The Cruise of the Calabar (3) The text and melody come from the singing of Emma Vickers of Lancashire and were collected by Fred Hamer. The words were written by Johnny Greenwood in the 1870's. They describe the adventures of a barge on the Manchester/Rochdale Canal. When I were young and in my prime, as lazy as can be; I stepped on board a Bradford fly, her number were twenty-three, As we seet sail fro' Galsey Bay, we geet lost in a terrible fog, An th'only mate aboard that flat were Dookey's Airredale dog. Now when we geet a bit further on, we met owd twenty-one, John Dakin he were steering, he'd a Bradford fly hung on, That Bradford fly were owd Dolly's John, Owd Dolly stood on t'bow deck, When t'tow rope broke and catched owd Dolly a belt at t'back o't'neck. We sailed along quite merrily till we come to Aintree Val, And then it started raining, by gum it went dark wi' cloud, I catched me foot in t'stern rail and went slurring reight on t'deck, And I went heead forst down t'scuttle hole and I nearly broke my neck. Me fayther were doon in t'cabin, he were having a bit o' scoff, He said, now lad be careful, Tha welly knocked t'kettle off, Tha'd better frame and start pumping for I think we've sprung a leak, And I wished I'd never gone booating for my living for to seek. Soon after that we'd an awful shock, we met another ship, And that were old Tom Rover, he were on a Sunda' Schoo' trip, He shouted out "Howd in, you clown", I forgeet and howded out, And we met stem up in t'middle o' cut, By gum and I geet a clout. We ended up w't' booat i't' pawnshop and our crew went to Walton Jail, And I'm th' only survivor who lived to tell the tale, I've 'ed some happy memories, and some bad 'uns too, I vow, But I'll never forget when I war t' fost mate, on board o' the Calibar Emma Vickers, of Burscough, was a ‘source’ of many old songs for the 60s and 70s folk collectors and performers. As a child she often travelled on her grandfather’s horse-drawn working boat, carrying coal along the canal, from Leigh to Tanhouse in Liverpool. Once there, he would load with cotton from the docks to transport and unload at various factories on the way to Leeds. Emma Vickers was interviewed by Bill Addis and Jonathan Coe in 1975 and the interview can be heard on this YouTube video. The recording which can be heard on this page is taken from that video. A recording of Emma Vickers singing this song can be found on "Garners Gay, English Folk Songs recorded by Fred Hamer", Various Artists (EFDSS LP 1006, 1971). From 'Victoria's Inferno' and 'Canal Songs' by Jon Raven.
Sung by Emma Vickers
Emma Vickers pictured in 1977, aged 83
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