The Boatman's Song

by Mike Donald

boat

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Romans built the Foss Dyke
Cross the Lincoln fens
Brindley crossed the Mersey
With his pick and shovel men

Water bridge and water
They beat the turnpike toll
Duke became a millionaire
With a knock-down price for coal

Mill lords and river men
Fought for the right
Turn the river into gold
Almost stole the night

Titus Salt and Jessop
Sheffield's iron men
Cut up and straightened out
The river came to them

Coal, salt and chemicals
Cornish china clay
Gaily painted long boats
All along the narrow way

Horse, marines and leggers
Cross the pennine chain
Blasting out the millstone grit
Was the navvies' game

Folk lived like gypsies
Ruled by wind and tide
Always in blue gansey
With a squeeze box by their side

Telling tales of summer drought
Boats marooned by flood
Icey days when lock gates froze
Rum flowed in their blood

Sometimes I walk along
The reed lined old canal
I'm from East Marton
With a sheepdog for a pal

See the fancy coloured craft
With the sounds of Radio 1
Happy times a plenty
Came too late for some

Written and sung by the late Mike Donald, this track is from the 1972 lp 'North by North East' (Galliard 4020)