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Originally collected, aptly, from William Davey in the Beaminster Workhouse in Dorset in 1906. The Treadwheel was used in prisons from the early 1800's as a way to make use of prisoners efforts by turning a mill wheel or pumping water but sometimes they were made to walk for 10 hours a day on the great wheel for no other purpose than their punishment. We have very few prison songs in the English repertoire and the imagery in this one is particularly strong. 

We team our version up with an Irish polka (Tralee Gaol) and an Appalachian fiddle tune (clinch mountain backstep).

Gaol Song/Treadmill Song (Roud 1077)

“Step in, young man, I know your face,
It's nothing in your favour.
A little time I'll give to you:
Six months unto hard labour.”


Chorus (after each verse):

To me Hip! fol the day, Hip! fol the day,
To me Hip! fol the day, fol the digee, oh!


At six o'clock our screw comes in,
With a bunch of keys all in his hand.
“Come, come, my lads, step up and grind.
Tread the wheel till breakfast time.”


And at half past six our skilly comes in,
Sometimes thick and sometimes thin,
But devil a word we must not say
Or it's bread and water all next day.


Eight o clock the bell doth ring.
Into the chapel we must swing,
Down on our bended knees to fall.
May the Lord have mercy on us all.


Now Saturday's come, I'm sorry to say,
Sunday is our starvation day.
Our hobnail boots and tin mugs too,
They are not shined nor they will not do.


Six long months are over and past,
And I will return to my bonny, bonny lass.
I'll leave them turnkeys all behind,
The wheel to tread and the corn to grind,

This incredible song about the appalling conditions people were made to work in not so long ago in this country is still relevant in many places around the world today. It was written by Teeside Fettler and shantyman Ron Angel. A friend learnt it from Vin Garbutt and used to sing it at our local folk club then it came back to mind when Sid met Ron at Richmond folk club many years later.

Chemical workers song/The I.C.I. Song

A process man am I and I’m telling you no lie
I’ve worked and breathed among the fumes that trail across the sky
There’s thunder all around me and poison in the air
There’s a lousy smell that smacks of hell and dust all in me hair



And its go boys go
They’ll time your every breath
And every day in this place your two days near to death
But you go...

I’ve worked among the spitters I’ve breathed in the oily smoke
I’ve shovelled up the gypsum till it neigh ‘on makes you choke
I’ve stood knee deep cyanide, got sick with a caustic burn
Been working rough, I’ve seen enough, to make your stomach turn

There’s overtime there’s bonus opportunities galore
The young men like their money and they all come back for more
But soon your knocking on and you look older than you should
For every bob made on the job, you pay with flesh and blood


Well a process man am I and I’m telling you no lie
I’ve worked and breathed among the fumes that trail across the sky
There’s thunder all around me and there’s poison in the air
There’s a lousy smell that smacks of hell and dust all in me hair


Ron Angel 

 The Louisville and Nashville railroad ran close to a young Jean Ritchie’s home in Kentucky. She wrote this song as a reflection on the hard times that communities face when industries decline.

L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore


When I was a curly headed baby
My father sat me down on his knee
Son you go to schooland learn your letters
Now, don’t you be no dusty miner, boy, like me



I was born and raised at the mouth of the Hazzard Holler
Where the dust cars rolled and rumbled past my door
Now they stand in a rusty row of all empties
And the L&N don’t stop here anymore



I used to think my father was a black man
With scrip enough to buy the company store
But now he goes to work with empty pockets
And  his face is white as the February snow


Never thought I’d live to learn to love the coal dust
Never thought I’d pray to hear that whistle roar
But lord I wish that the grass would turn to money
And then those greenbacks would fill my pockets once more



Last night I dreamed I went down to the office
To get my pay there like I done before
But them old kudzu vines were covering over the doorway
And there was leaves and grass growing right up to the floor



When I was a curly headed baby
My father sat me down on his knee
Son you go to schooland learn your letters
Now, don’t you be no dusty miner, boy, like me

Jean Ritchie

 We learnt this from A.L. Lloyd’s singing on the fantastic Blow Boys Blow album. He wrote that Paddy West “was a Liverpool boarding-house keeper in the latter days of sail, who provided ship captains with crews, as a side-line. He would guarantee that every man he supplied had crossed the Line and been round the Horn several times. In order to say so with a clear conscience, he gave greenhorns a curious course in seamanship, described in this jesting ballad. It was a great favourite with “Scouse” (Liverpool) sailors.”

Paddy West (Roud 3092)


When, as I was walkin’ down London Road I came to Paddy West’s house,
He gave me a feed of American hash and he called it Liverpool scouse.
He said “There’s a ship that’s taking hands, and on her you must sign.
The mates’ a bastard, the captains worse and they will do you fine.”


Take off your dungaree jackets and give yourselves a rest,
And we’ll think on them cold nor’ westers we had at Paddy West’s.

Now Paddy he pipes all hands on deck, their stations for to man
His wife stood in the doorway with a bucket in her hand
And Paddy cries “Now let ‘er rip!” and she threw the water our way
Crying “Clew up your fore t’gan’sl, boys, she’s takin’ on the spray!”


Now seeing she’s off to the southward to Frisco she was bound,
Paddy he takes out a length of rope and he lays it on the ground.
We all stepped over and back again and he says to me “That’s fine,
And if they ask were you ever at sea you can say you’ve crossed the Line.”


“There’s just one thing for you to do before you sail away,
Just step around the table, where the bullock’s horns do lay.
If they ever ask ‘Were you ever at sea?’, you can say, ’Ten times round the Horn.’
Bejesus you’re an old sailor man from the day that you were born.”


Final chorus:

Put on your dungaree jacket, and walk out looking your best,
And tell them you’re an old sailor man that comes from Paddy West’s.

 Jimmy first heard this sung by Barrie and Ingrid Temple at a Whitby singaround. They very kindly shared the words and explained some of the history of the song. Written by Barrie Temple and Steve Evans it tells the tale of the boats that used sail out of the now closed fishing port at Cullercoats Bay. 

Hold The Lantern High

Cullercoats Sands are cold and bare

Many there must weep,
Say a prayer for those who share
The grief that they keep


Hold the lantern high lad

Hold the lantern high

Catch your daddies eye laddie

Catch your daddies eye

There's none but us to rue his loss,
If he should not come home,
They're safe in bed, they do not fuss,
It's all the same to them

Do not fear for you will hear
His shouts across the bay
Whether far or near, they will not fear
Your lantern lights the way

Safe on shore he's home once more,
To sea he'll soon return,
Whether far or near, he will not fear,
As long as lanterns burn.


Steve Evans/Barry Temple

 Our re-jigged version of a sorrow-tinged song collected from Suffolk singer, Walter Pardon. Such wonderfully romantic declarations of love reflected in the natural world from a man that lost love early in life. The title line stayed with us from the first listen and so it became a chorus. Also known as 'The Irish Girl' or 'As I Roved Out'.

Let the wind blow high or low (Roud 308)


One night when was walking down by a riverside

Was gazing all around me when an Irish girl I spied

Red and rosy were her cheeks and coal black was her hair

And costly were the lovely robes this Irish girl did wear


I call for liquor merrily and pay before I go

And I roll my lass all on the grass let the wind blow high or low

let the wind blow high or low


Her shoes were black her stockings white all sprinkled with dew

She wrung her hands and tore her hair and cried what shall I do?

I’m going home, I’m going home, I’m going home said she

Oh would you a roving to slight your own polly


The last time that I saw my love she seemed to be in pain

With heart felt grief and chilling chilling woe her heart seemed broke in twain

There’s many a girl more true than she so why should I complain

Love it is a chilling thing did you ever feel the pain


I wish I was a butterfly I’d fly to my true loves breast

I wish I were the linnet I would sing my love to rest

I wish I were the nightingale I’d sing to the morning clear

I’ll sit and sing for you polly the girl I love so dear


I wish my love were a red rose budd that in the garden grew

And I to be the gardener to her I would prove true

There’s not a month in all the year my love I would renew

The lilies I would garnish with sweet William, Thyme and Rue


I wish I were in Wicklewood lying on the grass

With a bottle of whisky in my hand and upon my knee a lass

I’d call for liquor merrily and pay before I go

And I’d roll my lass all on the grass let the wind blow high or low

I call for liquor merrily and pay before I go

And I roll my lass all on the grass let the wind blow high or low

let the wind blow high or low

let the wind blow high or low

let the wind blow high or low

 The first song we arranged together was The Cuckoo and we gigged with that for a long time. Originally an English song that warns of the fickleness of true love, The Cuckoo has since travelled far and changed much. We later took on Ewan MacColl’s adaptation which introduces a dove in the cuckoo’s place as a symbol of peace and a statement against the horrors of war. We finish the song off with a driving fiddle tune, Wynchburgh Junction.

The White Dove


Oh the white dove she’s a pretty bird and she sings as she flies

And she brings us glad tidings and she tells us no lies

And she drinks the spring water for to make her voice clear

When her nest she is building and the summer draws near


Come all you young fellows take warning by me

Don’t go for a soldier don’t join no army

For the white dove she will leave you and the raven will come

And death will come marching at the beat of a drum


Come all you pretty fair maids take a walk in the sun

Don’t let your, your young man ever carry a gun

For the white dove it will scare her and she will fly away

And then there will be weeping by night and by day

Ewan Maccoll

 Written in response to the traditional song When I was in my prime. A friend sings that song beautifully but Sid always felt sorry for the gardener character and decided to rewrite it from his viewpoint. It’s still unsure whether he gets the girl but at least we hear more of his story. The album version features some fine fiddling from Aaron Catlow who now plays in a great duo with Kit Hawes.

The Gardener


When my hands are in the soil and the sweat upon me

It’s then I think on my true love for she is wondrous bonnie

She’s wondrous bonnie


She is like some heather bell in her autumn colours

Though I’d not pluck her from the hill It’s me she will not follow

It’s me she’ll not follow


I will give my love a rose of the deepest colour

And I will tend it as it grows and she will want no other

She’ll want no other


Oh the pink rose that did grow to my love I could not show

For it fades as soon as it does bloom as pale as winter snow


And the violet rose that grew was far too pale a hue

I’ll give my blood to the red red rose, my fate is all in you

My fate is all in you


And the blood red rose that grew I planted faithfully

And when I did return again there stood a willow tree

There stood a willow tree


From the willow I shall weave the new shoots every year

A basket lined with a gauze so fine I’ll catch her crystal tears

I’ll catch her crystal tears

Sid Goldsmith

This is an adaptation of the very well travelled Gospel Plow. Mahalia Jackson sings an incredibly powerful version of this called Keep your hand on the plow. We have adapted it away from the religious message and instead sing of the lessons to be learned from our past.

Keep Your Hand On The Plough

Keep your hand on the plough

Your mare is steady and she's pulling on now

Keep your hand on the plough, hold right on

Her eyes are low and she's pressing on

She'll lead you downhill if you give the run

Keep your hand on the plough, hold right on

Hold on, Hold on, Keep your hand on the plough, Hold right on

She's a wilful mare if you keep her in tight 

Remember years past keep your line in sight 

Keep your hand on the plough, hold right on

Looking back at the land that we've turned 

The furrows aren't straight and there's lessons to learn

Keep your hand on the plough, hold right on

Hold on, Hold on, Keep your hand on the plough, Hold right on

In this ancient field that we plough every year

There's seeds to be sowed and a mare to be steered

Keep your hand on the plough, hold right on

You're on your own but your back is strong 

Keep your hand steady keep her pulling along

Keep your hand on the plough, hold right on

Hold on, Hold on, Keep your hand on the plough, Hold right on

Jimmy Aldridge

 The Bonnie Ship has been widely sung in clubs across the country for many years. But despite its familiarity we were taken by the melody and the story surrounding the Diamond. Along with several other whaling ships, it was caught in the Arctic ice and was unable to break free. The crew had to burn the ship’s timber and sleep beneath the sail canvas while they awaited their fate. Only one ship managed to escape which is how we know of this tragic ending. Like Hold the Lantern High, the song tells of the worry of sailors leaving land and the nervous wait for those left behind.

The Bonnie Ship The Diamond (Roud 2172)


The Diamond is a ship, my lads, for the Davis Strait she's bound,
And the quay it is all garnished with bonny lasses 'round.
The captain gives the order to sail the ocean wide,
Where the sun it never sets, my lads, nor darkness dims the sky.

Chorus (after each verse):

And it's cheer up my lads, let your hearts never fail,
For the bonny ship, the Diamond, goes a-fishing for the whale.

Along the quay at Peterhead, the lasses stand around,
Their shawls all pulled about them and the salt tears running down.
Now don't you weep, my bonny wee lass, though you'll be left behind,
For the rose will bloom on Greenland's ice before we change our mind.

Here's health to the Resolution, likewise the Eliza Swan,
Here's a health to the Battler of Montrose and the Diamond, ship of fame.
We wear the trousers of the white, the jackets of the blue,
When we get back to Peterhead, we'll have sweethearts anew.

Be bright both day and night when the Greenland lads come home,
A ship full up with oil, my lads, and money to our name.
We'll make the cradles for to rock and the blankets for to tear,
And every lass in Peterhead sing, “Hushabye, my dear.”

 Such an inspiring set of lyrics from the huge wellspring that is Si Khan. As a teenager Sid first heard it by sung by Denny Bartley while working at a Norfolk folk club and though he’s been singing this song for years we never tire of the anthemic chorus.

What You Do With What You've Got

Oh you must know someone like him, he was tall and strong and lean.

Body like a greyhound and a mind so sharp and keen

But his heart grew like a laurel, all twisted 'round itself

Till almost everything he did brought pain to someone else.

Chorus (After every verse)

It's not just what you're born with, it's what you choose to bare

Not how big your share is ,it's how much you can share

It's not the fights you dream of, it's those you've really fough

Not what you've been given, it's what you do with what you've got

And what's the good of two strong legs if you only run away?

What good is the finest voice if you've nothing good to say?

What good are strength and muscle if you only push and shove?

What's the use of two good ears if you can't hear those you love?

Between those who use their neighbours and those who use the cane

Those in constant power and those in constant pain

Between those who run to evil and those who cannot run

Which ones are the cripples and which ons touch the sun?

Si Kahn

 Probably more than any other song we sing, this Frank Mansell poem represents what we are trying to put across in our music. The poem was put to music by Chris Wood on his album, Trespasser. We have adapted Chris’s version and brought back some of the original words that illustrate for us where this defiant but compassionate cottager is coming from.

The Cottagers Reply


Five hundred thousand English pounds for this old house and a piece of ground,
You and your wife have always planned to settle down in Cotswold land.
Well you’d best come in, you’d best sit down it’s such a long drive from London town
Would you like some tea now while I tell the reasons why I will not sell.

Refrain (after each verse)

You’d best come in and you’d best sit down

It’s such a long drive from London town

This stone built house that you call nice was gained at far too high a price,
For me to gaily sign away what others toiled for night and day.
They hammered bluestone by the yard and they found the rent when times where hard,
And they lived and died beneath the sun tending the fields you’re gazing on.

Well they’re all gone, but as for me the wild hare still runs as free,
And at dusk the badger travels still ancestral highways on the hill.
I am as Cotswold bred as these and I still need these field and trees,
And I need the soil that bore my race and holds their bones beneath this place.

Enough for me this cot of stone, a might of land to call my own

A friend to drink with, wife to smile and Cotswold country by the mile

So take your cup and drain it down you would be peasant from the town

Go on your journey let me bide content in my own countryside

Frank Mansell/Chris Wood

Hold the Lantern
Let the wind
White Dove
The Gardener
Bonnie ship
What you do
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