Roses and Castles

© Graeme Meek 2008



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If you should go down to the towpath today
You’ll see all the narrowboats making their way;
Their liveries, proudly, are all on display
And so are the roses and castles.

Chorus :
Along with the diamonds of yellow and white;
Along with the company name, painted bright;
Along with the horses, a beautiful, sight,
You’ll always find roses and castles

Of all things the narrowboat artists may paint,
There’s one thing with which you must surely acquaint,
For some think they’re gaudy and some think they’re quaint,
But why are there roses and castles?

The rose is a bloom that grows regal and tall;
Its beauty remains, with its back to the wall;
The rose is the emblem of England, and all,
So that’s why there’s roses and castles.

Victoria came and the railways too;
To keep up a living, the boatmen all knew,
To live on their boats, it was all they could do
And an Englishman’s home is his castle.

The railway has come and the cargo has gone;
The age of the narrowboat nearly is done
But there’s one tradition that surely lives on,
And that’s all the roses and castles.

No-one quite knows why the traditional painting on narrowboats always seems to include roses and castles. This song offers one possible explanation. It is said that the boatmen painted the things they saw along the canals but similar traditional scenes are to be found on boats in Holland, Germany & Scandinavia and as far away as Turkey and Bangladesh. There have also been suggested parallels with Romany art.

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,,,, &

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