A British folk music band and a muttering Scottish worm

Friday 2nd December 2022


This is a rather convoluted blog so please bear with me…I have been listening to the folk song The Wife of Usher`s Well by Steeleye Span(see photo) quite a lot recently, released in 1975 off the album All Around My Hat.

Some of the song’s lyrics refer to a long-neglected cryptid called a “channerin worm.” Here are the relevant lyrics: 

Then up and crowed the blood red cock
And up and crowed the grey
The oldest to the youngest said
It’s time we were away
For the cock does crow and the day doth show
And the channerin worm doth chide
And we must go from Ushers Well
To the gates of Paradise

I looked up the meaning of channerin worm and came across this definition; “to scold complainingly,mutter, grumble.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/channer#:~:text=%3A%20to%20scold%20complainingly%20%3A%20mutter%2C%20grumble)

Furthermore, according to Wikipedia:  “The Wife of Usher’s Well” is a traditional ballad, catalogued as Child Ballad 79 and number 196 in the Roud Folk Song Index. An incomplete version appeared in Sir Walter Scott’s “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border” (1802). So do we have a folk memory here of some kind of worm in the Scottish border regions capable of vocalisation?

Richard Muirhead
Richard Muirhead has been a friend of the CFZ longer than anyone else. He first ,et Jon Downes in 1970 when they were both living in Hong Kong. They have been friends ever since.