Making Their Way Down The Cut

by Johnny Handle (1992)

boat

Home

Song Menu

Reference

notes


Lots of old trades are slipping away,
You don't see many shipyards or pits round today;
Engineering and steel have been cut to the bone,
But the network of waterways has been reborn;
As they make their way down the cut.

There's still the same narrowboats with pot bellied stove,
The same way of travelling as we ramble and rove:
But it's people for pleasure, not coal in the loads,
More peaceful as we travel, away from the roads;
Making their way down the cut.

You jump from your bunk when the skipper cries, “locks",
It's the same old way, gushing water, hard knocks;
Handling and steering and keeping her steady,
But a new wave of boaters are willing and steady;
Making their way down the cut.

There's new navigators digging out the old slime,
Respecting traditions of earlier times,
Building new gates, iron paddles, bright metal,
Bringing the canals all back into fettle:
Making their way down the cut.

No winter ice breakers, for they're a seasonal crowd,
But they're all narrowboaters, and their voice calls so loud;
As they cross the lace patterns of locks and great pounds,
Tunnels and contours all winding around,
Making their way down the cut.

Oh! See the yard craftsmen in steel and hard wood,
With ribs and bent metal, they're all making good;
Launching the narrowboats made for today,
For the skills have survived, of the boatbuilders ways;
Making their way down the cut.

The Lister and the Bolinder purr out a great note,
No towpath decked horses to pull the long boats;
But it's busy as wide ripples pass and combine,
Just as many afloat as the trade of old times;
Making their way down the cut.

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.