The Neath and Swansea Canal

A Song in Praise of the Opening

by Elizabeth Davies

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Oh could I make verses with humour and wit
George Tennant Esquire's great genius to fit
From morn until even, I'd sit down and tell
And sing in the praise of Neath Junction Canal.

To his noble genius, great merit is due
The increase in traffic he'll daily pursue
Employ to poor labourers, it is known full well
He gave them by making Neath Junction Canal.

Now this will improve the trade of the place
I hope that the business will daily increase
All sorts of provisions we shall have to sell
Conveyed us in boats by Neath Junction Canal.

The work it is finished, and now is complete
And no man did there with an accident meet
Though there was great danger, yet nobody fell
By building the aqueduct on the canal.

All you that are lovers of gazing around
On the grand work of nature where 'tis to be found
Rich woods, pleasant valleys, groves, rocks, hill and dell
You can view as you walk by Neath Junction Canal.

In gazing around you, how pleasant to view
From Dulais to Swansea those objects still new
The ships in full sail you can see see very well
As you walk on the banks of Neath Junction Canal.

The new docks at Swansea will be very grand
For floating the vessels all at their command
Quite safe from all dangers when high tides do swell
To take in their trade from Neath Junction Canal.

I hope when he's dead and laid in his grave,
His soul will in heaven be eternally saved;
It will then be recorded for ages to tell,
Who was the great founder of Neath Junction Canal.

My song it is ended, and now I will rest
In hopes that Squire Tennant will ever be blessed
His goodness to the poor there is no tongue can tell
Or his courage in making Neath Junction Canal.

In Charles Hadfield's British Canals there is a reference to a song written for the opening of the Neath & Swansea Junction Canal (usually called the Tennant Canal as George Tennant was the promoter). Hadfield gives 2 of the 19 verses and says:

The opening of a canal was an occasion for considerable jollification. Sometimes verse contributed, as when Elizabeth Davies, who kept a lollipop shop in Wind Street, Neath, wrote a song of nineteen verses, of which two are given here, to commemorate the opening of the Neath & Swansea Junction (usually called the Tennant) Canal.

The song is quoted from The History of the Vale of Neath by DR Phillips, 1925. In a section on the canal, Phillips quotes five verses with the following preamble:

In 1824, to herald its opening ceremony, Elizabeth Davies the Rhymer, who kept a lollipop shop in Wind Street, Neath, issued 'Lines on the Neath and Red Jacket Junction Canal'. The ballad, printed by Filmer Fagg at Swansea, shows that, in her simple way, the author was anxious to do justice to the enterprise of Squire George Tennant of Cadoxton Lodge. She lauds the skill of Mr. William Kirkhouse who was in charge of the operations, and notes that no accident marred the progress of the great aqueduct 'where two crystal rivers in union do meet'. She carefully points out, in one stanza, that:

"The stones that are in it are the best of all:
They came from the rocks of Dylais water-fall."

The song was printed by Filmer Fagg at Swansea. Filmer Fagg's Circulating Library was at Wind Street, Swansea in 1824, but moved to Wind Street, Neath as Fagg's Circulating Library in about 1827.

The first few verses of this song and the additional information has essentially come from Phil Holland who initiated a Mudcat thread devoted to this song. Additional verses have been provided by Mick Tems. There are still another ten verses to be found!