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johnhill Lyr Req: Building Up and Tearing England Down (10) Lyr Add: BUILDING UP AND TEARING ENGLAND DOWN 20 May 98

Dominic Behan

I've won a hero's name
With McAlpine and Costain
With FitzPatrick, Murphy Ash and the Wimpey's gangs
I've been often on the road (1)
On me way to draw the dole
When there's nothing left to do for Johnny Laing
And I used to think that God
Made the mixer pick and hod
So that Paddy might know hell above the ground
I've had gangers big and tough
Tell me tales old and rough (2)
When you're building up and tearing England down.

In a tunnel underground
A young Limerick man was found
He was built into the New Victoria Line
When the Bonus gang had past
Sticking from the concrete cast
Was the face of little Charlie Joe Devine
And the ganger man McGirck
Said Big Paddy hates the work
When a gas main blew and he flew off the ground
Oh they swore he said gone slack
Won't be here until I'm back
Keep on building up and tearing England down

I was on the shuttering jam
On the day that Jack McCann
Got the better of his stammer in a week
He fell from the shuttering jam
And that poor old stuttering man
He was never ever more inclined to speak.
And I saw old poor McCall
From a big fly-over fall
Into a concrete mixer spinning round
Though it wasn't his intent
He got a fine head of cement
When he was building up and tearing England down.

I remember Carrier Jack
With his hod upon his back
How he swore one day, he'd set the world on fire
But his face they've never seen
Since his shovel it cut clean
Through the middle of the big high tension wire
For no more like Robin Hood
Will he roam through Cricklewood
Or dance around the pubs in Camden Town
Oh but let no man complain
Sure no Pat can die in vain
When He's building up and tearing England down.

So come all you navies bold
Do not think that English gold
Is just waiting to be taken from each sod
Or the likes of you and me
Will ever get an O.B.E.
Or a knighthood for good service to the hod
There's a concrete master race
For to keep you in your place
And a ganger man to kick you to the ground
If you ever try to take
Part of what the bosses make
When you're building up and tearing England down.


1. It's not clear in the 4th line whether it is "I've been off and on the road"
or "I've been often on the road" (pron. offen)
2. I can't make this line out at all. It sounds just like Baz's phonetic description in his notes. I've repeated what Baz put down but it isn't correct. Obviously Ronnie Drew and Noel Murphy must have similar accents

There are one or two other words that I'm not entirely convinced about:
a) "I saw old poor McCall" sounds more like "I saw old balls McCall" but I'd don't think it can be that
b) "Said Big Paddy hate's the work" may not be quite correct
c) "Oh they swore he said gone slack Won't be here until I'm back" This doesn't make any sense so I don't believe this is right either

I'd welcome any comments

I don't know if Dominic Behan is still around. I noticed a record of his for sale today on the 'net dated 1958. I don't think this song is that old. It sounds no earlier than '70's to me

John Hill

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