Blog No.21: A Musical ‘History’ Of Northumberland & Durham – Part 3 – 1900 to 1945 – Tracks 5 to 9


Tracks 5 to 9 of the ‘album’ covering the first half of the 20th century – from a sad tale of the loss of a mining father, to a bunch of jolly Irish sailors playing a reel

BLOG NO.21 – IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ BLOG NO.20 FIRST, CLICK HEREIf you’d like to read first why I wrote these 65 tracks, then click HERE to read that blog. (Blue text are external links, which will open in a new browser window.)

(Those getting this via email won’t be able to see the tracks. Clicking on the title of the blog will open it in a tab of your web browser. For those reading on a iPad, the tracks will open in a separate browser windows and not play on the Page. Apologies.)

Whilst these particular blogs don’t get the same number of visitors as my Close Encounter blogs, I will continue with them, for a while at least.

Welcome to a blog about tracks 5 to 9 of Part 3. Now comes the blurb if you haven’t read the other Parts…. There are five ‘albums’ (now 66 tracks in all), covering over three hundred years of history – both real and fictional – relating the English northeastern counties of what were Northumberland and Durham, but now Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and Durham including Teesside; Part 3 covers 1900 to 1945. As such, some of the songs are sung in the old Northumbrian, Geordie or Pitmatic accents and dialects. I’ve included explanations of the words used where necessary, and sometimes give lyrics in Standard English.

The dates by the track are either just where I have placed them (e.g. c.1900), this is when the traditional song was written, or this is when the historical event they portray happened. Keep in mind the music styles will change greatly from Parts 1 to 5 as they reflect the time they depict.

If any ex- or working miners out there spot any technical mistakes, please let me know in the comments section at the bottom of the page. If anyone else spots typos, please let me know. Thanks.

Anyone can give a Rate This star rating at the top of the blog or leave a Comment at the bottom of the page, and you can Like this blog if you’re a WordPress member at the bottom. If you’d like each blog to be posted to your inbox, click on the Follow Mak’s Music Blog tab at the top of the sidebar to the right if you’re with WordPress, or FOLLOW (THROUGH EMAIL) if you’re not. Please do rate the tracks in the Poll after them.

I ONLY RECENTLY DISCOVERED THAT YOU CAN’T PLAY THESE TRACKS DIRECTLY ON AN IPAD, AND YOU ARE DIVERTED TO A BROWSER. APOLOGIES FOR THIS, AND I HOPE IT DOESN’T STOP YOU FROM LISTENING TO THEM. 

Blurb over…now for the tracks….

Track 5 – That Shaded Way (c.1923) – This song was created in 1973 when I was 15, and my best friend, David Hodgson, wrote a poem called Family Footsteps, which I put to music. Whilst it’s about a miner’s son telling of his dad’s walk to the pit through woodland, and one day never returning, David’s mining dad was one of those who had the long trip to the coast to get to his colliery at Dawdon, and he lived to go onto retire. David’s parents were like a mam and dad to me, so this song is close to my heart and has been liked by many over the years when I’ve sung it.

The only difference between this version and the original poem is I have missed off the last verse. This is because I adapted it to use in my Leaving School musical, where the last verse didn’t work. I was going to redo it for here, but my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome forbade it.

All guitars care of GarageBand on iPad.

Track 6 – The General Strike Of ’26 – (1926) – A song about the disastrous British General Strike of 1926, which left the miners worse off than they were before they went out on strike. To quote Wikipedia:

“The 1926 general strike in the United Kingdom was a general strike that lasted 9 days, from 3 May 1926 to 12 May 1926.[1] It was called by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in an unsuccessful attempt to force the British government to act to prevent wage reduction and worsening conditions for 1.2 million locked-out coal miners. Some 1.7 million workers went out, especially in transport and heavy industry. The government was prepared and enlisted middle class volunteers to maintain essential services. There was little violence and the TUC gave up in defeat. In the long run, there was little impact on trade union activity or industrial relations. Keith Laybourn says that historians mostly agree that, “In no significant way could the General Strike be considered a turning point or watershed in British industrial history.”[2]

Full article HERE.

I know from my mother that at least one of my grandfathers was caught up in this, and it was probably both of them. All my grandparents had died before I was born, and my father died when I was six, so I have limited information.

The Strike was covered well in the 1970s tv drama, Days Of Hope. This also involved my family, as they used my Aunt Meggie’s street in Langley Park near Durham to film, and she even got a featured extra’s role in it…the whole street also got their external paint work done as a bonus. The series would use the now famous Stanley actor, Alun Armstrong, as well as the wonderful Yorkshire actor, Paul Copley. I would meet him just a few years later when he was doing a play at the Mermaid Theatre in London, where I was working at the time. To my amazement, he remembered my aunt well. She was, after all, a lovely and memorable lady. They would use the same street and my aunt again in the 1970s tv drama series, When The Boat Comes In.

Once again, this is sung in a Pitmatic accented character voice.

Created with the aid of GarageBand on the iPad.

Track 7 – The Colliery Infantry Corps (c.1930) – I think I wrote this in 1976 or ’77. It’s a jolly, somewhat romantic view of miners on their way to work c.1930. Having said that, my older nephew, Alan ‘Titchy’ Calvert, loved it at a time when he was still mining, and enjoyed to sing it too. I thought he would still have been at Kibblesworth Colliery at that time, but that closed in 1970, so it must have been Monkwearmouth Colliery

I have given it slightly different words and tune to it since then, when I changed them to singing about the ‘Colliery Infantry Corps‘.

The painting I have used to illustrate the track is most definitely not from the 1930s, and is by Pitman Painter Norman Cornish. I haven’t been able to find a photo, as they all seem to show miners leaving work, rather than going to it.

This one I did in full Pitmatic dialect, so below is the translation into Standard English.

You’re knocked up by the Caller*
As he hits your window twice
You put your boot and hoggers (work shorts) on
The sun she starts to rise
With a bait tin (for food) under one arm
And a cap upon your head
You kiss your wife a loving goodbye
As you set of down the street

Oh your boot begin to clatter
And your boot begin to crunch
Oh what a lovely sound is that
Of pit boots in a bunch
Oh they sounds just like a regiment
A marching off to war
But we’re the fellas who fight for coal
The Colliery Infantry Corps

Oh you march off down the cobbled streets
And over fields of green
Far away from sunlit skies
And air that’s fresh and clean
Working in your cavel (work nook)
With your marrow (work mate) by your side
Digging out the diamond black (black diamond=coal)
With blood and sweat and pride

Oh your shovel begins to clatter
And your picks begin to crunch
Oh what a lovely sound is that
Of working in a bunch
Oh it sounds just like a regiment
A marching off to war
But we’re the fellas who fight for coal
The Colliery Infantry Corps

Man 1: Durham Light Infantry? They’ve got nothing on us, man!
Man 2: Well, no!

*The Caller was a man with a long poll that knocked on your bedroom window.

Recorded in 2010 with GarageBand.

Track 8 – Take Me Away! – A fictional tale set around 1933 of a collier who is the only survivor of a great mining disaster, and the guilt he is left with; as well as the animosity of the dead miners’ families towards him. I had to use my imagination with this one, but I can imagine something like it happening after such an event.

This is another sung with some Pitmatic dialect words, so below are the Standard English lyrics:

Take me away
Cause I don’t wish to be
Take me away
By whatever means you see
Heaven or hell
It makes not a difference to me

You let them die
Yet you chose me to live
What was the point
When it’s purgatory you give
Take me away
‘Cause no one will ever forgive

Widows they stare at me
I know that they think the same
Mothers will spit in my face
I have become their sole blame
Fathers that I once knew
Now turn and walk away
As for my loved ones
Well they just don’t know what to say

Take me away
Or by my hand I will
Take me away
Since you seem free to kill
Take me away
Wipe me from this cold bleak hill

But you know me well
A coward I am
It’s only you now
That can end this sham
Take me away
To the slaughter lead this ‘black lamb’

Widows they stare at me
I know that they think the same
Mothers will spit in my face
I have become their sole blame
Fathers that I once knew
Now turn and walk away
As for my loved ones
Well they just don’t know what to say

Take me away
Cause I don’t wish to be
Take me away
By whatever means you see
Heaven or hell
It makes not a difference to me
Heaven or hell
It makes not a difference to me
Heaven or hell
It makes not a difference to me

Created with the aid of GarageBand on the iPad.

Track 9 – Durham Irish Miner’s Reel – When coal mining was at its height in the 1930s in Durham and Northumberland, immigrants came from as far as Cornwall and Ireland to work there. Some Irish words made it into Pitmatic – the miners’ dialect – such as ‘craic’ or ‘crack’, although its meaning changed from ‘How are you?’ to ‘chat’, or ‘banter’. If you want to know more about this, this PDF document gives the history of them in County Durham, as well as the migration to the Northeast from other rural counties of England, such as Suffolk.

Another created by mixing and matching Apple Loops, so I can’t take too much credit for this one.

Recorded in Weston Lullingfields & Oswestry, Shropshire © Mak Wilson 1974, 1976, 1977, 1993, 2007 & 2017

THE END

Thanks so much for reading and listening, and please, please, please rate the songs (below – the polls are anonymous) and the blog (at the top)! (Grovelling over.)

Mak

I haven’t decided yet what Blog No.22 will be.

IF YOU’D LIKE TO HAVE A SKIM THROUGH ALL 66 TRACKS, CLICK HERE.

PLEASE RATE THE TRACKS IF YOU HAVE TIME

4 thoughts on “Blog No.21: A Musical ‘History’ Of Northumberland & Durham – Part 3 – 1900 to 1945 – Tracks 5 to 9

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