The Lift Up Bridge at Whixall Moss

by Johnny Handle (1990)

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Ye can talk about yer bridges, swing or standing free,
But the lift-up bridge at Whixhall Moss, it really done for me.

In the Summer of nineteen sixty two, me and the young'n and me dad,
Resolved to go on a canal cruise, they said it wasn't too bad;
We started out at Chester, to travel into Wales,
On a thirty foot tub, stacked up with grub, so doon the cut we sails.

Well the Shropshire Union was OK, but mind we had some fun,
‘Cos we stopped the traffic at Waverton, got jammed up broadside on;
We dunched into four white cruisers, then into a waterways tug,
Man the air was se blue, Aa tell ye true, it hurt the owld man's lugs!

But we turned right at Hurleston, and locked te Wrenbury fine,
When fastened te the tap at C-Srindley Brook we broke the water line;
We came back from the shops te find ..the bunks all filled wi' wetter,
After scoopin and bailin' for a couple of hours it hardly seemed te matter.

By Chirk and Pontsyclyte. The crew got vertigo,
But safely soon, Langollen Toon, was stanclin' down below;
Aa made a jump for the towpath, and fell with such a clatter,
But the cut was only two feet deep, so me weliies was full of watter.

Well we turned round then te make for home, wi' not much time te spare
It was up at dawn and through till dark, man we had te motor there;
This cruising until twilight, it's really quite a lark,
There was ne relief and Aa come te grief, through sailin' after dark.

Travellin' through the dusky wilderness, we came to Whixhall Moss,
And the captain gave the orders (Me Dad thowt he was the Boss}
“Young’n grab the chain, John fend off the side,
Aa’ll drive under the lift-up bridge, Watch oot, the watter's wide!”

Wor Kid grabbed hold of the weightin' chain, it swung her off the ground,
She hung there tight with all her might, like a monkey swingin' round;
Aa got ready te fend off the side, wi' me feet firm on the shore,
But the old man stalled the motor, and bellowed with a roar...

“Howay now keep her movin’... Try Te mek her gan,”
But then Aa shoots, “Wi' me slippery boots - Aa divven’t think Aa can!
Shall Aa stop on the towpath, or mek a jump for the boat?"
Too late for either! Doon Aa gans, and mind Aa didn’t fIoat.

“It's only two foot deep”, Aa thowt as the watter went ower me heed,
“And Aa canna swim, this is vary grim, Aa might just end up deed!”
“Grap the mop”,‘ the owld man says, pushin' iss under for the third time,
Doon Aa went and up Aa come, wi' me fyece covered ower wi' slime!

The youngn’ jumped off the balancin' chain, the bridge come doon wi’ a crash!
With lightnin' speed, hit me faather on the heed, and give him quite a bash,
Aa craalled oot on te the back deck, lookin' like a droonded rat,
And the young'n on the bank shoots oot in the dark, "What the divvil are ye at?"

A shivvered for a fortneet, as exposure and pneumonia took it’s toll,
And me Faather half deed had a lump on his heed, just like a lump of coal;
We managed te get gannin’ next day, and back te the Chester Quay,
But next time Aa come doon te the cut, Aa'll knaa just what te dee.

Next time Aa gan boatin', Aa’ll have some better things,
A motor cycle helmet and a pair of watter wings,
A couple of blindin’ hedlights, forst aid kit, stickin' plaster;
Or Aa might just gan be shanks's pony, it's safer and a damn sight faster!


I am indebted to Johnny Handle who has taken the time to provide me with printed copies of his canal songs. Johnny has written many songs, mainly about coal mining and his native north-east of England - an area deprived of canals. More details of Johnny Handle's work can be found on his website and Pete Wood has recently (2017) written his biography. Johnny says that this was "written from vivid memories. My first Canal trip was from Chester to Langollen in 1960 with my father and youngest sister in a small cruiser. The poem was finished in April 1990 at Knapton."