The Boatmen's Strike

© Graeme Meek 2013

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So many are the carriers whose loads, they have declined.
So many are the boatmen, to starvation are resigned.
The railway takes our livelihood and to compete we must
Accept a cut in wages to still earn an honest crust.

Chorus:
The union is our strength and will be with us to the end.
We’ll not let the comp’ny starve us and our living we’ll defend.

The wage we earn is not enough to live on anyway
And over 6 per cent is how they want to cut our pay.
We have no home, we wear but rags, the truth, to you, I’ll tell;
They’ll not be satisfied until they’ve starved us all as well.

Just five and twenty shillings, that is all we earn a week.
For working seven days non-stop, it’s fairness that we seek.
A twelve-hour day without a rest is more than we can take
To earn ourselves a pittance as our bodies, they all ache.

But Gosling, Bevin and Sam Brooks have organised our men
To force the company to stop so they can think again
About six hundred livelihoods all up and down the cut
Who cannot live on nothing but the stale air and the smut.

There’s over fifty boats that are blockaded by the wharf.
Their cargoes we’ve impounded, we will not allow them off.
The Grand Junction and Oxford, both, are fully at a stop.
We shall not let them move and our demands we shall not drop.

So here at Braunston shall we stand until we get our way
And strong we’ll be together and together we shall stay.
Without support from boaters, all, we surely could not cope,
So bravo to the union who have come to give us hope.

On August 13th 1923 the boatmen working for FMC went on strike over a proposed 6.5% cut in their meagre wages. The Grand Junction and Oxford Canals at Braunston were blockaded and the fledgling TGWU administered the strike which went on for 14 weeks and won some concessions to the swingeing cuts proposed.

Graeme Meek, who wrote the song and kindly provided the words, music and additional information, is a member of song duo 'Life and Times' and dance band 'Time of Your Life'. See www.lifeandtimes.info, www.timeofyourlife.info, www.lifeandtimes.org.uk, www.lifeandtimes.me.uk, http://soundcloud.com/lifeandtimes-uk.