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Weel May The Keel Row

  • (Trad)

    Chorus:
    Weel may the keel row, the keel row, the keel row
    Weel may the keel row that my wee laddie's in
    Weel may the keel row, the keel row, the keel row
    Weel may the keel row that my wee laddie's in

    As I came through Sandgate, through Sandgate, through Sandgate
    As I came through Sandgate I heard a lassie sing
    As I came through Sandgate, through Sandgate, through Sandgate
    As I came through Sandgate I heard a lassie sing

    Wha' s like my Johnnie, sae leish, sae blythe, sae bonnie
    He's foremost 'mang the mony keel lads o' the Tyne
    Wha' s like my Johnnie, sae leish, sae blythe, sae bonnie
    He's foremost 'mang the mony keel lads o' the Tyne

    He wears a blue bonnet, blue bonnet, blue bonnet
    He wears a blue bonnet, a dimple on his chin
    He wears a blue bonnet, blue bonnet, blue bonnet
    He wears a blue bonnet, a dimple on his chin

    leish - lithe

    (as sung by The Ian Campbell Folk Group)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1951:] A Border song from Newcastle and Tyneside. It was, oddly enough, first printed in Edinburgh about 1770 in 'A Collection of Favourite Scots Tunes'. The word 'keel' means, in Tyneside dialect, a boat. (Penguin Book of English Folk Songs 112)

  • [1964:] Most of us learned it at school, where it was an established part of the repertoire for singing lessons and concerts. It is basically a North-Eastern song, but it seems to exist in many other parts of England. (Notes 'Presenting The Ian Campbell Folk Group')

  • [1974:] The word "keel" is from an Anglo-Saxon derivation meaning ship, but on the Tyne and Wear it was applied to a clumsy great oval, flat-bottomed boat used for carrying twenty tons of coal at a time from the dykes or staiths upriver to the collier ships at berth in the harbour. According to Maxine Baker, 'The boat was steered by two men known as "keel bullies". They used a large oar at the stern which was called a "swarpe". A pole with an iron point was used in shallow water - called a "set" on the Wear and a "pug" on the Tyne. They would walk up and down the boat wielding these and pushing the boat along, in a similar way to that used in punts. The keelmen were famous for their hard lives, drinking and knocking their wives around.' Hence The Sandgate lass's lamentation. Most of the verses were first printed by John Bell in 1812, including the third, fourth and fifth printed here [He'll set and row; May all the press gangs perish; And now he's in the union], which he got from a timber merchant called Thomas Thompson. The last verse is of 20th century origin, though despite the old song which used "as lang as keel gans down River Tyne" as a metaphor for eternity, the keels have not plied for a century or more. (Dallas, Toil 177)

  • [1996:] 'Keelers' was the name of the men who sailed a particular type of boat, a flat-bottom barge called the 'keel'. It comes from the Saxon and was originally spelt 'ceol'. The keels had been sailing on our river - the Tyne, where we all come from - since the 13th century. The last ones disappeared this century. They were propelled by a single mast, a single sail and an oar. When they were sailing with the wind they used the sail, when they were sailing against the wind or against the river they used the big oar. A three-man crew, and they carried a single cargo, always coal, because nowadays the river is navigable for about ten miles, up to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In the old days, in the last century and before that, the big ships couldn't get up the river. So the big ships used to lie at the river mouth, at Tynemouth, and the boats had to carry the coal down to the brigs and barques that carried the coal off all over the world. They carried about twenty tons of coal at a time. Similar vessels existed on most European rivers, in Germany and Sweden and Holland. (The Keelers, intro Hull Shanty Festival, 'Seasongs', Radio Bremen, 27. Juni 1997)

Quelle: England

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