Lock Keepers of the Waterways

© Graeme Meek 2008



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The lock keeper’s a jovial man
Who helps us on our way.
He takes the tolls from boatmen
As they travel through each day.
He keeps the locks all working
And he minds the pumps as well.
He’s surely a contented man
As I have heard them tell.

To ease the path of boats, the gates,
He’ll open and he’ll shut
And he lives a life that’s rich and full
In the cottage by the cut.

When we’ve been travelling half the night
For many’s the long mile,
At Braunston, Henry Hollyer
Greets us with a friendly smile.
A cheery wife with joyful charm
Will help us on our way
And a bright-eyed daughter’s cheerful smile,
For us, will make our day.

At Maisemore when we’ve ploughed the cut
For hours and hours on end,
Then Thomas Cox will see us through
And safely round the bend.
There’s nothing too much trouble
And he’ll pass the time of day.
Then we’ll put away the windlass
And we’ll soon be on our way.

At Bray out in the open then
Where Thames smooth waters glide
There’s Edward Morris keeps the lock
Where we’ll be safe inside.
We’ll moor up then beside the bank
Until the early morn,
When we’ll be off again once more
Before the hour of dawn.
The lock keepers were invaluable on the canals. Their main job was maintenance of the locks and the surrounding canal but they were sometimes called on to collect tolls; look after reservoirs and pumps; and police their areas of the canal for drunken boaters and thieves. Sometimes they assisted in the passage of boats but were not paid for this. Accounts often seem to suggest they were cheerful characters, happy to pass the time of day with passing boatmen. All the lock keepers in the song were genuine people from the latter part of the 19th century.

Graeme Meek, who wrote the song and kindly provided the words, music and additional information, is a member of song duo 'Life and Times' and dance band 'Time of Your Life'.

See www.lifeandtimes.info, www.timeofyourlife.info, www.lifeandtimes.org.uk & www.myspace.com/broadsidesrevisited

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