Song of the Waterways

by Ian H Bruce (2009)

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Working all hours ’til the sun has long set
To provide for the family and keep out of debt
While the clip-clop of hooves or the Bolinder’s beat
Provide the rhythm of life while you’re dead on your feet
That's the song of the waterways

There’s time to reflect on the seven mile pound
As old Daisy dawdles through wet muddy ground
Dance tunes and melodies swirl round in my mind
An escape from the boredom of life’s daily grind
That's the song of the waterways

Life don’t come easy for boat folk like me
But music and dancing's what fills me with glee
In the evening in the ale house beneath the gas-light
Me mate and me dance and sing into the night
That's the song of the waterways

Now I have long gone and there’s silence below
No boatmen, no music, no more heel and toe
Only echoes of history and those sweet natural sounds
’Til pleasure boats brought life and noise back to the pounds
That's the song of the waterways

Now modern canal pubs serve froth and meat pies
Have karaoke evenings and TV with Sky
Progress brings a new sound while the old disappears
Though the old boatman's ghost has fingers in his ears
That's the song of the waterways

Some who sing of the past take a rose-tinted view
Of endeavour, invention, but real hardship too
Let's look to the future and sing out and praise
The resilience and splendour of our waterways
Sing more songs of the waterways

Whilst standing on the back of a boat in quiet surroundings with or without the rhythmical pulse of the engine, there is plenty of time to mentally sing along to a favourite song or perhaps compose one. Today, technology encourages a more passive role and a boater is more likely to be listening to an iPod or inflicting their music on others with a 'ghetto-blaster'. Well, that’s progress for you.

This song is dedicated to the 'grumpy old men of boating' who see only the negative side of canal life, complaining bitterly about everything that BW does and every change that occurs. They know who they are.