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Richard Mellish Lyr Add/Req: The Manchester Canal (29) Lyr Add/Req: The Manchester Canal 04 Jan 20


A posting on another thread prompted me to start listening to Harry Boardman and Dave Hillery's album Trans Pennine, which I had downloaded a few years ago but then forgotten about. One of the songs sung by Harry Boardman is The Manchester Canal. Nonsense canal boat songs, of which this is one, have always appealed to me, so I am minded to learn it.

(There are some existing general threads about English canal songs, but those concern serious songs, not the nonsense ones.)

I have transcribed the words but there are a few that I'm not sure of and would be grateful to have clarified. The tune is the one best known as Yankee Doodle, though it has been used for many other songs before and since that one.

Oh the SS Irwell left this port, the stormy sea to cross.
They heaved the lead and went ahead, on a voyage to Barton Moss.
No fairer ship e'er left the slip from this port in the [town?]
Than the boats that plough the waters of the Manchester Canal.

The third day out or thereabout, a great storm swept the main.
The captain called his officer: I just forget his name.
"You see that light there on the right?" "Aye aye" he did exclaim.
"Well it's the Wilson brewery lightship at the ['ead/end?] of Ancoats Lane.

The captain's brow was darkened for he saw a storm was brewin'.
And the engineer reported that the 'orse it wanted shoein'.
"Is there a chart aboard this barque?" he asked of one or two.
The captain he was ashy pale, and so were all the crew.

"By gum we've lost our reckoning. Whatever shall we do?
We must be near to Bailey Bridge* and the banks of Pin Mill Brew."
Then all became confusion as the stormy winds did roar.
The captain wished himself and crew were safe again on shore.

"Let go the anchor, boys", he cried, "for I am sorely puzzled.
The mate is drunk and in his bunk. See that the cook is muzzled,
We're short o' grub in this 'ere tub, and we are far from land.
There's not an oat in this 'ere boat and the engine's broken down."

"Close reef the sales", the bosun cried, "We're in a great dilemma.
Just run [the pawl?] from [Ona Bay?], she cannot stand the weather.
She's sprung a leak. Now all is lost. Let each man do 'is best.
For soon she'll be a total wreck on the shoals of Throstle Nest†."

But soon the storm abated: it was rather over-rated.
When captain, crew and officers were quickly congregated.
They searched the chart in every part, to find the situation.
They were east-nor-east of Bailey Bridge, just south of Salford station.

* Bailey Bridge may refer to the bridge over the Irwell between New Bailey Street (named for the adjacent prison, which was there from 1790 to 1868) and Bridge Street, though an 1845 map does not name the bridge and a 1921 map identifies it as Albert Bridge.

† There are places called Throstle Nest but I can't find one anywhere near Manchester. There is a Throstles Nest pub in Old Trafford, but that's nowhere near the canal.


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