The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #25445   Message #2092525
Posted By: Barry Finn
02-Jul-07 - 02:01 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Firing the Mauretania
Hi Batty, I'm over here. I did sing this at one time don't remember it now. You may have heard Neil, my singing partner, singing this at the PR, we were going to record it but. I got it from Steve Canright who sang the lead & I was part of the chorus on Radiano's CD "Time Ashore Is Over". Well Steve got it from Bermuda Quadrangle which Jeff Warner was a part of, you may have heard Jeff sing this at the Press Room, I have. They, (BQ) I believe, got it from '"The Bosun's Locker" published by Stan Hugill who had it from Redd Sullivan of the Thameside"(roughly copied from notes of Radiano's CD jacket)
Here's a post from another thread on the subject of this song.

From: radriano - PM
Date: 30 Aug 02 - 06:52 PM

Lead: Stephen Canright

In nineteen hundred twenty four
Found myself in Liverpool on the floor
So I went to the Cunard office door
Got a job on the Mauretania

Oh, firing the Mauretania
She surely is a slaver
To Hell with the Mauretania

The Mauretania's a wonderful sight
Sixty-four fires a-burning bright
But you'll shovel coal from morning to night
A-firing the Mauretania

The coal was so hard and full of slate
And that's what got to the four-to-eight
It very soon wearied the four-to-eight
A-firing the Mauretania

The eight-to-twelve were much better men
But they were weary by half part ten
So tired and weary by half past ten
A-firing the Mauretania

The fan's on the bum and fire won't draw
And that's what got to the twelve-to-four
It very soon buggered the twelve-to-four
A-firing the Mauretania

So come all you firemen, listen to me
The Mauretania spells purgatory
Stick to the coast, don't go deep sea
A-firing the Mauretania

The correct spelling of this ship's name is Mauretania. I first heard this sung by Stephen Canright at one of the Hyde Street Pier shanty sings in San Francisco. Stephen got the song from the cassette tape A Beautiful Life by the group Bermuda Quadrangle. David Jones, one of the singers in the group thinks the song was written by Redd Sullivan who, along with his partner Martin Windsor, ran a very successful folk club, The Troubadour, in London from the early 1960s to the 1980s. Jeff Warner, who sings the lead on this song, agrees with David. The times, 4 to 8, etc., refer to the 4 hours on and 4 hours off watches. In their liner notes Bermuda Quadrangle says "The Fireman's Lament" or "Firing the Mauretania" was entered in English shantyman Stan Hugill's "The Bosun's Locker" column in Spin,The Folksong Magazine, Volume 1, # 9, 1962. Hugill's notes read: "Words collected and arranged by Redd Sullivan of the Thameside 4, sometime fireman himself. Tune: variant of "Paddy Works on the Railway."

Stephen Canright, who is also the Chief Curator for the Maritime Museum in San Francisco, sent me the following notes on Firing the Mauretania:

"When I first heard this song on a tape by the Bermuda Quadrangle, I was intrigued with the idea of a stoking shanty. It seemed reasonable that a rhythmic song might ease the labor of shoveling coal into the furnaces of a big steamer. Stoking was individual work, but a song might give the lads a lilt to work to and a chance to bitch about their lives. I doubt, however, that this was actually ever sung in the boiler room of the Mauretania, especially as it turns out that she was converted to oil-fire by 1921.

The passenger liner R.M.S. Mauretania, launched in 1906, was the most famous ship of her time. Until 1930 she ran for Cunard between Southampton, England and New York City, carrying 2,500 passengers and a crew of 800. For twenty years she was the fastest passenger steamer on the Atlantic run. At almost 800 feet in length, she was for a time the largest ship in the world. Her sister-ship Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915 with heavy loss of life, helping to bring the United States into the First World War. The Mauretania was finally scrapped in 1935.

The Mauretania was a turbine steamer. She had twenty-five steam boilers, most with eight furnaces or fire boxes, for a total of 192 furnaces. The fires were fed by stokers shoveling coal, each man tending four furnaces, so that forty-eight stokers worked each watch. The stokers worked four hours on and eight hours off, whenever the ship was at sea. It was a hard and dirty job, with gaunt, black-faced men laboring like imps in the bowels of Hell. Only by about 1930 had all of the big Atlantic liners adopted oil fire, ending this backbreaking labor."

Mauretania Statistics:

Gross Tonnage - 31,938 tons
Dimensions - 232.31 x 26.82m (762.2 x 88.0ft)
Number of funnels - 4
Number of masts - 2
Construction - Steel
Propulsion - Quadruple-screw
Engines - Steam turbines by Wallsend Slipway Co. Ltd.
Service speed - 25 knots
Builder - Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Wallsend-On-Tyne
Launch date - 20 September 1906
Passenger accommodation - 563 1st class, 464 2nd class, 1,138 3rd class

The following Google search for "Mauretania" gives numerous links to a wealth of information about R.M.S. Mauretania:

Mauretania search

To view the Mudcat Forum thread on this song click on the following link:

Mauretania Thread

I've put together one file of all these detailed liner notes for my album which I will distribute electronically. Anyone interested can get a copy by sending me a e-mail message at:

Great song