Where the Working Boats Went

© Graeme Meek 2008



Song Menu






A thanks to James Brindley and John Rennie too;
To Telford and others of fame;
Without their bold vision for transport, it’s true,
Our landscape would not be the same.
A thanks to the navvies, a thanks to the Duke,
To Jessop and all of his pals.
These are the people we must thank the most
For they gave us all the canals.

We’ll hire us a narrowboat, we’ll go in style
And we’ll travel the countryside, mile after mile.
We’ll cruise over England from Yorkshire to Kent
As we travel the cut where the working boats went.

Two hundred years on and the boatmen had gone
And abandoned their boats in the mud.
But with boats run aground there were many still found
They’d the waterways still in their blood.
Their boats they refitted to cruise the canals
Right from the south up to the north.
With derision and scorn was the pleasure boat born
As upon the canals they set forth.

There’s holidaymakers where once there was coal
With all of their friends in the crew.
Would Brindley and Jessop both turn in their graves
If the use of their labours they knew?
Or perhaps they’d rejoice in the waterways’ life
So long after many great men
Foretold of their downfall to railway and road
In judgement again and again.

But what of the future upon our canals?
How can we expect them to be?
Pollution and traffic upon all our roads
May yet be the obvious key
To launch a renaissance of waterways, old,
And those that are still to be made.
With bold inspiration and vision that’s sound
We soon could return them to trade.


This YouTube video was recorded by Tony Haynes at the Whitehorse Folk Festival, Grove, in 2012.

After a history of conveying cargoes and then decline in the 1950s which almost saw the complete abandonment of the canal system, today Britain's canals are mainly used for leisure although some cargoes are still carried. With congested roads and concerns over pollution, we may yet see a renaissance in our canals with cargoes once more being carried in places where it is suitable to do so.

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

Recorded on :