The Shropshire Union

© Martin Graebe (1972)

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Come all you boaters far and near
Me story now I’d have you hear
For I’ve given a life of fifty years
To the Shropshire Union

Me father was a Number One
On the Birmingham to Chester run
And me mother bore her only son
On the Shropshire Union

And me father’s death it hit mother hard
And we sold the boat at Norbury Yard
And I went to live upon the land
Beside the Shropshire Union

And the Company did me employ
At Audlem as a length’s man’s boy
It was damned hard work and little joy
On the Shropshire Union

And in forty years the skills I found
To keep the water in the pound
While the working boats churned up and down
All down the Shropshire Union

Now the boats are painted yellow and blue
For the Roses and the Castles they will not do
Now that the Government sends the orders through
For the Shropshire Union

And the maintenance it ain’t done so well
And the lock gates they all leak like hell
And the pounds are silting up as well
All down the Shropshire Union

Well the horse-drawn boats they all passed away
Then the diesel engine had it’s day
Now the cruisers wash the banks away
All down the Shropshire Union
Martin Graebe has recorded this song on the 2008 album Dusty Diamonds which includes the following sleeve notes :

Martin wrote this song after a very pleasant trip in the 1970s, delivering a boat from Market Harborough to Llangollen. Images of the beauty of the Shropshire Union Canal have stayed fresh in the mind for thirty years. The sentiments of the song are those of the old boaters and canal workers who worked through the difficulties of the first part of the 20th Century, only to experience the dismantling of the commercial canal system as a result of post-war nationalisation. Since it was written it the canal system has been reborn as a major leisure enterprise - but, on some of the more distant stretches of water, it is still possible to enjoy the countryside and get away from the fumes from the trucks that have replaced the old boats.

Also recorded on :