Henry's Songbook

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The Fairfield Crane

  • Archie Fisher / Norman Buchan / Bobby Campbell

    I was born in the shadow of the Fairfield crane
    Where the blast of a freighter's horn
    Was the very first sound that reached my ears
    On the morning I was born
    I lay and I listened to the shipyard sound
    Coming out of the great unknown
    And was sung to sleep by the mother tongue
    That was to be my own

    But before I grew to be one year old
    I heard the sirens scream
    As a city watched in the blacked-out night
    A wandering searchlight's beam
    And then at last I awoke and rose
    To my first day of peace
    For I'd learned that the battle to stay alive
    Was never going to cease

    I sat and I listened to my father tell
    Of the days that he once knew
    When you either sweated for a measly wage
    Or you joined the parish queue
    As times grew harder day by day
    Along the riverside
    I oft-times heard my mother say
    It was tears that made the Clyde

    Now I've sat in the school from nine till four
    And I've dreamed of the world outside
    Where the riveter and the plater watch
    Their ships slip to the Clyde
    I've served my time behind shipyard gates
    And I sometimes mourned my lot
    But if any man tries to mess me about
    I'll fight like my father fought

    (as sung by Archie Fisher)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1972:] Shipbuilding is synonymous with Clydeside and it was therefore this local industry that Bobby Campbell, Archie Fisher and Norman Buchan, MP, chose as their subject when asked by Ewan MacColl and Charles Parker to write a song connected with school-leavers [...]. (Notes Ray Fisher, 'The Bonnie Birdy')

    [1977:] It expresses the thoughts and feelings of a Clydeside shipyard worker who has grown up through the Forties and Fifties. (Notes 'The Battlefield Band')

    [1984:] This song was first heard in a series of six radio programmes called 'Landmarks' (subtitle, 'From the cradle to the grave'), 1964-65. Like the 'Radio Ballads' series [...], these were devised and presented by Charles Parker in conjunction with Ewan MacColl. The Fairfield apprentice song was in the second programme of the series, entitled 'School'. Ray Fisher says, "It pinpointed the hardships on Clydeside in the 'bad old days' - parish queues and all - people's utter dependence on the Clyde's industries." (Munro, Revival 159)

    [1990:] The Kvaerner Shipyard in Govan [...] used to be Govan Shipbuilders, which used to be Upper Clyde Shipbuilders [UCS] of work-in fame, which used to be Fairfield's of even greater fame. (Damer, Glasgow 21)
    [Elder's] shipyard, known as the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Works since 1890, specialised in both naval vessels and fast transatlantic liners. No less than 55 warships were built between 1870 and 1909, and another twelve were engined in the Fairfield. (Damer, Glasgow 38)

    [1990:] The Shipyard Apprentice, also known as Fairfield Crane, is the most enduring [of Archie Fisher's songs]. It was written for a BBC radio series called 'Landmarks', the lyrics as a joint production with Norman Buchan, with a tune by Glasgow fiddler and Broomhill Bum Bobby Campbell. None of Norman's verses for the programme have been kept in Archie's sung version. As the fortunes of the Clyde shipyards have changed over the years other hands have wanted to change the song. Alasdair Robertson and John McCreadie have both made amended versions. (McVicar, One Singer One Song 24)

Quelle: Scotland

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