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England

Ewan MacColl

Ewan MacColl: Industrial Folk Ballads


Shuttle and Cage

  • Shuttle and Cage — Industrial Folk Ballads
    • 1957 - Topic 10T13 LP [10"]
  • Angleterre: Chants De Travail
    • 1958 (circa) - Le Chant Du Monde LDY-4156 EP

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  • Side One
    1. The Wark of the Weavers
    2. The Blantyre Explosion
    3. Moses of the Mail
    4. Fourpence a Day
    5. Champion at Keepin' 'em Rolling (Ewan MacColl)
    6. The Four Loom Weaver
    7. The Plodder Seam (Ewan MacColl)
  • Side Two
    1. Cosher Bailey's Engine
    2. The Gresford Disaster
    3. Cannily, Cannily (Ewan MacColl)
    4. The Coal Owner and the Pitman's Wife
    5. Poor Paddy Works on the Railway

  • Musicians
    • Ewan MacColl: Vocals
    • Peggy Seeger: Banjo, Guitar
  • Credits
    • Tracks traditional, arranged by Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger — unless otherwise noted.
  • Note:
    • Track: 2, 3, 5, 7 & 8 are omitted on Angleterre: Chants De Travail.

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Second Shift

  • Second Shift
    • Industrial Ballads
      • 1958 - Topic 10T25 LP [10"]

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  • Side One
    1. The Song of the Iron Road (Ewan MacColl)
    2. Droylsden Wakes
    3. The Calton Weaver
    4. Twenty-One Years (Ewan MacColl)
    5. The Best Little Door Boy
    6. Oh, Dear Me (The Jute Mill Song) (Mary Brooksbank/Ewan MacColl)
    7. Will Caird (Alex Russell)
  • Side Two
    1. The Iron Horse (Charles Balfour)
    2. The Durham Strike (Tommy Armstrong)
    3. The Collier Laddie
    4. The Colour Bar Strike (Charlie Maye/Ewan MacColl)
    5. The Swan-Necked Valve (Alex Russell)

  • Musicians
    • Ewan MacColl: Vocals
    • Peggy Seeger: Banjo, Guitar
  • Credits
    • Sleeve: Fredun Shapur
    • Tracks traditional, arranged by Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger — unless otherwise noted.

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Ewan MacColl sings British Industrial Ballads

  • Ewan MacColl sings British Industrial Ballads
    • 1961 - Vanguard VRS-9090 LP

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  • Side One
    1. The Wark of the Weavers
    2. The Blantyre Explosion
    3. Fourpence a Day
    4. Droyisden Wakes
    5. The Collier Laddie
    6. The Coal Owner and the Pitman's Wife
    7. Poor Paddy Works on the Railway
  • Side Two
    1. Twenty-One Years
    2. The Four Loom Weaver
    3. Champion at Keepin' 'em Rolling
    4. Cosher Bailey's Engine
    5. The Iron Horse
    6. The Durham Strike
    7. The Calton Weaver
    8. Cannily, Cannily

  • Musicians
    • Ewan MacColl: Vocals
    • Peggy Seeger: Backing Vocals, Guitar & Banjo
  • Credits
    • Cover Photo: David Gahr
    • Design: Jules Halfant
    • Sculpture: Constantin Meunier

Sleeve Notes

EWAN MacCOLL is a folksinger and collector of songs admired on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, for his engaging performer personality and his pioneer efforts in the uncharted area of British industrial folk songs and ballads, the songs that arose among the weavers, miners and railway men and in the factories. The material he has brought to light is both a rich addition to the known body of folk and popular song, and an illumination of social history. Born in Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland, Ewan MacColl may be called a spiritual descendant of Robert Burns, farmer, democrat and great poet, who collected folk songs, like 'The Collier Laddie' on this program, and among other accomplishments, wrote beautiful new lyrics for old melodies. MacColl may not be a great poet, but he has written plays, and also songs of great loveliness, like Cannily, Cannily on this program, which has been widely accepted as a folk song. He has also worked as a building laborer, garage hand, union organizer, actor and street singer; arranged a series of notable broadcasts of folk music for the British Broadcasting Corporation, and produced three book anthologies of folk songs of the British Isles. He has given a number of concerts in the United States, and is a welcome figure at the folk festivals. As a singer, he has the art of merging completely with the human and social experience out of which each song arose, and so a MacColl program is like an introduction to a host of people whom it warms our heart to know.

Peggy Seeger, who plays banjo and guitar on this record, and also joins in the singing of Droylsden Wakes, Cosher Bailey's Engine and The Calton Weavers, comes from a distinguished American musical family. Her mother is the noted composer, Ruth Crawford: her father, the outstanding musicologist, Charles Seeger; her brother is one of the most beloved of American folk singers, Pete Seeger. She has appeared in concert many times, alone and with Ewan MacColl.


The Wark of the Weavers
The handloom weaver, while carrying his finished products to the nearest center of commerce, often covered considerable distances and the only relief from the rigors of the road was to be found in the weavers' howffs (poor inns). Here, over a glass of 'tupenny' a man could exchange gossip, talk politics, boast of his conquests and roar out his defiance of a world seemingly bent on starving him. This song belongs to the period of nearly 200 years ago, when weaving was changing from a handicraft to an industry. Originally from Kincardshire, it is now widely sung throughout the Southern and Eastern regions of Scotland.

The Blantyre Explosion
The disaster described in this ballad occurred at Messers. Dixon's colliery, High Blantyre, near Glasgow on October 22, 1877, with the resulting death of over 200 miners. Unlike many pit-disaster ballads which take the form of the Irish "come all ye" songs, The Blantyre Explosion' is in the tradition of the South-West Scottish Elegy. The version sung here was collected in 1951 and first appeared in A. L, Lloyd's 'Come all ye Bold Miners.'

Fourpence a Day
Still current in North-East Yorkshire, this song is attributed to Thomas Raine, lead-miner and bard of Teesdale. The washing rakes, where the lead-bearing rocks were separated from the clay and gravel, were usually operated by young boys or old disabled miners. The mine owners are said to have become so incensed by the song that they closed the pits and imported leadminers from Germany. The song was collected by Joan Littlewood and Ewan MacColl from John Gowland, retired lead-miner of Middleton-in-Teesdale, in 1948.

Droylsden Wakes
Of this song, A.L. Lloyd writes, it "belonged originally to a Wakes custom in which two spinners, one dressed as a woman, sat in a cart, going through the motions of spinning, singing the song (originally in dialogue form), and collecting from the onlookers. It is usually presumed that the Threedywell' meant 'thread the wheel' or 'tread the wheel', but it may be mere onomatopoeia.

The Collier Laddie
One of the oldest and most beautiful of Britain's industrial ballads, this song dates back to at least the 17th century. Robert Burns noted it and sent it to James Johnson, editor of 'The Scots Musical Museum' with the comment, "I do not know a blyther old song than this." The song, still fairly widely known, is most commonly found among farm workers, who sometimes substitute 'plough-boy laddie' for 'collier laddie'. MacColl's version was learned from his grandmother, Isabel I Henry of Auchterarder, Perthshire.

The Coal Owner and the Pitman's Wife
This ballad is believed to date from the Durham strike of 1844 and to have been written by William Hornsby, a collier of Shotton Moor, Durham. The ballad was discovered among a collection of papers relating to the strike made by a studious Lancashire miner, J. S. Bell. The tune was supplied by J. Dennison, of Walker, and, together with the text, appears in A. L Lloyd's 'Come all ye Bold Miners'.

Poor Paddy Works on the Railway
Irish immigrant laborers, working on the railways being built across the American west in the middle 19th century, produced this song. It is popular in the locomotive sheds in England, where a 1952 questionnaire unearthed five versions. MacColl's performance combines a slow version from Liverpool and a fast version from Hellefield in Yorkshire.

Twenty-One Years
This is one of three songs by Ewan MacColl. on this program. It was written in 1949 for a radio program about one of the great truck roads running from London to Glasgow. The tune is Boston City.

The Four Loom Weavers
One of the most dramatic of British industrial songs, this ballad was first sung shortly after the Battle of Waterloo, when handloom weavers' wages fell to a new low. That it was a great favorite for many years is evidenced by the great number of broadsheet prints issued under it and other titles. It is sometimes attributed to John o' Greenfield Junior, himself the character in a popular 19th century comic ballad. The version sung here was collected by Ewan MacColl from Becket White-head of Delph, near Oldham, Lancashire.

Champion at Keepin' 'em Rolling
One of the most popular songs by Ewan MacColl, this has become the anthem of British road-haulage men, who have added countless new verses many of which would not pass the censors. It was written in 1949 for a radio program dealing with truck drivers. The tune is that of a popular 18th century Irish song, 'The Limerick Rake.'

Cosher Bailey's Engine
The real hero of this song was a Monmouth ironmaster who built the Taff Vale Railway along the Aberdare Valley in 1846. According to legend, he drove the first train along the railway himself and got stuck in a tunnel, an event immortalized in several verses. The tune is the traditional Welsh song, The Black Pig. The version sung here was collected by Alan Lomax from the singing of John H. Davies of Treorchy, South Wales.

The Iron Horse
According to A.L. Lloyd, this song was written by Charles Balfour, Stationmaster at Glencarse, Scotland, and was first performed at a railwaymen's festival in 1848. It remained popular in the neighborhood of Perth and Dundee for many years and was a favorite in the ploughmen's bothies (communal living huts) of Aberdeenshire. There are few folk who remember it now. The tune is an adaptation of The Piper of Dundee.

The Durham Strike
The song is by Thomas Armstrong, the miner-poet of Tanfield-Lea, County Durham. It refers to the great strike of 1892, when the colliers refused to take a ten per cent cut in their wages. After holding out for two months, the colliers, beaten by hunger, agreed to accept the cut, whereupon the coal-owners cut the wages by thirteen and a half per cent instead of the original ten.

The Calton Weaver
The village of Calton no longer exists, having been swallowed up by the city of Glasgow more than half a century ago. Of its once thriving weaving trade, nothing remains but this wry little song. MacColl learned this version from Hughie Martin of Shettleston, Glasgow, who insisted that MacColl's father had written the tune 'because he didna tak' to the ither yin.'

Cannily, Cannily
Written by Ewan MacColl in 1953 for Isla Cameron, this, song is frequently sung in radio programs of folk music, where it is usually described as a traditional song.

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Steam Whistle Ballads

  • Steam Whistle Ballads
    • 1964 - Topic 12T104 LP

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  • Side One
    1. The Wark of The Weavers
    2. Droylsden Wakes
    3. The Four Loom Weaver (Ewan MacColl)
    4. The Calton Weaver
    5. Oh Dear Me (words Mary Brooksbank, music Ewan MacColl)
    6. The Coal Owner And The Pitman's Wife
    7. Fourpence A Day
    8. The Gresford Disaster
    9. Will Caird (Alex Russell)
  • Side Two
    1. The Iron Horse (Charles Balfour)
    2. Poor Paddy Works On The Railway
    3. Cannily Cannily (Ewan MacColl)
    4. The Song Of The Iron Road (Ewan MacColl)
    5. The Blantyre Explosion
    6. The Collier Laddie
    7. Moses Of The Mail

  • Musicians
    • Ewan MacColl: Vocals
    • Peggy Seeger: Backing Vocals, Guitar & Banjo
  • Credits
    • Recording by Bill Leader
    • Photograph for sleeve front, Brian Shuel
  • Track Sources

Sleeve Notes

EWAN MACCOLL, surely the best-known singer of folk songs in Britain, was born in Auchterarder, Perthshire. From both his parents he inherited a good store of Scots folk songs, and over the years he has vastly enlarged his repertory with songs learnt from print or from other (mostly traditional) singers. Now he probably has more folk songs in his head, in singable shape, than anyone else in the British Isles. He has worked as labourer, street-busker, playwright and actor, as well as singing professionally on stage, radio, television and in films. His BBC documentary 'radio-ballads' such as john Axon, Singing the Fishing, The Big Hewer, etc., prepared in collaboration with Peggy Seeger and Charles Parker, have attracted keen attention not only in Britain but also on the Continent. MacColl is one of the main originators of the present folk song revival, which made its first wide-audience impact with his series of Ballads and Blues radio programmes, performed by a team of folk-style musicians assisted by Humphrey Lyttelton's band, in 195 He is not only an impressive singer but also a most successful maker of songs, and several of his compositions have become widely current through the (now extensive) world of the folk song clubs.

Other TOPIC recordings of this outstanding artist include:
Streets of Song 12T41 (with Dominic Behan), Still I Love Him 10T50 (with Isla Cameron), Blow the Man Down TOP98, A Hundred Years Ago TOP99, The Coast of Peru T'0P100 (three records of sea shanties with A. L. Lloyd and Harry H. Corbett), English and Scottish Folk Ballads I2T103, (with A. L. Lloyd), Chorus from the Gallows 12T16 (with Peggy Seeger), The Jacobite Rebellions 12T79 (with Peggy Seeger), Barrack Room Ballads 10T26, Bold Sportsmen All 10T36 (with A. L. Lloyd), Gamblers and Sporting Blades TOP71 (with A. L. Lloyd).

The songs on this record are from Shuttle and Cage 10T13 and Second Shift 10T25.

The British Labour Movement has a rich heritage of songs — songs that convey a sense of history, as well as imagery and emotion for present-day industrial workers and their friends.

Hitherto, the best-known Labour songs have been those made for directly political ends, with texts generally modelled on the rhetorical language of book poetry, expressing the more or less universal aspirations of working men; songs mainly used for special occasions, such as The Red Flag or The Internationale.

Of late, however, since folk song research has extended beyond the lore of the countryside into the home-made culture of the mines and mills, a powerful body of songs has come to light, made by working men and dealing directly with their daily lives, cast in realistic non-rhetorical language, with tunes based on the tradition of folk melody not art song, and intended for informal performance at any odd moment.

The force and tang of these songs proves irresistible to modern tastes, and many talented song-makers outside of industry as well as within it have been fired to imitate this kind of do-it-yourself workers' song. Among the best of these is Ewan MacColl, who presents here a number of songs created by industrial workers, interspersed with songs on industrial themes made by himself.

THE WARK OF THE WEAVERS
The handloom weaver, while carrying his finished products to the nearest centre of commerce, often covered considerable distances and the only relief from the rigors of the road was to be found in the weavers' howffs (poor inns). Here over a glass of 'tupenny' a man could exchange gossip, talk politics, boast of his conquests: and roar out his defiance of a world seemingly bent on starving him. This song belongs to the period of nearly 200 years ago, when weaving was changing from a handicraft to an industry. Originally from Kincardineshire, it is widely sung throughout the Southern and Eastern regions of Scotland.

DROYLSDEN WAKES
Of this song A. L. Lloyd writes, it "belonged originally to a Wakes custom, in which two spinners, one dressed as a woman, sat in a cart, going through the motions of spinning, singing the song (originally in dialogue form), and collecting from the onlookers. It is usually presumed that the 'Threedywell' meant 'thread the wheel' or 'tread the wheel', but it may be mere onomatopoeia".

THE FOUR LOOM WEAVER
One of the most dramatic of British industrial songs, this ballad was first sung shortly after the Battle of Waterloo, when handloom weavers' wages fell to a new low. That it was a great favourite for many years is evidenced by the great number of broadsheet prints issued under this and other titles. It is sometimes attributed to John o'Greenfield junior, himself the character in a popular 19th century comic ballad. The version sung here was collected by Ewan MacColl from Bucket Whitehead of Delph, near Oldham, Lancashire.

THE CALTON WEAVER
The village of Calton no longer exists, having been swallowed up by the City of Glasgow more than half a century ago. Of its once thriving weaving trade, nothing remains but this wry little song. Ewan MacColl learned this version from Hughie Martin of Shettleston, Glasgow, who insisted that MacColl's father had written the tune 'because he didna tak' to the ither yin'.

OH. DEAR ME
The text of this tender little song is the work of Mary Brookbank, an old jute mill worker, of Dundee. Mrs. Brookbank, the author of several fine songs, has also collected a considerable number of jute mill songs and ballads. The air is by Ewan MacColl.

THE COAL-OWNER AND THE PITMAN'S WIFE
This ballad is believed to date from the Durham strike of 1844 and to have been written by William Hornsby, a collier of Shotton Moor, Durham. The ballad was discovered among a collection of papers relating to the strike by a studious Lancashire miner, J. S. Bell. The tune was supplied by J. Dennison, of Walker and, together with the text, can be found in A. L. Lloyd's 'Come all ye Bold Miners'.

FOURPENCE A DAY
Still current in North-East Yorkshire, this song is attributed to Thomas Raine, lead-miner and bard of Teesdale. The washing rakes, where the lead bearing rocks were separated from the clay and gravel, were usually operated by young boys or old disabled miners. The mine owners are said to have become so incensed by the song that they closed the pits and imported lead miners from Germany. The song was collected by Joan Littlewood and Ewan MacColl from John Gowland, retired lead miner of Middleton-in-Teesdale, in 1948.

THE GRESFORD DISASTER
The mining disaster described in this ballad occurred on September 22nd, 1934. The ballad properly bitter in its editorialised narrative, slightly underestimates the casualties — 265 miners were killed, including three rescue men. Ewan MacColl learned the song from a young miner named Ford in the Shefield Miners' Training Centre.

WILL CAIRD
There are few iron-moulders in Britain who have not heard of Alex Russell of Dundee, the author of this song, for Russell is the undisputed bard of the iron-founding industry. An admirer and follower of Robert Burns, Russell exercises his considerable gifts by recording, in verse, the day-to-day struggles of his fellow workers. The tune is an adaptation of The Mucking of Geordie's Byre.

THE IRON HORSE
According to A. L. Lloyd, this song was written by Charles Balfour, Stationmaster at Glencarse, Scotland, and was first performed at a railwaymen's festival in 1848. It remained popular in the neighbourhood of Perth and Dundee for many years and was a favourite in the ploughmen's bothies (communal living huts) of Aberdeenshire. There are few folk who remember it now. The tune is an adaptation of The Piper of Dundee.

POOR PADDY WORKS ON THE RAILWAY
This song, long popular in the United States. was the product of Irish immigrant labourers, who moved west with the great railway expansions in the middle of the 19th century. A questionnaire (1952) circulated in a number of loco sheds in Northern England, produced five versions of this song. In the past few years, British folksingers have tended to fuse two versions into a single song. Ewan MacColl sings a collation of a slow version from Liverpool and a last version from Hellefield in Yorkshire.

CANNILY, CANNILY
Written by Ewan MacColl in 1953 for Isla Cameron. the song is frequently sung in radio programmes of folk music, where it is usually described as a traditional song.

THE SONG OF THE IRON ROAD
Written by Ewan MacColl and arranged by Peggy Seeger, this song forms part of the narration of The Ballad of John Axon, a radio documentary first broadcast by the B.B.C. Home Service in April, 1958. The material for both the song and the programme was collected at the Edgeley Loco Shed, Stockport, Cheshire.

THE BLANTYRE EXPLOSION
The disaster described in this ballad occurred at Messrs. Dixon's colliery, High Blantyre, near Glasgow on October 22nd, 1877, with the resulting death of over 200 miners. Unlike many pit disaster ballads which take the form of the Irish 'come all ye' songs. 'The Blantyre Explosion' is in the tradition of the South-West Scottish Elegy. The version sung here was collected in 1951 and first appeared in A. L. Lloyd's 'Come all ye Bold Miners'.

THE COLLIER LADDIE
One of the oldest and the most beautiful of Britain's industrial ballads, this song dates back to at least the 17th century. Robert Burns noted it and sent it to James Johnson, editor of The Scots Musical Museum, with the comment, 'I do not know a blyther old song than this'. The song, still fairly widely known, is most commonly found among farm workers, who sometimes substitute 'ploughboy laddie' for 'collier laddie'. Ewan MacColl's version was learned from his grandmother, Isabell Henry of Auchterarder, Perthshire.

MOSES OF THE MAIL
'Moses' was the nickname of Henry Poyser, an engine-driver who served on the Manchester-Warrington run in the 80's. Despite the 'local' feeling of the text and the trivial nature of the events described, the song still lives as part of the oral tradition of the Lancashire railwaymen. The version sung here is collated from three texts collected in Newton-Heath Loco shed in 1952.

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