CampbellAdamsCampbell Adams

  • Website: Yarndling - A Brief History (

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Campbell Adams was for many years President of the Ancient Order of Yarndlers in Walberswick, Suffolk, where he lives with his common-law wife and their twelve hairless cats. His books include Looking Through Binoculars at Yarndling (1987), Yarndlers in High Places (1995) and the controversial I Was Forced to Yarndle (2005). He has lectured on yarndling in schools and colleges across the UK and is researching his latest book, entitled Never Too Old to Sing the Yarndling Blues, an overview of yarndling folksongs from mediaeval times until 1967.



A Yarndling Yaern

  • "Yarndling was my First Love" by Daniel Fitzpatrick (1888) [download]


Verse the First:

In two score years and ten,

My bonnie lass will cry,

“Don’t hold me back,

Don’t tie my hair,

Just sit me down

In a yarndler’s chair.” 


I’ve got my chorns,

I’ve got my threads,

I’ve got my whistling beads.

All I needs is a pretty young woman

To bestow my yarndling needs. 

Verse the Second:

In three score years and ten,

My bonnie lass will say,

“Don’t tell me lies,

 Don’t let me ‘lone,

Just comb my hair

With a yarndler’s comb.”

Verse the Third:

In four score years and ten,

My bonnie lass will sigh,

“Don’t turn away,

Don’t low’r your eye,

Just touch my tongue

With a yarndler’s pie.”




The Tempest, by William Shakespeare

  • William Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act 5, scene 1. BOATSWAIN: "The best news is, that we have safely found our king and company. The next, our ship—which, but three hours since, we gave out split—is as tightly yarndled and bravely rigged as when we first put out to sea."        

Courtesy of The Edward Alderton Theatre, Kent.



  Two Examples of Yarndling 

Good Yarndling

Bad Yarndling

Items mentioned in / relevant to the interviewYarndlerPerformingAMaern sm

AClaernOfCattle1958 sm



  • Chaplet—Made of rosewood, sits tightly on the head after the hair has been specially combed in the traditional way.
  • Chorns—Gloves made of beaver skin, later bifurcated (along with the threads).

  • Clay Pipes—Yarndlers’ pipes have the distinctive inverted tenon and mortise joints.

  • Clips—Usually made of brass or tin, with serrated leather straps.

  • Horizontal Knap—Flat, grooved plate for locating "porters". (Vertical knaps were tried briefly in the late 1900s but proved disastrous.)

  • Jennies—Floating or static jennies would be used, together with "porters", to locate the threads against the "horizontal knap".

  • Kiln—Used to bring "jennies" to the correct temperature for yarndling. (Since the Great Fire of Swanage in 1976, they are rarely used.)

  • Maern—Spectacular display, resembling a handstand, on rooftops. (Never performed barefoot.)

  • Revolving Porter—Conical pin that sits on the "horizontal knap".

  • Threads—Of various thicknesses and weaves, later bifurcated to ease congress.

  • Tunic—Disparaging term for one who is against yarndling, or criticises it in public.

  • Thread Chuckers—Children who would tie the loose ends of the threads together, and literally
    throw them to the yarndlers

  • Yarndlers’ Chair—Three-legged "solid stool" made from holly or hornbeam wood. The third leg would
    have a bevelled edge, enabling rotation if necessary.

  • Yarndlers’ Comb—Made from clay or calf bone, used to prepare the hair for the "chaplets" before
    yarndling commences.

  • Yarndling hat—This optional item was usually worn in the summer, mainly in coastal towns, and
    had a tufted brim and tassels made of otter tail. It is sometimes referred to as

  • Yarndling Pie—Various varieties according to the region; leeks would always be a basic

  • Yearn—Folk song about yarndling, passed orally down through families; many now lost.

  • Whistling beads—Worn by the eldest yarndler as a sign of status.



  • Special thanks to Dr. Chris Taverstock of New College, Cambridge for agreeing to be interviewed for the purposes of this conversation with Campbell Adams.
  • Wax cylinder recording of "Yarndling was my First Love" by Daniel Fitzpatrick (1888), courtesy of the Mornington Crescent Branch of Yarndlers, Camden, London, UK.

  • All black-and-white photographs and recordings of yarndling copyright © West Wickham Branch of the Brotherhood of Yarndlers, Bromley, London, UK, all rights reserved; used here with kind permission.

  • Colour photograph: "Campbell Adams pictured with a photograph of his Great-Great-Grandfather Hamlet Kinsey, founder member and head disciplinarian of the West Wickham branch of the Brotherhood of Yarndlers", copyright © 2017 László Nádházy, all rights reserved; used here with kind permission.
  • Slide show image: "The Yarndlers' Charabanc" copyright © West Wickham Branch of the Brotherhood of Yarndlers, all rights reserved; used here with kind permission.


Special Note

  • Listeners who may be concerned about the verisimilitude of the information contained in this particular podcast are kindly advised to consult the publication date.




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