The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157687   Message #3738818
Posted By: GUEST
21-Sep-15 - 12:28 PM
Thread Name: MacColl/Seeger TV ballad
Subject: RE: MacColl/Seeger TV ballad

Darlington Railway 1960
12 mins England

The poetry of steam and diesel is set into song by radical folk musicians Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in a film that celebrates the Darlington North Road locomen who work around the clock to keep the engines rolling on the railways. This imaginative television documentary, tinged with nostalgia, creates a rich tapestry of actuality and sung narration, heavily influenced by the revolutionary BBC Radio Ballads.

As Head of Features in the early years of Tyne Tees TV, Herbert K. Lewenhak produced two ballad documentaries on working men's lives in the North East under the title The Way We Live (this one broadcast on 9 March 1960), for which 20th century folk chroniclers Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger wrote, scored and performed the narration. Along with Charles Parker, both musicians were creators of the critically acclaimed BBC Radio Ballads (1958-1964), which 'broke the mould of radio programmes'. The North Road Works, Darlington, opened in 1863 to repair and build engines for the Stockton and Darlington Railway, but officially closed in April 1966 with the loss of 2,150 jobs, a victim of the notorious Beeching Axe.

North East Film Archive is one of a network of regional film archives established to collect, preserve and show film made in, or about the North East of England. Our collections are non-fiction, and date from the early 1900s to the present day, providing a rich record of life in the region over the 20th century. Many of our films are available to watch, free of charge, on our website.



Fishermen 1959
14 mins England

"With their nets and cable winches, their boxes and their creels. They're the lads that bring the harvest into Shields." An epic in miniature set into sea-faring song by radical folk musicians Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, fishermen aboard the Ben Torc diesel trawler battle rain and sleet squalls and black nights on the North Sea, risking their lives for little reward to bring home the fresh catch to market in North Shields.

As Head of Features in the early years of Tyne Tees TV, Herbert K. Lewenhak produced two little-known ballad films, written, scored and performed by MacColl and Seeger, under the title The Way We Live. These documentaries heroize the working lives of men in the North East and dramatize the tension between tradition and modernity. The Ben Torc was built in 1959 for Richard Irvin & Sons, a new diesel trawler with radar that replaced the old steamers. Along with radio producer Charles Parker, MacColl and Seeger were creators of the critically acclaimed BBC Radio Ballads, first broadcast in 1958, which 'broke the mould of radio programmes' and deeply influenced Lewenhak's television ballads.

North East Film Archive is one of a network of regional film archives established to collect, preserve and show film made in, or about the North East of England. Our collections are non-fiction, and date from the early 1900s to the present day, providing a rich record of life in the region over the 20th century. Many of our films are available to watch, free of charge, on our website.


North West Film Archive


The Way We Live: Darlington Railway

1959 | Film No. 10863
12 min 54 sec / Gauge / 16mm / Colour / Black & White / Sound / Separate Magnetic

An early Tyne Tees Television documentary on railway workers at the Darlington locomotive shed in North Road, commissioned by Tyne Tees Television, with music and songs by folk musicians Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger. Influenced by the acclaimed radio series The Radio Ballads, this is a portrait of the last days of steam haulage and the progress to diesel and electric trains. The North Road works closed in 1965, a victim of the Beeching axe, with the loss of 2,150 jobs.

The report opens with a travelling shot from the front of a train as it pulls into Darlington Railway Station.

Title: Tyne Tees Television Presents [over picture]

Title: The Way We Live [over picture]

A steam train pulls up to the track end on platform 2 at Darlington Railway Station where a replica of George Stephenson's first railway locomotive, the Locomotion, stands. The film cuts to shots of a stationary steam engines on exterior tracks. A steam engine is re-positioned on a rotating table. There are overhead shots above tracks where steam hauled goods trains pass below, cooling towers in the background. Railway workers work beside the tracks, one directing the train into a shunting yard. A driver looks out of Engine 43079 as it reverses. Another driver steps down from Engine 62064. He arrives home on his bike as his son leaves for school. A goods train pulled by Engine 43079 is ready to leave, back at the station.

Railway workers clock in at the North Road workshops at the start of a day shift. Two workers wearing berets, "old man Lowther and his son, who builds diesels in the shop across the way", don overalls. There are interiors of the engine shed with men at work, wheels lifted and moved by an overhead crane, shots of welding, fixing wheels onto a carriage and other activities. Steam engines are hoisted up for maintenance work. There is an overhead shot of the rows of engines in the large scale workshops. An engine is lowered over a track and pit. As a man walks the length of the workshop carrying a steam pipe, a tracking shot follows him along a central track through the warehouse, workers watching from units alongside the track and a group of workers awaiting at the end.

The scene cuts to a traveling shot from the front of a train through the countryside. A maintenance crew work on the tracks. One man measures the track width and marks with chalk. They check the level of the rails, test keys and chairs (rail fastenings that fix rails to railroad sleepers). There are portrait shots of the men's faces as they work. A crew then moves along a track on a small flat-bed car flying a flag. Traveling shot towards a level crossing and signal box, the gates closing as a train approaches. Inside the signal box a man operates a lever. The crew's vehicle passes through the level crossing. This sequence is filmed at Catterick Bridge station near Brompton-on-Swale. Brief traveling shot from a train as it crosses a bridge over a river, and an interior shot of the driver in the cabin. Further shots of the maintenance crew beside the tracks in a foggy landscape follow. A diesel passenger train (Diesel Multiple Unit) passes close by. A driver climbs out of Engine 62064.

In the following scenes, work at the North Road workshops and Darlington Station continues as another shift enjoys their leisure time.

There are shots of leisure activities with one of the workers, tending chrysanthemums, woodwork in the garage or shed with a wife assisting, and asleep in bed.

A train headed by an A4 class engine speeds past the camera outside Darlington Station (?) Back at North Road engineering works, a rail worker is re-positioning an engine on a rotating table inside the works, and moving Engine 43079 on a rotating track outside. Low angle shot from track as a train moves forward. A worker is woken by his wife at 5 o'clock. A steam engine enters the engineering works.

Workers clock off in the evening. Night and day shots record both steam and diesel trains arriving and leaving Darlington Station, with passengers exiting at the ticket barriers. A wife sets a table at home. A moody shot records a steam engine traveling from Darlington at night.

Railway workers, families and friends drink and play dominoes inside a pub, beer is pulled by the landlord, male railway workers enjoy a beer and a laugh. Men and women enjoy a game of dominoes in the pub. Two men attend a chrysanthemum flower show. People are leaving the Majestic dance hall (or Bingo hall?) in Darlington.

Meanwhile, workers are leaving after the night shift at North Road engineering works. A wife welcomes her husband home; another worker hangs up his tools in the garage. A man sits down to breakfast as his wife pours the tea. Men are walking to work in the dim morning light. A man stokes a wood burning stove at home.

Shots of the drivers and driver's mate stoking the engine firebox with coal, alternate with views of steam trains and goods trains traveling at night, tracking shots from trains speeding past, and close-ups of wheels in motion.

Shots follow of a steam train passing a diesel train, followed by a steam train passing the terraced houses of colliery village, with a slag heap (?) in the background. A diesel train passes by a colliery in the background and then under a signal gantry. A travelling shot follows from a steam engine footplate as it passes by an oncoming diesel train. A profile shot of the steam engine driver. The train approaches Darlington Station slowly.

End Title: The Way We Live [over picture]
End Credit: Songs by Ewan MacCall & Peggy Seeger [over picture]
End Credit: Cameraman Wilf Grey [over picture]
End Credit: Edited By Bill Robertson [over picture]
End Credit: Written and Directed By Julia James [over picture]
End Credit: Produced By H K Lewenhak [ over picture]
End Credit: A Tyne Tees Television Production


The Way We Live: Fishermen

1959 | Film No. 10864
14 min 16 sec
Gauge / 6mm / Colour / Black & White / Sound / Combined Optical

An early Tyne Tees Television documentary about the fishing fleet at North Shields accompanied by specially commissioned music written and performed by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. The film begins with fish being unloaded and auctioned inside the fish market. The film then follows the trawler 'Ben Torc' as he heads out into the North Sea and shows the crew hard at work catching fish using a large drift net. The film also shows the men gutting, cleaning and storing the fish on ice for the journey back to North Shields. The film ends with the men in a local public house drinking to a successful catch intercut with views of them back at work on board ship.

The film opens on an overhead view of the North Shields Fish Quay. The camera pans left to right up the river Tyne showing different sized fishing boats moored along the quayside. The camera also looks across the river to South Shields.

The film cuts to show a small fishing boat coming up the river Tyne and turning towards the quayside followed by second larger steam trawler coming along the quayside.

Along the quayside beside a number of other similar sized boats a sailor throws a rope onto the quay which is placed over a metal bollard by a man in naval uniform.   

There are various general views showing crates and baskets of fish being winched from the hold of the ship onto the quayside and onto the back of a flat-bed lorry. A man pushes two crates away on a wheelbarrow.

Inside the fish market men look over the various types of fish laid out on the floor in front of them. Some are in crates while others are laid out on the floor in horizontal lines. The film cuts to a man hacking at a block of ice with an axe. The film quickly cuts back to two men on board ship talking. Back in the market a man in a white coat conducts the auction. A man with a cigarette hanging from his mouth carries two large cod away.

Back outside on the quayside, many small fishing boats are moored up. The one closest to the camera is the 'Catherine Armstrong'. The film cuts to a shot looking up from the bow of the trawler 'Ben Torc' (Reg: SN-100). On the deck of the ship a group of men are seen working watched over by another who is standing on the quayside. The film cuts to the engine room where an engineer reads a dial. Back on deck the film shows a close up of the radar antenna turning. A large bag of potatoes is seen being loaded onto the ship. A man walks past carrying a box with the word 'Milk' written across it.

Members of the crew walk along the quayside towards the ship. The skipper of the vessel steps out of the wheelhouse onto the deck.

Another sailor walks out of a building, stencilled in the glass window above the door is written 'British Sailors Society – Angus House'. The film cuts to a terraced house where another man steps out, kisses his son and wife and walks away.

Back on the quayside the moorings of the 'Ben Torc' are released and she slowly moves away. There are views from the quayside as well as on board of the trawler heading into the river Tyne and out into the North Sea.

Out in the North Sea seagulls fly overhead. Water splashes across the bow of the ship as it travels through the ocean. The skipper is at the wheel of the ship in the wheel house. Men are seen working on deck. General view of the 'Ben Torc' at sea.

Back on the deck a young man repairs fishing nets using a shuttle weaving between the threads. A second young man splices a section of rope. Below deck general views of the cramped crew quarters with men in their bunks reading and chatting. The camera pans down to show several pairs of boots by the bunks.

In the wheelhouse the skipper calls down to the engine room where the engineer pushes a lever to say 'Stop'. Back on the bridge the skipper examines the readings from the echo finder. Through a port-hole he points out to sea.

On the deck of the ship the crew work to haul the nets into position and the trawl doors, also known as 'otter boards', are lowered into the water. With the floats in place the nets are thrown overboard. There is view from the stern of the boat showing the drift net in place.

A basket hangs from a rope over the deck.

The film cuts to the crewmen hauling in the fishing net. As it reaches the bottom fish can be seen thrashing about in the net. A winch lifts the net into the air and onto the boat and the fish are dropped onto the fish cleaning deck. It is small catch of fish.

Below deck the crew sit around a small table eating a meal. Back on deck the nets are repaired again and thrown overboard for another catch. Again, a second small catch is hauled out of the ocean, winched over and dropped onto the fish cleaning deck.

Back below deck men are laid on their bunks smoking, reading or chatting. In the wheelhouse the skipper reads the echo finder and the net is seen being thrown over the side. Three sailors detach a net from the winch and drop it overboard. Another sailor stands at the controls of the winch as the trawl door is lifted into the air and lowered into the sea.

Another much larger catch of fish are winched onto the fish cleaning deck watched over by the skipper. General view follows of men gutting and cleaning a large haul of fish on the cleaning deck. An overhead view showing all the fish separated into crates and baskets. Large cod are dropped from the deck down into the hold where two sailors pass them to a third who stands on a base of ice laying the fish out in neat lines.

Back on deck another catch of fish is brought in and more general views of men gutting and cleaning the fish which goes on into the night.

The film cuts to the next day and seagulls flying over the trawler. The camera pans down onto the deck where the sailors begin to store away their nets and gear for the journey home.

General views of the 'Ben Torc' travelling at speed through the sea, the water lapping against the bow. On deck sailors haul a net out of the hold. In the engine room the engineer signals 'full ahead'. In the wheelhouse the skipper is at the wheel looking out to sea. Above the wheelhouse the radar antenna turns. Back in the engine room an engineer checks the readings on a dial. The film cuts to show the engine pistons firing. In the galley a man stirs the contents of a small bowl. Two men stand on the bow of the ship as it approaches the river Tyne with Tynemouth in the distance.

The film cuts to inside the North Shields fish market and men looking over crates of fish laid out on the floor.

In a nearby public house the skipper take a sip of his drink which is intercut with view of him back at work aboard the 'Ben Torc'. The engineer takes a sip of beer which is intercut with him working on board ship. The cook takes a sip of his drink which is intercut with him back on board ship taking a large pie out of the oven. The film ends with various quick cuts showing the men on board ship catching, cutting, packing and unloading their catch of fish onto the quayside.