The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #30284   Message #3090237
Posted By: Jim Carroll
07-Feb-11 - 03:16 AM
Thread Name: ADD: Kilroy Was Here (Ewan MacColl)
Subject: Lyr Add: GUM SHELLAC ('Pop's' Johnny Connors)
The 'Kilroy' type figure was used several times by MacColl to symbolise the universal working man: The Fitters Song (navvy), Shellback (seaman), The Big Hewer (miner) spring to mind.
It was used by other songmakers - Universal Soldier, for instance.
We recorded this from Wexford Traveller 'Pop's' Johnny Connors an activist fighting for Travellers' rights in the 1960/70s; it expresses perfectly his pride in the skills and experiences of Travelling People.
Jim Carroll

(Roud 2508) 'Pop's' Johnny Connors, Wexford Traveller

We are the travelling people
Like the Picts or Beaker Folk,
The men in Whitehall thinks we're parasites
But tinker is the word.
With our gum shellac alay ra lo,
Move us on you boyoes.

All the jobs in the world we have done,
From making Pharaoh's coffins
To building Birmingham.
With our gum shellac ala lay sha la,
Wallop it out you heroes.

We have mended pots and kettles
And buckets for Lord Cornwall,
But before we'd leave his house me lads,
We would mind his woman and all.
With our gum shellac alay ra la,
Wallop it out me hero.

Well I have a little woman
And a mother she is to be,
She gets her basket on her arm,
And mooches the hills for me.
With our gum shellac alay ra la,
Wallop it out me hero.

Dowdled verse.

We fought the Romans,
The Spanish and the Danes,
We fought against the dirty Black and Tans
And knocked Cromwell to his knees.
With our gum shellac alay ra la,
Wallop it out me heroes.

Well, we're married these twenty years,
Nineteen children we have got.
Ah sure, one is hardly walking
When there's another one in the cot.
Over our gum shellac alay ra lo,
Get out of that you boyoes.

We have made cannon guns in Hungary,
Bronze cannons in the years BC
We have fought and died for Ireland
To make sure that she was free.
With a gum shellac ala lay sha la,
Wallop it out me heroes.

We can sing a song or dance a reel
No matter where we roam,
We have learned the Emperor Nero
How to play the pipes
Way back in the days of Rome.
With our gum shellac ala lay sha la,
Whack it if you can me boyoes.

Dowdled verse.

'Pop's' Johnny Connors, the singer of this song, is also the composer. He was an activist in the movement for better conditions for Travellers in the 1960s and was a participant in the Brownhills eviction, about which he made the song, The Battle of Brownhills, which tells of an unofficial eviction in the Birmingham area which led to the death of three Traveller children. An account of part of his experiences on the road is to be found in Jeremy Sandford's book Gypsies under the chapter heading, Seven Weeks of Childhood. This was written while Johnny was serving a prison sentence in Winson Green Prison in the English Midlands. He said that further chapters of an intended biography were confiscated by the prison authorities and never returned to him on his release.
Gum shellac is a paste formed by chewing bread, a technique used by unscrupulous tinsmiths to supposedly repair leaks in pots and pans. When polished, it gives the appearance of a proper repair but, if the vessel is filled with water, the paste quickly disintegrates, giving the perpetrator of the trick just enough time to escape with his payment.

Ref: Gypsies, Jeremy Sandford, Seeker and Warburg, 1973