The Life of the Boatman

by William Bates

boat

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The life of a boatman is tough and hard
Making a living out of old Tooley's yard
But it won't be long if we skimp and save
And I'll make Number One then there's money to be made

It's the age of a boat towed by a horse
From morning to dusk we follow the course
No talk of pollution, no talk of the cold
It's survival that matters, which favours the bold

With a length of hemp rope attached to the tow
The progress we make is steady but slow
For a bag of good oats, and a chance at the hay
Fifteen hands of good muscle will pull through the day

The choice of a boatman is limited at best
To deliver the goods before we can rest
How far can we travel before we're tired through
How much must we take 'til we know that it's through

After a day at the tiller the job does not end
The horse needs feeding at the next bend
But with four good feet that are sturdy and sound
If we pull together we'll make the next pound

Oh it's hard being a boatman but at least we have work
To keep job and a roof it's best not to shirk
Away from pollution it can't be all bad
With life in the city all choking and sad

In exchange for wages we accept our lot
Queuing for days to maintain our slot
With a draft that's now shallow and an empty hold
It's time to move on to collect our next load

The life of a boatman is tough and hard
The life of a boatman is tough and hard

On the above video this song is sung by Brian Chignell, a friend of the author. Brian supplied me with William Bates' lyrics and put the tune to them.