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Origins: The Fairfield Crane/Shipyard Apprentice

14 Oct 00 - 10:32 PM (#319038)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: River Clyde
From: mg

there's another great one that has a line "it was tears that made the Clyde.." about shipbuilding...perhaps by Ewen

14 Oct 00 - 11:45 PM (#319061)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: River Clyde
From: Malcolm Douglas

That's "The Fairfield (sometimes, Shipyard) Apprentice", written by Archie Fisher, Bobby Campbell and Norman Buchan.  Not in the DT or the Forum, it seems; perhaps I should post it when I have a bit more time...


16 Oct 00 - 07:13 PM (#320293)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: River Clyde
From: Susanne (skw)

Try here

23 Aug 02 - 07:05 PM (#770498)
From: Jim Dixon

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)

24 Aug 02 - 05:21 PM (#770940)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: River Clyde
From: CraigS

Stanley Baxter (a houumorous Glaswegian institution) had a parody called The Pong of the Clyde - anybody got that one?

25 Aug 02 - 04:10 AM (#771163)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: River Clyde

words and music by R.Y.Bell and Ian Gourley
1957 Pub: James S Kerr 79 Berkley Street Glasgow for sheet music (and a map of the Firth of Clyde! Jim Mclean

25 Aug 02 - 09:38 AM (#771239)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: River Clyde
From: The Walrus

I must confess, when saw the title of this thread, I thought it might be about the Gallipoli landings - one of the ships used for landing troops was the "River Clyde" (IIRC the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and Royal Munster Fusiliers were badly cut up trying to land from this ship).


26 Aug 02 - 05:17 AM (#771632)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: River Clyde
From: GUEST,Scabby Doug

I like to sing the "Shipyard Apprentice", and as it ends on an unresolved note, tail it off with the first verse and chorus of "Song of the Clyde".

I like the way that the fairly hard edge to Archie Fisher's song makes the second one much softer and more wistful. Also, while people don't tend to sing along with the Shipyard Apprentice, they really like to join in with Song of the Clyde.



02 Jun 16 - 07:32 PM (#3793474)
Subject: The Fairfield Crane
From: Joe Offer

After a wonderful concert from Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham Sunday, we had a singaround Wednesday with Keith and Sylvia and a gaggle of wonderful singers. My friend Allan MacLeod, who has one of the most beautiful male voices I have ever heard, sang "The Fairfield Crane." I've heard Allan sing this song before, and he often tells the story of how he'd see that crane daily when he lived in Glasgow when he was young. People in Glasgow could tell the economy from that crane. When the crane was working, the economy was good.
Now all the cranes are gone, but for one (not the Fairfield Crane) that is preserved for us who visit as tourists. Biggest damn crane I've ever seen.
Here's a nice recording of the song:I wish I had a recording of Allan singing it.