I. C. I. SONG (CHEMICAL WORKERS SONG)
A process man am I and I'm telling you no lie.
I've worked and breathed among the fumes.
That trail across the sky.
There's thunder all around me and poison in the air.
There's a lousy smell that smacks of hell. And dust all in my hair.
Cho: But you go boys go.
They time your every breath.
And every day you're in this place .
you're two days nearer death, but you go.
I've worked among the spinners I've breathed in the oil and smoke.
I've shovelled up the gypsum till it nigh on makes you choke.
I've stood knee deep in cyanide gone sick with a caustic burn.
I've been working rough I've seen enough to make your stomach turn.
There's overtime there's bonus opportunities galore.
The young men like the money. Aye they all come back for mare.
Ah but soon you're knocking on. You look older than you should.
For every bob made on this job you pay with flesh and blood.
Repeat first verse.
But the following extract from Sean Damer's 'Glasgow - Going for a Song' illustr
ates the song's theme quite well, I think.
[1990:] In the period before the First World War, a great deal of industrial wor
k was highly dangerous. There was no such thing as Health and Safety at Work reg
ulations; the life of a worker was literally cheap. Some of the works must have
appeared like Dante's 'Inferno'. [...]
The terrible costs of working in this particular inferno [in the mid-19th centur
y] were revealed some thirty years later, in 1889, in a newspaper interview with
one of the chemical workers [of Tennant's St Rollox Chemical Works in Glasgow]:
"[...] If a man goes to the works young he will be past working before he reach
es forty years of age [...]. For instance, you will easily know a chrome-worker
from the fact that, as a rule, the bridge of his nose is completely eaten away.
[...]" The majority of the chemical workers [in Glasgow] were Irish; they were p
aid an average of 15s 6d per week, a pitiful wage. [...] The dreadful conditions
in these chemical plants were the subject of Keir Hardie's famous attacks on Lo
rd Overtoun in 1899. Overtoun was the proprietor of a large chemical works on th
e Glasgow-Rutherglen border, and also a noted philanthropist and man of religion
. Keir Hardie, in a series of articles in the socialist newspaper 'Labour Leader
' - subsequently reprinted as pamphlets - exposed the fearful working conditions
in Overtoun's chemical works. He confirmed that the workers rapidly lost the ca
rtilage in their nose working with these noxious chemicals, but also suffered fr
om 'chrome holes' being burnt in their body, and respiratory diseases. Moreover,
they worked a twelve-hour day, seven-day week - with no time off for meals, and
in foul conditions. (Damer, Glasgow 62f)
Recorded a few years ago by the Canadian group, Great Big Sea on their album "Up
" . Lorre Wyatt recorded it on his Roots and Branches for Folk-Legacy.