Mudcat Café message #770498 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #26470   Message #770498
Posted By: Jim Dixon
23-Aug-02 - 07:05 PM
Thread Name: Origins: The Fairfield Crane/Shipyard Apprentice
Lyrics and comments copied from

(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)

Susannesīs 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)