"music is the universal language of mankind" -

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


I have been writing songs for the past thirty years or so and so poor is my output that it doesn’t even add up to one a year. I’ve tried picking a subject and composing but nothing of value materialises. Inspiration, if it can be so called, usually comes about as a result of travel or some political event i.e Blair’s election victory and subsequent betrayal, travelling round Ecuador etc. So please find below my meagre output. Just enough to make a single CD, hence 50 years in the making.

This is a song about the decline of craftsmanship and those industrial areas of the north that relied upon it. The subsequent building of large shopping malls, such as Meadowhall between Sheffield and Rotherham and The Metro Centre in the northeast, on these industrial wastelands seemed to me to add insult to injury to those men and women made redundant in the early ‘80s. Meadowhall’s skyline resembles that of Venice except it is plastic. Bargain Town was the name of a store I noticed in Dublin in 1989 and seemed to sum up what the general public now wants. The song was written for the Beverley Festival song competition in 1992. Needles to say it got nowhere. It is written in the key of Am.

Out on the east side from the Don to the Tyne, they’ve cleared all the works away
Gone are the factories, the mills and the mines, only the scars remain
Where is the alehouse, the dram shop, the terrace and street scene
They’ve sacrificed a way of life to build a shoppers’ dream

The shipyards stand idle by the Tyne and Gordie’s out of work
They’ve mechanised the plough and the navvy computerised the clerk
They’ve DIYed the building trade and closed the steel plants down
We’ve sacrificed a way of life to build this bargain town

In bargain town you can buy anything but can’t get British made
Gone are the days when you told your kids ‘do well at school and get a trade’
Where are the skills and the craftsmen, replaced with a gov’t scheme
We’ve sacrificed a way of life to build a shoppers’ dream

Shoppers browse down a marble piazza where money grows on trees
Lovers throw three coins in a fountain whilst giants pour crucible steel
Out of the ruins grew this Venice with a skyline for all to see
We’ve sacrificed a way of life to build a shoppers’ dream

People produce and people consume they both go side by side
If people don’t work then people can’t buy that’s a simple fact of life
It’s not just a regular wage slip but a future for all to see
We’ve sacrificed a way of life to build a shoppers’ dream

Out of the ruins grew this Venice with a skyline for all to see
We’ve sacrificed a way of life to build a shoppers’ dream
At Meadowhall they’ve built a dream replacing all the things there’d been
And now our kids can browse and lurk, they’re selling everything but work

I found this poem in the Sheffield Central Library, Local History Section in the early 1970s for a project I was doing for Rotherham Art College. The poem was sent to the Sheffield Register in 1916 by a Sheffield Lad who it’s believed died at The Battle of the Somme. I always thought it needed to be a song and be sung to commemorate the writer and all the Sheffield Lads who died in both world wars. For years I tried to write a tune for it. Then just by coincidence I found that a tune I had made up many years earlier actually fitted the words and sentiment quite well.

“What would I like to see” No fear!

Not London – no nor Windermere,

Nor Paris with its skies so clear –
Give me a look at Sheffield.

I have it in my mental eye –
Its valleys and its uplands high,

Its smoke-cloud flung against the sky –
The smoke that blackens Sheffield

Its five small rills that slowly steal

Past rolling mill and grinding wheel –
Their very names can make me feel

That I belong to Sheffield.


O’ Loxley, Rivelin, Porter Sheaf!
Flow onward to the Don your chief!

And ripple out your challenge brief –
“Men must be free in Sheffield!”.

I know each street and winding lane –

Oh yes, they’re black! Oh yes, they’re plain!

But let me tread them once again.
And Heaven will shine in Sheffield.

And I can hear, as luck may hap,
The knickerpecker’s “tap, tap, tap
The grindstone’s hiss, the tilts “rap, rap”
As if I was in Sheffield.

O’ Loxley, Rivelin, Porter Sheaf!
Flow onward to the Don your chief!
And ripple out your challenge brief –
“Men must be free in Sheffield!”.

Aye, and that blunt old Sheffield speech

As none else to my soul can reach –

It knows not how to beg, beseech,
The tongue that’s spoke in Sheffield.

But here we are! – “What for?” You Say –
To teach the Boche the time of day,
And keep him far enough away
From setting foot in Sheffield.

O’ Loxley, Rivelin, Porter Sheaf!

Flow onward to the Don your chief!
And ripple out your challenge brief–

“Men must be free in Sheffield!”.

I wrote this after a long discussion with my dad. He told me he was on his way to sign on the dole in1934 when he met two friends on their way were to join the army. They told him they’d been sent by the Labour Exchange to work in the fields of East Anglia for six weeks and there was no way they going back there. He decided there and then to join them on their way to the Recruitment Office. This song is about that generation who was forced into fighting another capitalist war; a war not of their making. 

The 1945 Labour government repaid them with full employment and a Welfare State that would look after their needs from the cradle to the grave. Thatcher came along in 1979 and started to dismantle all that had been achieved by their sacrifices. 

My father was a young man in the thirties

Like many of his age he refused to crawl

He took the royal shilling and went to do his duty
chose the comradeship of war to the evils of the dole

They shipped him to Bombay to check the rising sun

then marched him to China and back again

lost his mates and his health on the jungle trails of Burma

and his hopes and his faith in man on the road to Mandalay

The Chorus
But the forties brought them peace and a place in a council house

the fifties gave them work and rock and roll

the sixties were a shock that screamed from Mick Jagger’s mouth

the seventies brought ‘In Place of Strife’ and a lady without soul

Dressed in his demob he entered civvy life
with a chest full of medals as victory from the dole
45 brought VE day, drunken nights and welfare rights

But the morning gave them rationed goods and a future digging coal

For thirty years he served his time working down a local mine
digging coal to pay his dues towards the new welfare

In 79 he left the mine and hoped to sit with rod and line
But the pension only paid the bills and left the cupboard bare


And the eighties brought decay as the right to work was tossed away

though profits soared and prices rose to please the Tory clan
And the 90s brought them Blair with promises of new welfare

But a politician’s promise is not worth a grain of sand

And now he sits in sheltered home and thinks about his mates who’ve gone
smokes a fag and sips tv and waits the bugler’s call

once every year at armistice he stands around to reminisce
on a life of broken promises and lady without soul

Chorus (twice)

A soul, a soul, a soul cake

Please good miss a soul cake
An apple a pear, a plum or a cherry

Any good thing to make us merry

One for Peter, two for Paul
And three for them that’s on the dole

This song was written after a three week visit to Ecuador with the Sheffield City Morris team who performed at the Festival Folclorico Internacional del Mundo (folk festival of the world) in August 1993. The theme attempts to reflect the extreme contrasts of the country especially between rich and poor. I, along with most other members of the party, fell in love with the country and people. Therefore, this must be a love song of sorts.

Each new morn brings new surprises, in this land of fire and snow.
The sun beats down on fields of plenty; life beats down on the urban poor.

The Chorus
Ecuador una via, Ecuador, Oh Ecuador!
One way forward with the people 
all together sing por favor

Land of contrasts, land of plenty, land of promise yet so far
Sing the words of Juan Leone Marra, Sucre, Martin and Bolivar 


From the forest, high Sierre, occidental, coastal plains
feel the spirit of the Incas, hear the tongues of a golden age


Land of mystery and of culture,
land of music, dance and song
Sing and dance for your children,
for an age that’s still to come


Give the future to your children,
sing tomorrow come the day
Chimbarosa, Cotipaxi,
Ecuador stole my heart away


This is a true story that unfolded during one of my communications classes with a group of wood machinists in the mid 1980s. The young man in question, who was very intelligent, had been out of work for six years at the time. Although the whole episode seemed incredibly funny, the serious matter of young men being forced to sell their manhood to make ends meet was never very far from my mind. The tune is traditional and can be found on Dave Burland’s Dalesman’s Litany (The Black Cook).

Oh listen to me while I tell you my ditty,
concerning a young man in grave want and need
Whilst attending a course in his home northern city,
he heard of a new way himself for to feed
He’d been out of work for many a long year,

brought down by the system reduced by the state

Like millions of others, his unemployed brothers,
he resolved once in college to tell his sad fate

Like those First World War Tommies who went off to Flanders,
leaving their families and shedding their blood
Once again in a country that’s not fit for heroes,

I’m away into Sheffield to sell my manhood
Oh Christ! said the teacher he’s joining the army,
you’ll be sent out to Belfast for term after term
Oh no said the young man you misunderstand me,

I’m away into Sheffield, I’m selling my sperm

The class stopped from their studies like one in amazement,
dropping their Mirrors, their Sports and their a Suns
As the young man explained how the clinic made payment,
such a handy new income it caused them great fun

Does a nurse do it for you one cried in excitement,
if you do it twice weekly do they double the fee

As the whole conversation sank down to the gutter,
Those with their Suns quickly turned to page three

Now this young man left college in high expectation,
carrying the hopes of his class and his peers
As he entered the clinic and saw the receptionist,
such a pretty young women made him red round the ears
I’ve come here today to make a donation,
that’s kind said the lady how much will you leave
What ever is normal in these circumstances,

the young lady smiled and said it’ll be greatly received

Now some folks give plenty, whilst others give little,

by the look on her face
 he could see she was bored
It usually depends on your circumstances,
just tell me young man how much can you afford?

Oh no said the young man you misunderstand me,

I’ve come here today to donate my sperm
The young lady smiled and she showed him an exit,
over there’s Family Planning this here’s Age Concern

Now this story related it caused great amusement,
as the class tried to make him look like a fool
All taunting and jeering like kids in a nursery,
till the ringleader leaned back and fell off his stool
Just think said the teacher of the money it’l earn you,
it’ll pay for you rent whilst doing some good

Oh no said the young man my sperm count was negative,

I’ve no money, no rent and now no manhood

Now the moral of this story is quite explanatious,
you unemployed young men who in Sheffield do lurk

go into your college and improve your learning ,

for it keeps me in songs and it keeps me in work

I wanted to write a song about the condition of the local mining areas ten years after the miners strike. I started with The Colliers Rant a well known song in the north-east and reputedly sung as the anthem when the mines were nationalised in the 40s. ‘Hence the Grimethorpe Band played the miners’ anthem as a tribute to halcyon days’. I also incorporated the first line of the chorus ‘follow the horses Johnny me laddie’ to try and create a metaphor between horses being put out to graze and the miners. The second verse refers to Arthur Scargill. 

You dug to survive like a mole underground,
risking your life just to keep the bills down
And what spare cash you made well you spent in this town
You were born and brought up in this place

The Chorus
There’s a hole in the ground where the money came from

There’s hole in this town now the old mine has gone
and the shop fronts are bordered from despair and fear
With no chance of work and no signs of the old winding gear

One man knew a decade ago,

that the mines would be dead along with king coal
So its time to stand firm don’t give into the dole

Remember your sons and your daughters


So you fought like a dog to keep the old ways,
for the nurses the workers and their rights to a say

But the times little change as back in old days

Betrayed by all trades and their leaders


And the Grimesthorpe band played the miners’ anthem,

as a tribute to halcyon days

Sing follow the horses oh Johnny my laddie
And the miners were forced out to graze

There’s a hole in the ground where the money came from,

remember your past and the things you have done
And don’t ever forget your part in that year

And the name and the faces of those who shut the old winding gear
For there’s no chance of work round here
And the miners were turned out to graze
Like pit ponies turned out to graze.

I was amazed when the The Sun came out in support of The labour Party during the run up to the 1997 General Election. The following day the Guardian had an article headlined Tony’s Basking in The Sun. It seemed to me to be a good title for a song. The song attempts to capture the spirit of May Day. The words are just pie in the sky hopes for the future after so many years of winter. A friend Martin Watson calls it a song of unrequited hope. I believe the tune is traditional.

On May the 1st the workers day with May poles on our mind
We’ll leave the dole and skip to the pole to put the past behind
We’ll form a massive circle to rejoice the times to come
With Tony in the middle welcoming in The Sun

The Chorus
There’ll be no more corruption, there’ll be no more state crime

You can say goodbye to Major and that madman Hesseltine
There’ll be no more dole queues there’ll be jobs for everyone
We’re right behind you Tony now your basking in The Sun

So open up your windows and let The Sun pour in
Take down the bars, unbolt the door throw the guard dog in the bin
And take a walk out free at night and feel the summer air

It’s courtesy of Murdoch and our PM Mr. Blair


The hospitals will cure the sick, there’ll be beds for everyone

And every child will go to school and become an Oxford Don
There’ll be water, water everywhere even though its Sun, Sun, Sun
We’ll utilise the nation whilst basking in The Sun


And the battle’s nearly over now Murdoch is on our side
All you reds still under the bed, there’s no more need to hide

For Benn will have a column the workers’ rights to plea
And Short and Rosa Luxemburg will be featured on page three


So there’ll be no more corruption from this great and glorious day

For Summer is a coming in and Winters gone away

And we’ll all sing hallelujah for the brave new world to come
We’ll skip and dance the time away basking in The Sun

Chorus (twice)

The idea for the song, although it started out as a poem, came early one morning on holiday in Murcia, Spain, whilst waiting up for my youngest daughter to return from one of the local nightclubs. I was reading Laurie Lee’s “AS I walked Out on one Midsummer’s Morning. Looking round I found it hard to believe that all those who went off to fight for the democratically elected gov’t in 1936 would appreciate the modern Spain that caters for British tourists.

As I walked out on one midsummer’s morning
A jubilee since the promise of the name
To taste and smell the riches of the morrow
To see times effect on Laurie Lee’s Spain

There’s still the heat and the scent of jasmine

Cicadas hammering down the heat of the sun

But no more mystery or innocence of purpose

Franco’s costa is the victory won

Still the graffiti of the fresco minded

Of fashion and pop and doodling fun
But no more calls from ‘La Pasionaria’

A million Dolores in a land of one

No more calls of the donkey-peasant
Tanned to leather by the sun and pain
Only the pose of mobile messengers
Ephemeral and plastic like the coast of Spain

Bikini ladies as bare as the landscape
Shaped by olives and the soaring sun

Stirring dreams and dazzling the senses
Stymying the thoughts of Owell’s man

So where are the hopes and promises of yesteryear

Where are the bones of Hemmingway’s Spain
Not drifting on the tides and the sounds of the costas
But walking on the morn of an Andean plain

Stand to the chords of L’Internationale
Raise your hopes above the flash mundane
Remember the aims of Sam Wild’s army
On one midsummer’s morn in Laurie Lee’s Spain

As I walked out on a midsummer’s morning

To taste and smell the past of Spain
There’sonly the words of remembered poets

On one midsummer’s morning in workers Spain

This was written while on a weekend break with friends at Chapel Stile in the Lakes in 2013. The words came during one of the walks which took us past most of the places mentioned. Later I heard a young female singer, on radio, saying her granddad use to say “Sing to the moon and the stars will shine.” And I couldn’t resist using the line in the chorus. Tune came two years later.

No daffodils here to host these hills,
just crisp-like leaves and Autumn tones
And wind formed shapes on Loughrigg Tarn,
That dance and swirl round Wordsworth’s bones

The Chorus
So sing to the moon and the stars will shine
Dance for the Sun on Winter’s morn

Remember the life that’s just passed by

And cherish the life that’s just been born

And ice cold winds o’er Langdale Pikes,
drag rain filled clouds that strain and moan
Then down their way to Skelwith Bridge,
to dance and swirl round Wordsworth’s bones


No skylarks songs to fill this air,

just Corbies twa stand all falorn
By icy waters, Dippers dare
To dance and swirl round Wordsworth’s bones

All the rain and dew from every hill,

will find its way o’er crag and stone
And bursts its way through Skelwith Force
To dance and swirl round Wordsworth’s bones

And soon this place all covered snow,
will light the way to New Year born
And a host of bright new daffodils
Will dance and swirl round Wordsworth’s bone

This song was written after a weekend of dance in Bristol in 1998. During the afternoon drinking session Peter Bellamy’s widow Jenny joined us and we got talking about Peter, a performer I greatly admired. I was shocked to find out that six years had passed since his untimely death. While sitting at home later looking at the Young Tradition sampler the words just came. I called the song The Old Tradition because I felt that Peter got much of his inspiration from the Copper Family and the songs of everyman. The song suggests that he died for his art and not his heart and this is the way I like to think it was.

He was born to sing in harmony and sang of oceans blue.
Of storms and whales and sailor’s tales and foundlands old and new.
Of roving blades and busty maids who in Yarmouth Town roamed free
But the capstan stopped when the anchor dropped far away from his home and sea

The Chorus
And still he sings in harmony as he did when on the land

for the old tradition still lives on in the songs of everyman
He always sang in harmony as he crept on through the night
like old daddy fox on a hunting trip listening out for the farmer’s wife
But the fox is sly and cunning and wise to the hunter’s game
But like an innocent hare in the poachers snare he was trapped by his early fame

He wrote and sang the harmony for kippling’s khaki lads

Of Tommies and Jims and Ghunga Dins and nights in the Kyber Pass
But the soldier fights for money when his Queen and generals call

But the jewel in the crown will quickly fade when the empire starts to fall
He even sang in harmony on his way to Van Diemen’s land

Of cabin boys and sailor’s joys and the tales of the old deck hand

Of shackles and chains and poachers names and those in Newgate Gaol

Though he found his way into Botany Bay he’d searched for the Holy Grail
And still he sings in harmony as he did when in his teens
Amongst the whores and poaching boys beneath the barley, oats and beans
And still they sing with gusto as they did when on the land
For the old tradition still lives on, in the songs of everyman
And he always sang in harmony and sang about us all
Of poachers, sailors, little tailors, soldiers on the brawl
And still he sings with gusto as he did when on the land
For the old tradition still lives on, in the songs of everyman

Whilst on holiday in Annecy, Anne my wife decided she would like to try her hand at paragliding from 4000ft up across the lake strapped to a French instructor. The night before the event the idea that I could lose her one way or the other concentrated my mind and I wrote this little ditty. I was also influenced by the number of people who also expressed the desire to do it but couldn’t because of numerous flimsy reasons. So the song is really about the doers and the dreamers. I am grateful to my friend Linda Callaghan for informing me that the bright coloured canvases sailing across the skies were made of technolaniuma, a material first produced by the Romans 2000 years ago and only rediscovered in the past few years. She later informed me she made it up.

Whilst walking with my true love beneath the Col du Forclass
Walking with my true love in the fullness of the day
What de we spy but a bunch of bonny Frenchman

Leaping from the mountain tops to pass the time away

The Chorus
Dancing so high like a prima ballerina
Sailing the sky like a clipper on the sea
we reach as we try to join them on their journey
Then watch our lives drift by from the safety of our dreams

A sky of technolanium, the colours of the rainbow
The air filled with rhythm as the thermals danced in play
When down swooped Phillipe on his tandom parapenter
And cradled in his thighs he stole my love away

Some say they flew to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower
Others said to Lyon to settle by the Rhone
But I took the car, the kids and my memories
Caught the Dover ferry to live a life alone


So listen all you young men there’s warning in my story

Never take your sweethearts to the mountains in France
When Frenchmen are leaping young maids are waiting
to cradle in their thighs and do the thermal dance
Chorus (twice)

I wrote this after my wife Anne received a letter from the Works and Pensions Department saying they were sad to hear about my death and, of course, my pension would cease from the date of my passing away. It was just after Christmas and so I thought it needed to be in the form of a Wassail. 
It is so many weeks since we saw the evening Sun 
And Solstice time has sung its rhyme and wassail time has come 
Here’s to you and your family, young lovers and old friends 
We’ll welcome in the New Year now we’ve seen the old one end 

So here we come a wandering upon this wintery night 
And here we come a wassailing to make the future bright 
Here’s to you and your family, young lovers and old friends 
We’ll welcome in the New Year now we’ve seen the old one end 

God bless the old and sickly whose time is nearly done
 And all those unsung carers who’re paid a poultry sum
 Here’s to you and your family, young lovers and old friends 
We’ll welcome in the New Year now we’ve seen the old one end 

So think on those who have no home who sleep from door to door
 And damn the rich and famous who greed for more and more
 Here’s to you and your family, young lovers and old friends
 We’ll welcome in the New Year now we’ve seen the old one end 

God bless the young and hearty whose futures are unclear 
We wish them work and plenty and a prosperous New Year 
Here’s to you and your family, young lovers and old friends
 We’ll welcome in the New Year now we’ve seen the old one end

 God damn the politicians who lie and cheat each day
 And damn the institutions that help them on their way 
Here’s to you and your family, young lovers and old friends 
We’ll welcome in the New Year now we’ve seen the old one end

 And Damn the Works and Pensions who declared me dead and gone
 But like the crops I’ve risen again to sing my wassail song
 Here’s to you and your family, young lovers and old friends
 We’ll welcome in the New Year now we’ve seen the old one end 

God bless the keepers of this pub and all that dwell within
 So raise your glass and raise your voice and sing the New Year in 
Here’s to you and your family, young lovers and old friends 
We’ll welcome in the New Year now we’ve seen the old one end 

God bless the bloke who wrote these words and made you all to sing
 And the mummers, bands and dancers that make the streets to ring 
Here’s to you and your family, young lovers and old friends 
We’ll welcome in the New Year now we’ve seen the old one end 

The old years gone forever and God bless it and good cheer 
I’ll raise my glass and wish you all ‘A Happy New Year ‘
Here’s to you and your family, young lovers and old friends
 We’ll welcome in the New Year now we’ve seen the old one end

Sheffield music sessions and clubs

in lockdown