The Glamorganshire Canal

by Mike Johnson

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From the Cynon valley mines to the Cardiff City line
rolled the old Glamorganshire Canal;
Where the pack horse used to load now the iron barges flowed
down the old Glamorganshire Canal

Chorus :
And it rolled, and it flowed, down the old Glamorganshire Canal
And it rolled, and it flowed, down the old Glamorganshire Canal

Then the iron was no more, and the coal began to pour
down the old Glamorganshire Canal;
Moving down through fifty locks, destination Cardiff Docks
on the old Glamorganshire Canal

Chorus

Tail to tail the barges filed five and twenty dusty miles
down the old Glamorganshire Canal;
Then Brunel surveyed the line, and effectively called time
on the old Glamorganshire Canal

Chorus

1841's the year, and the railway tracks appeared
near the old Glamorganshire Canal;
And the trains began to roll with the precious loads they stole
from the old Glamorganshire Canal

Chorus

Now, by 1851 nearly all of her had gone,
though her basin gates remained there for a while;
When the Catherine Ethel rammed she was well and truly damned
And she blew into oblivion in style

Chorus (twice)

The Glamorganshire Canal, which was opened in 1794, was originally sponsored by Richard Crawshay and other Merthyr Ironmasters, replacing the pack-horse as the major means of hauling iron. 25 miles long, and having some 50 locks, the canal became the main coal artery right up to the 1840s when the Taff Valley Railway extension to Cardiff opened. Use of the canal gradually dwindled. One section survived to service a single Pontypridd business until the 1940s. But by 1950 all that remained was a small section north of the Sea Lock in Butetown.

Just before midnight on the 5th December 1951 the sand-dredger Catherine Ethel rammed the inner gates of the Sea Lock. The force of the escaping water blasted the entire structure, together with the Catherine Ethel, spectacularly out to sea.