The McCalmans

The McCalmans: Flames On The Water


  • Flames On The Water
    • 1990 - Greentrax TRAX 036 LP
    • 1990 - Greentrax CDTRAX 036 CD
  • Side One
    1. Ahm E Man At Muffed
    2. It Isle of Eigg
    3. Devolution Anthem
    4. Farewell Tae The Haven
    5. Sounding
    6. Hawks And Eagles
  • Side Two
    1. The Siege
    2. Who Pays The Piper
    3. Festival Lights
    4. Shian Road
    5. Men O Worth
    6. Curtain Call

  • The McCalmans
    • Ian McCalman
    • Derek Moffat
    • Nick Keir
  • Musicians
    • Phil Cunningham: Accordion, Piano, Organ
    • Hamish Bayne: Holmwood Concertina
    • Charlie Soane: Fiddle, Viola
    • Martin Talbot: Bass Guitar
    • Andrew Talbot: Percussion
  • Credits
    • Recorded at Palladium, Straiton Village and Greentrax
    • Photos by Douglas McCalman, Castle Photographic, Edinburgh

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Sleeve Notes

Songs written by Scots, sung by The McCalmans.
Song Notes are in each case, written by the songs author.

(Nancy Nicolson)

In an information booklet, the UKAEA defines M.U.F., Material Unaccounted For, on a nuclear site. I apply the context of the crofter-fishermen of Caithness, renowned for their ingenuity, who work at the Dounreay Nuclear Establishment.

Ahm the man that muffed it, ahm the man that boobed
Ahm the man that lost the radio active tube
So ahll ask ma process workers, to tell me whaur its gone
For if it took a dander, surely it was seen

Wullie the crofter could it be you
No it wisnae one ah took,..ah took two
One has peenned ma gate shut the others in the park
Its grand fine glow takes me safely through the dark

Angie the fisherman tell the truth tae me
No it wisnae one ah took...ah took three
One is on ma nets it makes a damn fine float
The ither twos a microwave oven in ma boat

Whos that sneakin out an through the door
Its Hector the whisky maker...ah took four
Ah run ma barley bree through a tubie tae distil
Ah sell the malt tae ye boys thats how ye get your fill

In nuclear Caithness Atoms are good news
They brought us jobs an money, wed be stupid tae refuse
So now weve nuclear fish, fine atomic coos
Plutonium-coated people an radioactive booze oh

Ahm the man that muffed it ahm the chiel that boobed
Ah wonder will they find their radioactive tube
But theres no gointae be a search or any big to-do
For the storeman says hes lost all the geiger counters too.

(Robin Laing)

The song charts the course of a love affair from Spring through to Autumn and beyond. The feelings and memory are evoked by one of Scotlands most romantic settings.

Twas in the merry month of May, when balmy winds do blow.
I met my love in Arisaig, where rhododendrons grow.
I met my love in Arisaig in the shadow of Ben More.
The sun shone on the Isle of Eigg, far from the silver shore.
The sun shone on the Isle of Eigg, far from the silver shore.

And in the Months that followed, our love and friendship grew.
Warmed by the summer sun and a love that was so new.
We walked among the hills and heard the crashing oceans roar.
The sun shone on the Isle of Eigg, far from the silver shore.
The sun shone on the Isle of Eigg, far from the silver shore.

Autumn came to Arisaig with colours fair to view.
Birds were flying south again, soon we followed too.
A sad song echoed in the Hills, Lochaber no more.
The sun shone on the Isle of Eigg, far from the silver shore.
The sun shone on the Isle of Eigg, far from the silver shore.

Twos in the merry month of May, when balmy winds do blow.
I met my love in Arisaig, where rhododendrons grow.
I met my love in Arisaig in the shadow of Ben More
The sun shone on the Isle of Eigg, far from the silver shore.
The sun shone on the Isle of Eigg, far from the silver shore.

(Ian McCalman)

We are thankful for so much in Scotland. This song could have been longer....much, much longer. Thank you!

Thank you for your kind endeavours
Making Scotland fit for kings
All the gifts that London sends us
All the joy Westminster brings
Hail to our country and our leaders
Ruling with integrity
Wish that we had voted for them
Taking care of you and me.

Praise them for their kindly hand-outs
Stand in line...redundancy
All our friends youve saved from working
Hes sold his job...cant you see?
Early retirement, thats the pIan
A holiday that work cant buy
From sweet sixteen until you meet
That job creator in the sky

Equal rights, democracy
The Poll Tax proves it must be true
Palaces or one-roomed slums
We pay the, God bless you
Thank you for your time-share chalets
And your tiny bijou bed-sit flat
Sold to buy that Scottish island
What, my dears, do you think of that?
Keep the soft soap gently bubbling
Tax the whisky, oil and rain
When at last it all runs out
The devolution dream will come again.

(Davy Steele)

Morrisons Haven, of the song, no longer exists. This is the story of a man whose family had, for generations, been fisherfolk on the small boats. For as long as he could remember, all he wanted to do was to work in these drifters , but due to the decline of the Scottish fishing trade, he had to give it up.

Im leaving the fishin, the life I have known
The battle with nature, that nobody won
For the fish stocks are dwindlin, and the shoals hard to find
Im leaving the fishin Ive made up my mind

My father worked drifters, my grandfather tae
Ma brothers a skipper on the Elena Mae
And a worked at the fishin, just as soon as a could
So leavins no easy, the seas in my blood

Farewell tae the Haven, my heart it is sad
The drifters Im leavin, tae work on the yard

Ill miss the wee boats though, My thoughts are there yet
Wi the lads on the Jeannie, haulin the nets
We worked hard together, we laughed hard as well
Cursin the weather, and ridin the swell

Ill work in the wire mill, its a good job they say
Ill start and Ill finish, the same time every day
The money is constant, and my wife she seems pleased
But Ill miss the fishin, and Ill miss the sea

(Stewart Brown)

Sounding began as another song lamenting mans inhumanity to the whale, then I came to realise that the whale could hold a power far beyond its awesome phsyical strength...the power to save us all.

When first our fathers heard your song
Sounding Sounding
No warning note of right or wrong
Sounding away

Sailing far from land and home
To cast their strength against your own
And reap a harvest never sown
Sounding away

Then we came with shafts of fire
Sounding Sounding
The toll of death rose ever higher
Sounding away

The guilt our hunters pride withstood
The stream of greed became a flood
And Polar seas ran red with blood
Sounding away

Still your gentle songs goes on
Reaching for the hearts of men
Sing on, sing on, we hear you
Sing on, sing on were listening now

Sing on for a life anew
Sounding Sounding
That we might share this world with you
Sounding away

Soaring eagle, tiger bright Forests reaching for the light
Your hymn of life all hearts unite
Sounding away,
Sounding away

(Ian Walker)

The song was provoked (rather than inspired) by the massacre of people on a funeral procession near Uitenhaage, South Africa, in 1985. Someone once said it is Cry Freedom in four verses.

As I was walking down the road
I met my brother with a heavy load
I said to him what have you seen
He said to me I have a dream
In 1960 I thought Id died in Sharpevilles bloody town
But I got up I walked on tall nobodys goin to put me down

Hawks and eagles fly like doves
Hawks and eagles fly like doves
Hawks and eagles fly like doves
Hawks and eagles fly like doves

As I walked out along the way
I saw my sister bend and pray
I said to her why do you kneel
She says you don't know how I feel
I had a little boy and a little girl
I loved to watch them grow
But they were butchered on the streets
In the blood of Sowetto

Its 85 and Im walking still
Across Uitenhaage Hill
Saw a crowd set off at the dawn of day
The soldiers said don't come this way
Then somebody threw a stone as they walked up the track
A boy on a bike was the first to fall
with a bullet in his back

Its been a long long hard road
Three hundred years since settlers strode
Into that Southern land
Now they rule with an iron hand
Low pay no vote and pass book laws
Don't talk back they say
But the hawks and the eagles will fly like doves
when the people rise one day.

(Nick Keir)

A young girl dares to peek over the battlements of a city under siege and finds that the besieging armies have packed up and gone home. The story comes from tales of Baron Munchenhausen.

The Siege was at its height and the well was running dry
The mayor addressed the town, he said well do it if we try
And the soldiers on the wall firing death into the air,
Never looking out for fear of what was there.

The children of the town, running ragged through the raid.
Seemed that half their lives theyd been hungry and afraid
But Jenny sat alone, shed been wondering all the day
She gathered them around and she began to say: —

Theres nobody there, lift your head above the wall,
Theres no one out there you should fear,
Theres no one there at all.

Jenny slipped away, through the sleepy midday hour
Silent and at peace she climbed the highest tower
And as she looked out on the land and the city far below
She shouted to her friends what she had somehow always known

The captain of the guard, he was a kindly sort of man
Scrambled up the stairs he pulled Jenny by the hand
He said if they see you up there then surely you will die
Jenny pointed to the fields and she began to cry

They turned and clambered down past the drunken sleeping men
A soldier and a child unnoticed until then
And no one dared refuse as he shouted the command
They opened up the gates and looked out on the land

(Nancy Nicolson)

The money-wells in the North Sea are owned by immensely rich companies and fed by workers lives. The men off-shore have to watch their tongues or lose their jobs. We can be their voices.

Who pays the piper Who pays the piper
Who pays the piper Who calls the tune
Who pays the piper What is the fee
Flames on the water Death on the sea

And the tune is old and has always told
How the great, brave and bold they do flourish
How bravely they gamble with other mens lives
And profit as other men perish

And the tune resounds and is always found
Where the ground receives yet another
Father of dazed and despairing young bairns
Or a son of a desolate mother

And the price is dear for the folks who fear
And who bear the burden of sorrow
For those who were lost where the graph of the cost .
Crossed the graph of rich pickings tomorrow

Flames on the water
Death on the sea

(Nick Keir)

Written in Leiden at the home of Emile and Judie, who have saved our lives on numerous occasions. Were often working abroad during the Edinburgh Festival and permit ourselves a hint of homesickness now and again.

The folks out here are kind, they let me sleep all day.
They don't seem to mind that Im dreaming my life away.
Theres traffic jams near the Hague, well have to leave here soon.
Sing our song and go, to the light of a Lowland Moon.

And it seems like Ill miss Autumn in Edinburgh.
Thats the one I should have spent with you.
The rain lashing down, a fog on the Meadows
As the festival lights, as the festival lights go dim.

Ive been wandering through this town, trying to pass the time.
It seems I know these streets as well as I know mine
The clock has turned to five, perhaps youll soon be home.
Ill call and say Im missing you, and then hang up the phone.

Everybodys written a song, which says youve been on the road,
Been on the road too long.
The folks out here are kind, they let me sleep all day.
They don't seem to mind that Im dreaming my life away.
Theres traffic jams near the Hague, well have to leave here soon.
Sing our song and go, to the light of a Lowland Moon.

(Ian McCalman)

When the road we once walked with ease becomes too long and too far away. I make no apologies for dedicating this one to my parents.

Will you walk the Shian road again
And look out from Ardselma, across the wooded glen
Or see the Cregan mist burn off the ben
And will you walk the Shian road again

So hard the leaving
So hard his leaving the hills and the ben
So strong the feeling
So strong the feelin hed never return
To Shian again

The young man raced the sun across the sky
But older now he stopped there, the breeze a gentle sigh
I heard it whisper stay my father stay
And walk the lonely Shian road today

Remember when the days burned long and bright
But now his sun is setting, and by its fading light
Ill take you to the Highlands and then
Youll walk the lonely Shian road again

(Archie Fisher)

A song written in the early 70s with more than a little prescience about some of the consequences of the North Sea oil boom. Fortunately the adaptable folk of the north east mainland and the isles are more than able to cope with lifes fickle fortunes.

Leave the land behind laddie theres better days to find
The companies have the money and theyll soon teach you the skills
Greenfields far away laddie the Forties and the Bray
Be a mudman or a roustabout youll soon learn how to drill

But who will tend the sheep when Im far out oer the deep
On the Neptune or the Sea Quest when the snow comes to the hills

Leave the fishing trade laddie theres money to be made
The hand-line and the Shetland yawl are from a bygone day
Come to Aberdeen laddie sights youve never seen
Be a welder on the pipeline or a fitter on Nigg Bay
But when the job is over and my boat rots on the shore
How will I feed my family when the companies move away

Theres harbours to be built laddie rigs to tow and tilt
To rest upon the ocean bed like pylons in the sea
Pipelines to be laid and a hundred different trades
That will give a decent living wage to the likes of you and me

I ken youre men of worth youre the best thats in the North
Not men of greed but men who need the work that comes your way

From Flotter to Kishorn a new industry is born
Now Peterhead and Cromarty wiH never be the same

(Janet Russell)

I wrote this on one of those days when the landlord kicks you out of your flat, your lover leaves you, your mum forgets your birthday and you lose your toothbrush. Things are bad - so in my pitiful little way I imagined a kind of secular heaven where none of the good bits of your life ever comes to an end. Pathetic - isnt it?

So after all we had to fall,
After wed gone on so long,
We watched them come and we watched them go
But always we could sing our song

Doesnt it seem sad to sing our last goodbye
Instead of just a Lullaby

Take a taxi from the Theatre
Going home alone tonight
This will be the very last time,
I just cant believe it quite.

Nights grow colder as I grow older
But the song remains the same
See old numbers in my folder
I could sing them all again

Maybe theres an everafter
Where good things don't have to end
I will recognise your face there
If we ever meet again.

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