Songs marked "SS&S" are on "Silver, Stone and Sand";
those marked "CHAR" are on "Characters"; and 
those marked "PBLG" are on "Pennbucky to Llangenny"
Unmarked songs will be on our next CD!

Old Jim Jones

Old Road

'Orrible Lies

Out The Sands

Pennbucky to Llangenny

Pirate's Wench

Poling Copper

Queen of Swansea

Rebecca's Daughters

Reynoldston Tom

 


Old Jim Jones
(SS&S)
© Andrew McKay

Old Jim Jones was a farmer's son, a farmer's son was he;
Old Jim Jones he left his home and went away to sea
  Old Jim Jones was a farmer's son,
  Went to sea as so many have done
  In the days of old Jim Jones


Old Jim Jones sailed round the Horn, around the Horn sailed he;
Old Jim Jones sailed round the Horn from the east to the western sea
  Old Jim Jones sailed round the Horn,
  Like a man that to the sea was born;
  But old Jim Jones was a farmer's son,
  Went to sea as so many have done
  In the days of old Jim Jones


Old Jim Jones he learned his trade, learned it well did he;
Old Jim Jones he learned his trade, so he was made AB
  Old Jim Jones was made AB,
  Knew the ways of a sailor at sea;
  Old Jim Jones sailed round the Horn,
  Like a man that to the sea was born;
  But old Jim Jones was a farmer's son,
  Went to sea as so many have done
  In the days of old Jim Jones

Old Jim Jones had the Bosun's berth, the Bosun's berth had he;
He drove the crew with an old rope's end as we sailed over the sea
  Old Jim Jones had the Bosun's berth,
  Bend your backs for all you're worth;
  Old Jim Jones was made AB,
  Knew the ways of a sailor at sea;
  Old Jim Jones sailed round the Horn,
  Like a man that to the sea was born;
  But old Jim Jones was a farmer's son,
  Went to sea as so many have done
  In the days of old Jim Jones


Old Jim Jones is dead and gone, dead and gone is he;
We wrapped him up in a sailcloth shroud and left him in the sea
  Old Jim Jones is dead and gone,
  Remember his name when you sing this song;
  Old Jim Jones had the Bosun's berth,
  Bend your backs for all you're worth;
  Old Jim Jones was made AB,
  Knew the ways of a sailor at sea;
  Old Jim Jones sailed round the Horn,
  Like a man that to the sea was born;
  But old Jim Jones was a farmer's son,
  Went to sea as so many have done;
  But now old Jim Jones is dead and gone
  Remember his name when you sing this song
  Of the days of old Jim Jones


Not Jim Jones the poacher, who got transported to Botany Bay, but some other geezer of the same name.  Many farmers' sons did indeed go away to sea in those days, often with great success.

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Old Road

© Andrew McKay

  Under tree and over river
  Hollow as an old man's hand
  Still the ancient road is with us
  Running through the land
  Running through the land

Sheep-trod in the upland heather
Rabbit-run and badger-trail
Footpath where the pedlar lingers
By a way-stone pale
Mountain track where pack-horse stumbles
Valley road so green and clear
Carrying our daily business
Through the turning year

Linking farm to field and furrow
Croft to coppice, lime to loam
Taking stock to distant market
Bringing harvest home
Doctor to the sick and hurting
Priest to marry, bury, pray
Corn to mill, and wool to weaver
All must make their way

Gentry-folk so sleek and dapper
Tramp so tattered, squire so proud
Charabancs of noisy trippers
Raising dust in clouds
Carts, and convicts cracking limestone
Drays and wagons bearing loads
All our lives run on before us
Following the road
  Under tree and over river
  Hollow as an old man's hand
  Still the ancient road is with us
  Running through the land
  Running through the land

The old road - not your modern highway, planned and built by people who know nothing of the land it runs through, but the Old Road. It grew from animal trails and the tracks used by people going about their daily lives, from where they were to where they had to be and back again. And where will it lead us? We leave that to you.

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'Orrible Lies
(SS&S)
© Andrew McKay

The wind it blew a 'urricane, it blew for three months or more
Me and me mate we were stuck in the lighthouse 'arf a mile from shore
We'd nothing to eat but biscuits, sir and we just couldn't stomach 'em raw
So we fried 'em up in the old lamp oil 'til we hadn't got any more.
  It's lucky you met me here tonight, there's plenty of fellows who tries
  To get gents like you to buy 'em a drink, by tellin' 'im 'orrible lies, sir,
  Tellin' 'im 'orrible lies!


So then we couldn't light the lamp, a lighthouse without any light
Liners crashed into us in the dark, it kept us awake all night
I said to me mate "We needs some oil, some oil has got to be got"
He says, "There's a chandlers 'arf a mile off, will 'ee fly, or swim, or what?"

I said "Strap a rocket onto me back, and fire me over the foam,
I'll take another one under me arm, so someone can fire me 'ome."
Me mate he once were a gunner, his aim were steady and true,
He touched me off with the last of the matches and over the ocean I flew.

Well, it must 'ave been them swirlin' winds, 'cos I missed the chandler's door,
But I flew right through the window, and landed slap on the floor.
You should 'ave seen the chandler's face, his face was a sight to be seen,
When I handed up me old billy-can for some of his best paraffin.

The Coastguard fired me 'ome again: I can't say much for 'is aim,
I thought I was doomed to a watery grave, but me mate to me rescue came.
As I whizzed past, he caught me fast in 'is bamboo shrimpin' net
I'm glad that he had, 'cos if'n he hadn't I might have got 'orrible wet.

And talkin' of wet, I'm awfully dry - why, thanks, don't mind if I do,
But what of the lighthouse?  Bless you no, that wasn't the end of the 'do'
I'd flew through the air like a hero bold, risked bruises and 'orrible damp,
But we'd used the last matches back in verse three, so we still couldn't light the lamp.
  It's lucky you met me here tonight, there's plenty of fellows who tries
  To get gents like you to buy 'em a drink, by tellin' 'im 'orrible lies, sir,
  Tellin' 'im 'orrible lies!


Based on a Music Hall monologue of 1909 by Arthur Hilliar and Cuthbert Clarke, but substantially re-written in turning it into a song.  I suspect this one wasn't based on a real incident! Please don't try this at home.

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Out The Sands (SS&S)

© Carole Etherton

I wake before daybreak, to catch the low tide
Go fetch my donkey, put sacks on her side
With basket and rake and a sieve in m'hand
I go searching for fish out the sands
  As the tide turns I go out the sands
  Gathering cold cockles with my bare hands
  Out the sands


My da was a collier worked under the Graig
'Til a stone broke his back and ended his pride
Where once he stood tall now he can't even stand
So we're living on fish out the sands

We're proud cockle women, born of Penclawdd
WI
rapped in red flannel to keep out the cold
Singing arias and hymns as we go from the land
We're the women who fish out the sands

This hard life brings me danger and hands numb with cold
But my rake will uncover a harvest of gold
Then my donkey will lead me safe back to the land
With our harvest of fish out the sands

Mamgu is waiting, with fire well alight
The old gypsy boiler is bubbling so bright
As sacks of fresh cockles are steeped in the pans
We give thanks for the fish out the sands

Then barefoot to market I walk many miles
Tub on my head and a song and a smile
Crying "Cocos, Heddiw Cocos" in the market I stand
Come, buy my fish out the sands.
  Crying "Cocos, Heddiw Cocos" in the market I stand;
  Come, buy my fish out the sands


Gower's north coast is all estuary and flat sands, famous as a cockle fishery.  The heart for this was (and still is) the village of Penclawdd, once the industrial centre of Gower.  While the men worked in coal mines, brick and tinplate works, the women would supplement the family income by going 'out the sands' for cockles.  The cockles were boiled in large vats by the older women (Mamgu is Welsh for grandmother), then the younger women would walk the ten miles to Swansea market, travelling the first eight miles or so barefoot to avoid wear to their boots.  At the edge of the town they would wash their feet in the stream, in a place still called 'Olchfa' (the crossing place), and put on their boots to be decently shod on arrival at the market.  Their cry of "Heddiw cocos" translates as "Cockles today".

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Pennbucky to Llangenny (PBLG)
© Andrew Mckay

I was brought up on my father's farm that his father farmed before,
That my brother, being older, would farm later:
So I went to earn my living far beyond the rocky shore
As a deckhand on a barque-rigged copper freighter.
  And I've seen so many wonders on the sea and on the land,
  That even I, who saw them, can't believe in;
  Now my sailing days are done, and I've come back home again,
  From Pennbucky to Llangenny in the evening.

I remember the first time I saw the ships that sail the seas,
With the morning mists about their sides a-curling;
Their masts stood by the riverbanks like groves of springtime trees
Awaiting for the leaves to start unfurling.

I've seen fish that fly like birds, and birds that swim beneath the sea,
I've seen dolphins playing round our bow-wave breaking;
I've seen trees alive with parakeets, heard monkeys singing songs,
And seen sunsets that would leave your poor heart aching.

Well, I made it up to Master of my own ship in due course,
But the days of wood and canvas were fast failing;
So I cashed my share and bought a cottage near my brother's farm
And I settled down to memories of sailing.

But my brother's farm was bought out by the men from the estate,
Now my nephew drives a tractor there for wages;
So I'm grateful for my life at sea, although my brother says
That we've only lived our lives in different cages.
  And I've seen so many wonders on the sea and on the land,
  That even I, who saw them, can't believe in;
  Now my sailing days are done, and I've come back home again,
  From Pennbucky to Llangenny in the evening.

The way of life on Gower, the peninsula west of Swansea, remained unchanged for centuries before the coming of the motorcar.  Small family farms were passed down to the eldest son - younger sons often left to sail in the copper ore fleets.  Some eventually retired back to Gower, and tried to settle into communities where most people never travelled more than fifteen miles in their lives.  One used to say that he "knew Pennbucky better than he knew Llangenny" - Pennbucky was the Brazilian port of Pernambuco, while Llangenny is the Gower village of Llangennith.

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Pirate's Wench (SS&S)

© Carole Etherton

There's a welcome in our tavern for all who sail the seas
But pirates are the gentlemen we prefer to please
We serve them rum and brandy then up go the maroons
Then we'll shiver their timbers and they'll double our doubloons
  It's a grand life being a pirate's wench, that's the life for me
  They're easy with their money for the woman on their knee


We all love Captain Morgan, a fine dressed buccaneer
He is the finest catch for all the wenches here
He brings us lace and velvet, then up go the maroons
Then he climbs into the crows nest and doubles our doubloons

My favourite is John Silver, a pirate of re-known
He pillages and plunders the ships that serve the crown
He brings me gold and rubies then up go the maroons
Then hoists his jolly roger and doubles my doubloons

I'm not a lady of decision when I have to choose
Between one or the other so neither man will lose
So they double up their plunder and up go the maroons
As one sails in and one sails out I'll double my doubloons

Avast says Johnny Silver, come along with me
And keep this pirate company upon the seven seas
So then we spliced the main brace, and up went the maroons
Now we share a life of piracy, doubling our doubloons
  It's a grand life being a pirate's wench, that's the life for me
  They're easy with their money for the woman on their knee


We were asked to provide the music for a pirate-themed evening, and didn't have a suitable song for a woman to sing.  Now we do.  The ladies of the pirate taverns have a vital role in keeping the economy going - doubling their doubloons, in fact.  The word maroon has several definitions - here it means a signal rocket.  Any hidden significance is entirely in your own imagination.

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Poling Copper (SS&S)
© Andrew McKay

Now you work at the furnace, where the air's never clean,
Where the sulphur and the arsenic turn you seven shades of green,
You drink water by the bucket, but you're still parched and lean,
And you burn up your days poling copper,
  You burn up your days poling copper.

You came to the furnace 'cause the wages are good,
You've ale for your pleasure and your family has food,
Though you spent your first months here just coughing up blood,
Now you're fit for a life poling copper,
  You're fit for a life poling copper.

And your children have worked here since they were quite small,
The copper man's yard is their own special world,
Where to shift 20 tons is a job for a girl,
While a man spends his days poling copper,
  A man spends his days poling copper.

Now, the farm worker's children are ruddy and bright,
They get up with the dawn, go to bed at half-light,
But the copper man's children tend the furnace all night,
And dream of a life poling copper,
They dream of a life poling copper.

Well, the devil once came here, or so people tell,
Past the red roaring furnace and the green sulphur smell,
He said "I'm feeling homesick, this looks just like Hell,
I can see the damned souls poling copper,
  I can see the damned souls poling copper."

Well, you work at the furnace, where the air's never clean,
Where the sulphur and the arsenic turn you seven shades of green,
You drink water by the bucket, but you're still parched and lean,
And you burn up your days poling copper,
  You burn up your days poling copper.

The copper works were the best-paid employment in 19th century Swansea. but conditions were bad. The process gave off arsenic and sulphurous acid fumes which damaged workers' lungs - if they survived the first 6 months, they were usually OK. Whole families worked at the furnaces. A report on child labour described young women moving 20 tons of ore and slag during a 9-hour shift, using shovels and wheelbarrows. Men worked double shifts (24 hours on, 24 hours off). Poling copper, the final purification stage, involved standing, unprotected, above open vats of molten metal, stirring with a length of green wood to release impurities. They earned every penny of their extra pay.

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Queen of Swansea
(PBLG)
© Andrew Mckay

The Queen of Swansea she set sail on a brisk December day
On a short trip to the copper mines not many days away.
And she sailed into the rising mist as I waited on the shore,
But oh, the Queen of Swansea, I never saw her more.
  Farewell the Queen of Swansea, grey rocks beneath grey sky,
  Gull Island where the gannet goes is a terrible place to die.


My name is Margaret Dowsley, in Newfoundland I dwell,
I have two pretty children and oh I love them well
I married a physician, my Felix kind and good,
Who sailed on the Queen of Swansea to bring comfort where he could.

Oh do you know how hard it is, at the turning of the year,
To smile and sing for the children's sake, though your heart is full of fear?
The neighbours said, "Wait for the spring, when we're free of ice and frost",
But oh, the Queen of Swansea, she already had been lost.

When springtime came, a ship arrived, but not the missing Queen,
Just bones wrapped in a blanket, to show where she had been.
And letters from my Felix, that tore my heart with pain,
To read his lamentations, that he'd not see us again.

For Gull Island is a barren rock, beneath a barren sky,
And those who went down with the ship found the kinder way to die;
No food, no fire, and no relief, upon that stony shore,
Twelve bitter days to Christmas, then silence for evermore.

So farewell to you, dear Felix, your face no more I'll see,
Your kindness and your comforts have been torn away from me.
Come all of ye, who sail the sea, I'd have you shed a tear,
For those on the Queen of Swansea, and for we who linger here.
  Farewell the Queen of Swansea, grey rocks beneath grey sky,
  Gull Island where the gannet goes is a terrible place to die.

The Queen and other small sailing ships carried copper ore from the mine at Tilt Cove, Newfoundland, back to Swansea for smelting. In 1867 she sailed from St John for Tilt Cove with general cargo and passengers, including Dr Felix Dowsley, who was due to take up the post of medical officer at the mine. She was never seen again. Human remains were eventually discovered on Gull Island, a rocky outcrop near Tilt Cove, which were identified by letters as being from the Queen. Dr Dowsley's letters to his wife Margaret survive, and make painful reading. A memorial was erected at the mine and the bodies returned to Swansea for burial.

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Rebecca's Daughters

© Andrew Mckay

  Beat upon your drum!
  Rebecca's daughters will come
  To break the chains of those who would bind us
  And keep us under the thumb!
  Beat upon your drum!

The rich man in his great estate, the magistrate in town
Have all conspired to throw up gates, to grind the poor man down
It's tuppence to go to the hills, tuppence to the plain
Tuppence here and tuppence there, and tuppence back again

They keeps the price of corn so high, poor folk can't buy bread
You pays to earn your living and they charge you when you're dead
And Oh! This wretched parliament, it really is a curse!
The only thing our member seeks is how to stuff his purse

I am an honest farming man, my name it is my own
I earns my keep by digging spuds and sometimes carting stone
I pays my rent quite punctual, likewise my tithes and rates
But when night comes, I turns my coat, and breaks their bloody gates!

So come all ye tollgate keepers, who follows the rich man's plan
Unlock your gates, cast down your chains and get out while you can
Don't put your trust in soldiers, or the forces of the crown
For soon Rebecca's daughters will burn your tollgates down!
  Beat upon your drum!
  Rebecca's daughters will come
  To break the chains of those who would bind us
  And keep us under the thumb!
  Beat upon your drum!

After the Napoleonic wars, thousands of ex-servicemen were sent back to their homes, and at the same time the Government stopped buying huge amounts of supplies to fight a war. This resulted in a collapse of the rural economy and is usually known as the 'Peace Dividend'. At the same time there was widespread indignation at corruption amongst the gentry, the focal point of which was the system of collecting tolls for the upkeep of the roads. In Southwest Wales, multiple companies were often granted licences to collect tolls for the same stretches of road, which didn't ever seem to get repaired. Tolls were collected from farmers, carters and even from hearses, though the gentry seemed to find ways of exempting themselves from paying. Popular uprisings against these abuses centred on Rebecca's daughters, men who disguised themselves in women's clothing to break gates and burn down tollhouses. Eventually the protest was successful in forcing a public enquiry into the system and widespread changes.

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Reynoldston Tom

© Andrew McKay

Now Reynoldston Tom was a fine young man, he was brought up on the farm
Though he was as strong as any two, he never did any harm.
Then one fine day he marched away to find a job in town
And though he didn't get a lift, it didn't get him down.
But he was too tall to go down the mine, too heavy to sit on a barge
And by and large the people said, "He's too large to be at large!"
"Oh where can I find a job," said Tom, "for a lad so tall and fine?
If I don't want to sign on for relief, I'll have to seek a sign."
  So sing a song of Reynoldston Tom, a lad both tall and strong
  He might not know his left from his right, but he does know right from wrong.


The sign that he found said "Join the Police - you'll get the boots for free
If you're tall and strong and not too bright"  Says Tom, "That sounds like me!"
So Reynoldston Tom he made his mark, a Policeman's job to do,
But the largest uniform they had was for someone just six foot two.
Now Reynoldston Tom was six foot six, it fitted him here and there
Though he couldn't do the jacket up, and his ankles were left bare.
But Reynoldston Tom said "Never mind, it'll be well enough for a loan,
I'm sure they'll find me som'at that fits by the time that I'm full grown!"
  So sing a song of Reynoldston Tom, a lad both tall and strong
  He might not know his left from his right, but he does know right from wrong.

The day of the final test came round, the Inspector sounded gruff
"I've one last question for you," he said, "and I think you'll find it tough.
If you were in Aberdyberthi Street, the name is Welsh, it's true;
And a horse dropped dead in the middle of the road, now Tom, what would you do?
You don't speak Welsh, as I understand, and the name's not easy or short
How would you write 'Aberdyberthi Street' in your incident report?"
Well, Reynoldston Tom he scratched his head, and said "Well, I'll be blowed,
I'd carry the horse round the corner, and report it in Neath Road!"
  So sing a song of Reynoldston Tom, a lad both tall and strong
  He might not know his left from his right, but he does know right from wrong.

Based on an old Gower joke.  The peninsula has been divided into English-speaking and Welsh-speaking communities for about a thousand years.  Here, the lad from Reynoldston, in the Englishrie of Gower, has to find his own way of coping with the bilingual streetnames of Swansea.

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