The Single Bolinder

by David Blagrove
boat

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I had a single bolinder and she was a fine machine
She used to run like hell in the night when all her parts were clean
I lit her up one morning at the bottom of Ichington Ten
She pulled around the Bascote Pound before she fired again

And then she burned a gallon a stroke, titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay
You could see sod-all for smoke, titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay
The motor went so fast, I wound her up full blast
She pulled out the butties mast, titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay

Tra, lah, la-la-la-lah
Smackin' it into the cut.

Oh do you ken Old Streaty's Men, the ones with heads of teak
They take a load, of D.S. down the jam-hole once a week
I was standing on the inside along the Langley wide
When I sees a pair of boats a-come with half-an-inch a side

I said "Good God! just look at that boat", titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay
It just can't be afloat, titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay
The captain must be drunk, his butty looks like it's sunk
But it's only Jacky Monk, titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay

Tra, lah, la-la-la-lah
Smackin' it into the cut.

I knew a Braunston lassie once, her age was thiry-four
She'd never had a man and so, her heart was very sore
One night when she was going to bed, she thought she heard a sound
And looking underneath her bed, a burgular she found

But she didn't shout nor scream, titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay
She didn't scream nor faint, titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay
She made quite sure 'twas a man, then she cried hurrah!
She locked the bloody door, titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay

Tra, lah, la-la-la-lah
Smackin' it into the cut.

Myself, the wife, the mother-in-law, went down to the Limehouse Quay
The Mother-in-law got out in a boat, for a sailor she would be
She hadn't been gone a quarter-an-hour, before we hears a shout
My Mother-in-Law's in the water, and there she's splashing about

She shouts "Help! I cannot swim", titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay
I said "Now's your time to learn!", titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay
My wife she says "You hound, you'll never watch her drowned ?"
I said "I'll shut me bloody eyes!", titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay

Tra, lah, la-la-la-lah
Smackin' it into the cut.

I knew a man on Willow Wren, whose language did embarrass
The fellows on the pleasure boats. They called him Georgie Harris
So they go up the Shroppie Cut from Helston to Llangollen
To get away from Georgie's road and mighty shouts of, "Collin -

- Get up that F---in' boat !", titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay
"I'll punch you up the throat", titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay
You can travel north and south, you can travel near and far
But look out at Worcester Bar, titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay

Tra, lah, la-la-la-lah
Smackin' it into the cut.

As I was walking by the cut down at Common Moor
I spied a boaties daughter in the butty hatches door
She asked me in for a cup of tea with all her might and main
And after the brew she served to me I'm going there again

I slipped me hand along her calves, titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay
She said "Don't do things by halves", titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay
I stayed to keep her company, now she's very fond of me
And I'm a bugger for tea! titty-fa-la, titty-fa-lay

Tra, lah, la-la-la-lah
Smackin' it into the cut.

This is an adaption of the Geordie miners' song called 'Little Chance'.

David Blagrove in the sleeve notes to Straight from the Tunnel's Mouth writes : A nonsense song with a strange affinity to the North Country ditty 'Little Chance'. The reference to canal characters dates back to the early 1960s. A Bolinder is an early compression-ignition engine used on the cut from 1910 onwards. Its distinctive slow running but rather erratic rhythm has inspired many devotees. 'Jam 'ole' was the name given to Messrs Kearley and Tonge's Jam factory in Southall Middlesex. 'D.S.' means double screened nuts, a type of industrial coal. 'Langley Wide' is a part of the Grand Union Canal near Kings Langley where the canal runs through the course of a river thus encouraging the boats to travel faster than normal.
David has also pointed out that the second verse dates it to the period 1962-70 when Michael Streat, known to his boatmen as 'Mester Streaks' ran Blue Line Canal Carriers of Braunston, hence 'Streaty's men'.

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