The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #80440   Message #2215778
Posted By: Jon Bartlett
15-Dec-07 - 03:15 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Jerry Go and Oil That Car
Subject: RE: Origins: Jerry Go and Oil That Car
Here's the version collected in 1959 in BC from Capt. Charles Cates, who had it from his father. He said, "it is an old railway song and I presume the reason my father got that was the fact that he worked across, during the construction of the CPR [finished in 1885 JB] he worked right across and was at the driving of the last spike at Craigellachie in British Columbia near Revelstoke."

Come all ye railroad section-men, I hope you will draw near,
And listen to the story that I will tell you here
Concerning Larry Sullivan - alas! he is no more
'Twas over forty years ago he sailed from Erin's shore.

For forty long years and more he worked upon the track
And it always was his greatest pride that he never had a wreck
For he always made the point to keep up the low joint with the gauge and the tampin' bar
And while the b'ys were shimmin' up the ties, sure, Jerry'd be 'iling the car.

God bless you, Larry Sullivan! to me you were so good -
You used to make the section hands go out and cut the wood.
To the well for the water they must go and split the kindlin' fine,
And, 'pon me soul, if one of them would growl, they would then quick get their time.

Sunday morning would come around, to the section-hands he'd say
"Oh, I want all you men for to hustle all you can, for me wife goes to Mass today.
And we've got to be in before Number Ten and the distance it is far,
So while you boys are gettin' ready to leave, sure, Jerry go 'ile the car."

You should have seen him in the winter time when the hills were clad with snow
Oh, it was his pride on the handcar to ride as over the section he'd go.
With his big so'dger coat buttoned up around his throat any dangers he would dare.
And it's "Paddy Mac, do you walk that track, while Jerry goes 'ile the car."

Now poor old Larry Sullivan, alas! he did grow old,
And one day in the winter time he caught a heavy cold.
Though his fever rose, he was out in the snows, ridin' both near and far.
When the pain in his chest just wouldn't let him rest still 'twas, "Jerry go 'ile the car."

"Give my respects to the roadmaster," poor Larry he did cry,
"And lift me up so that I may see the old handcar before I die.
Then upon my breast let the spike moll rest and the gauge and the old claw-bar,
And while the boys are layin' me in me grave, oh Jerry, go 'ile that car."

"When I am dead and gone to my rest there's one thing that I crave -
Please bury me close to the side of the track with a handcar on my grave,
And when the b'ys go out for to fix the track with the gauge and the old claw-bar,
Oh I'll hear the click of the frog in the switch, singin', "Jerry, go 'ile the car."

Oh, he was so weak, he could hardly speak - in a moment he was dead,
But "Joint ahead and centre back," were the last words that he said.
And the last words he said on his dying bed were, "I never hired a tar
O joint ahead and centre back, and Jerry go 'ile the car."

For those unfamiliar with railway technology: a section gang was responsible for the maintenance of the "permanent way" ("p-way", the track itself - rail, cross-ties [Br. "sleepers"] and the road-bed itself [Br. "ballast"]). Larry Sullivan was in charge of such a crew. Their job was to ensure that the rail was firmly located and was level with the rest of the track, and to do this they would jack up the rail at low points and fill with ballast. The "car" which constantly needs to be "'iled" is a hand-car, pumped ("uppy-downy", like sea-pumps) to make it move, and used by the crew to move up and down the "section" (see for more info on railway technology.

My father was a railwayman for most of his adult life and I worked for British Rail for a few years before emigrating to Canada. The "ownership" Larry Sullivan felt for his section would not surprise any old railwayman: to run a railway is a public service, a 24/7 commitment, not a 9 to 5 "job". I remember interviewing railway workers in the 'sixties in Britain who would say, for example, "I looked out the window and it was foggy, so I thought I'd go down and give Tim a hand in the signal-box" - unpaid, unrecognized, unthanked dedication to "duty" that these days would perhaps surprise young workers, but then was taken for granted.

A fine song - I'd like to know its author.

Jon Bartlett