Narrow-boatman Blues

by Dusty Miller and Dave Illingworth

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Iím not a man of the factory or one who ploughs the land
My face is black as the ace of spades, all grimed and weather tanned
You couldnít call me a sailor ícos I donít sail the ocean blue
Iím just a narrow-boatman, with me wife and me kids for crew

Coal and cups and saucers and copper is me load
As Jaguars speed past me on the M1 road
But Iím not a man for hurrying, three miles an hour will do
Iím just a narrow-boatman, with me wife and me kids for crew

Fill up with coal at Hawkesbury then down to London town
Through Braunston and Blissworth tunnels, for Brentford wharf Iím bound
I only stop for fog or ice and not for rain and snow
Iím just a narrow-boatman, itís the only life I know

Two of us close together as we motor up the cut
I take the one with the engine, the wifeís behind on the butt
Always stop the night for some lock-house where we have as pint or two
Iím just a narrow-boatman, with me wife and me kids for crew

Well I used to be a Number One, had my own boat and horse
íTil the government took me over, I tried to change my course
But they couldnít make it pay, those bowler-hatted men
So I stayed a narrow-boatman and I worked for Willow Wren

With my hold full of cargo weíre nearing Brentford docks
Since I got up this morning weíve passed through forty locks
Iíll go to bed in smoke and smog, I woke with the morning dew
Iím just a narrow-boatman, with me wife and me kids for crew

Well they sold off all the faded boats, they took away our loads
Had to work upon the land, the freight goes on the roads
But if I was given half a chance I know just what Iíd do
Iíd go back to the cut tomorrow with me wife and me kids for crew
The sleeve notes state that "this was written by Dusty Miller and Dave Illingworth in folk song form in the mid sixties, lamenting the decline of commercial traffic on the waterways. At the 1999 Walsall Boaters' Gathering (fuelled by a few pints of Highgate Saddlers bitter) the band DPN+1 turned it into a 'Fulsom Prison' type country song."
In the recorded snippet both versions can be heard. Dave has kindly provided the music for the original 'folky' version.
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