set, then next chorus from set to line, as listed above.

Out and swing: When called during chorus, dancers go way out on their turn single to end chorus. Single steps with very slow forward movement to pass partner, turn on or after “strapping lad”. Meet to swing on “dad”. Remember to end in a set formation (not line).

Linear Bombast: When done for 6 or 8, dancers will not end up in same position for the final chorus. With 6, some Miners and Rock Faces will have changed roles.

Final Chorus: On the turn singles, all go out and then leap or caper in to end with sticks high in the center. We usually hold it until applause starts to die down, then music only (no words) strikes up and dancers walk off tiredly to the beat as if they've been mining all day.

Song: Collier Lads

This song is sung often enough by morris teams that it is easy to conclude it must be traditional, but it was actually composed by David Dodds, an English folksinger.

I can hew, boys, I can hack it out;
I can hew the coal, I can dance and shout.
I can hew, boys, coal that's black and fine;
I'm a collier lad workin' down the mine.

On St. Monday's day it's well I do admire
To be sittin' at home by me own coal fire.
Then it's down to the pub for a glass or two,
For to work on a Monday, that would never do.


Well, I likes my whiskey and I likes my beer;
I'll drink fourteen pints and I'll not feel queer.
I can hold my liquor good as any man,
And I'll dance and sing as long as I can.


Well, my boy's he's fourteen, he's a strappin' lad,
And he'll go to the pit soon, just like his dad.
And when Friday comes, we'll pick up our pay,
And we'll drink together, to round out the day.


And it's when I'm dead, oh, I know full well,
I'll not go to Heaven, I am bound for Hell
And my pick and shovel old Nick, he will admire
And he'll set me to hewin' coal for his old hell fire.