Henry's Songbook

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Chemical Workers Song (or: I.C.I. Song)

  • Ron Angel

    Go, boy, go
    They time your every breath
    Every day you're in this place
    You're two days nearer death
    But you go

    A process man am I, I'm telling you no lie
    I work and breathe among the fumes that trail across the sky
    There's thunder all around me, poison in the air
    A lousy smell that smacks of hell, dust all in my hair

    I've worked among the spinners, breathed in the oily smoke
    Shovelled at the gypsum that nigh on makes you choke
    I've stood knee-deep in cyanide, got sick with the caustic burn
    Been working rough, seen enough to make your stomach turn

    There's overtime and bonus, opportunities galore
    Young men like the money, they all come back for more
    But soon you're knocking on, looking older than you should
    Every bob made on this job is earned with sweat and blood

    Repeat 1

    As sung by Hamish Imlach

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1989:] In Austria they had a wine scandal, and all the world heard about it. In Britain, we've had an egg scandal, a meat scandal, a milk scandal, a cheese scandal - there's almost nothing left to eat in Britain that's not poisoned. A song for the British food industry ...
    At the start of this summer Mrs Thatcher and her Minister of Agriculture Nicholas Ridley, organised a celebration of British agriculture and food which was to be held in Hyde Park. For the celebration they got pigs - Irish, Scottish, West English, North English pigs who all travelled to London, unwillingly. It was very hot weather, and all the pigs got caught in the London traffic jams. So by the time the pigs arrived at the Feast of Food and Agriculture they were half dead with heat. Still, none of them would drink the London water. They had to pour water over them to stop them from dying from heat, and they still wouldn't drink the London tap water. Finally they got water from Harrods' private well, and the pigs drank that. And the comment from the Minister of Agriculture was, What do pigs know? Scientists tell me it's safe. (Intro Hamish Imlach)

  • [1990:] In the period before the First World War, a great deal of industrial work was highly dangerous. There was no such thing as Health and Safety at Work regulations; the life of a worker was literally cheap. Some of the works must have appeared like Dante's 'Inferno'. [...]
    The terrible costs of working in this particular inferno [in the mid-19th century] were revealed some thirty years later, in 1889, in a newspaper interview with one of the chemical workers [of Tennant's St Rollox Chemical Works in Glasgow]: "[...] If a man goes to the works young he will be past working before he reaches forty years of age [...]. For instance, you will easily know a chrome-worker from the fact that, as a rule, the bridge of his nose is completely eaten away. [...]"
    The majority of the chemical workers [in Glasgow] were Irish; they were paid an average of 15s 6d per week, a pitiful wage. [...] The dreadful conditions in these chemical plants were the subject of Keir Hardie's famous attacks on Lord Overtoun in 1899. Overtoun was the proprietor of a large chemical works on the Glasgow-Rutherglen border, and also a noted philanthropist and man of religion. Keir Hardie, in a series of articles in the socialist newspaper 'Labour Leader' - subsequently reprinted as pamphlets - exposed the fearful working conditions in Overtoun's chemical works. He confirmed that the workers rapidly lost the cartilage in their nose working with these noxious chemicals, but also suffered from 'chrome holes' being burnt in their body, and respiratory diseases. Moreover, they worked a twelve-hour day, seven-day week - with no time off for meals, and in foul conditions. (Damer, Glasgow 62f)

  • [1999:] [Ron Angel] comes from Middlesborough which is in Cleveland, in the UK. The whole area is covered with chemical works, the main employer being ICI. [...] It was written in 1964. (Keith Selby,, 26 Oct)


Quelle: England


 Sammlung : Susanne Kalweit (Kiel)
Layout : Henry Kochlin (Schwerin)

aktualisiert am 15.10.1999