Mudcat Café message #2905839 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #129436   Message #2905839
Posted By: Jim Carroll
13-May-10 - 03:51 AM
Thread Name: Req: Songs of political despair
On second thoughts:
MacColl wrote this for the 1968 Festival of Fools. It accompanied a news item commenting on the increase in the number of suicides of (mainly) men who had been presented with a watch by their employers and then forcibly retired from their jobs.
It was referred to by psychiatrists at the time as 'The Gold Watch Syndrome' - retired people not being able to cope with retirement.

Tune; Six Dukes Went A-fishing.

1. As I was a-walking down by the Thames side
I spied a dead body washed away by the tide.

2. Borne along on the river, the body draws near
To the oily black water by Westminster Pier.

3. Grey-stubbled face with its halo of scum;
Eyes staring sightless at the high noonday sun.

4. The river-police take him by his shoulders and feet,
And bundle him round with a tarpaulin sheet.

5. They took him to Southwark, to the mortuary there;
They hosed down his body and shaved off his hair.

6. They weighed him and measured him under mercury arcs,
They noted his scars and distinguishing marks.

7. Numbered he lies on a bed of white tiles,
His life-story entered in the mortuary files.

8. They tagged his belongings, his clothes and a ring,
A pipe, some tobacco and a small length of string.

9. A pension-book the bearing the name Thomas Black,
An old-fashioned timepiece inscribed on the back.

10. For fifty years' service, for loyalty supreme-
From grateful employers, this token of esteem.

11. A good quieter worker, not given to strife;
Who never once questioned the boss in his life.

12. They gave him a watch when they bade him goodbye,
So that he could measure his life slipping by.

13. It ticked through the empty days, loud in his ears;
A bright death-watch beetle undermining the years.

14. Then one act of protest, one a moment of strife;
They called it a crime when he took his own life.

15. Now this lump of grey silence has finished with time-
He demanded so little-and that was his crime.