The Unknown Boatman

by Dusty Miller

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He was born in a back cabin
Was a boater all his life
Weathered skin, and a wicked grin,
Two boats and a wife
He steered the boats on the London road
And on the Oxford too
His bright old eyes shone of the days of old
And the mates that he new.

I met him down by Wigrams three
As he sat on an old lock beam
I could tell his mind was sharp
And the memories still keen
Of boating days, the good and bad
And the boats that heíd once had
For heíd been a boater all his life
Two boats and a wife.

Chorus One :
He didnít say his name but boating was his game
A single room in an old folks home
Is not the way to go.
He didnít say his name but boating was his game
A roof of tiles is a million miles
From the life he used to know.

He told me he had a plan
To take a final load,
Visit the places he knew so well
Along that watery road.
He had to do that one last trip
Before his time was nigh
And the good Lord came to take him home
To the cut up in the sky.

If youíre moored up one dark night
Along the Blisworth pound
Or maybe down near Coventry
And hear the eerie sound
Of a National pounding in the dark,
Then feel the waters swell
And glimpse the passing of a pair
Loaded down so well.

Chorus Two :
He didnít say his name but boating was his name
Sitting there in a rocking chair
Is not the way to go
No he didnít say his name but boating was his game
A roof of tiles is a million miles
From the life that he once new.

The steerer slowly comes in sight
Proudly standing there,
A young man dark and handsome
The captain of the pair.
Then the butty comes into view
The snubber stretching tight
A young lass leaning on the Ďelm
Brasses shining bright

The motorsí echo disappears
Muffled by the night
All becoming dark again
The glow from the cabin light
Swallowed by the darkness
And the water settles down.
One thing you will always know
Heís made his final run
The sleeve notes state that "this was inspired by a Slim Dusty recording ("Paddy William") written by Norma O'Hara Murphy about an old Australian drover recalling his life on the outback trails. This version of the song tells of an old boatman dreaming of one last trip."
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