This song clearly refers to the American depression of the 1920s and 30s, in the same vein as “Buddy, Can you Spare a Dime”. The authorship is unclear but one source attributes it to the 11 year old Odel Corley. In 1925 it was recorded by the American old timey singer Charlie Poole, and many other recordings followed shortly afterwards. It is probably that the song entered England via 78 records and it has been noted several times by collectors. However, it is probably better known among English country singers than collectors acknowledge.
The pathos of the song is brought out by Mrs Taylor’s impressive voice and singing style.