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Origins: Union Miners / Miner's Lifeguard

DigiTrad:
LIFE'S RAILWAY TO HEAVEN
MINER'S LIFEGUARD
THE H-BOMB'S THUNDER
WEAVER'S LIFE


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Keep your hands on your wages (14)
(origins) Origins: Not 'A Miners' Life'! Irish attribution? (6)
Origins: Life's Railway to Heaven (Abbey/Tillman) (7)
(origins) Origins: Life's Railway To Heaven / Union Miners? (13)
Chord Req: Life is like a mountain railway (10)
Lyr Req: Miners Stand Together (7)
Req: Miner's Lifeguard Parody (Shanty Singers) (12)
Chord Req: Miner's Lifeguard (16)
Lyr Add: Jesus Walk Around Your Bedside (5)
Lyr Req: union miners (answered)^^^ (3) (closed)
Tune Req: Life Is like a Mountain Railroad (18)


Glen in Gloucestershire 15 Jun 99 - 08:27 PM
The_one_and_only_Dai 16 Jun 99 - 03:35 AM
Chris Seymour 16 Jun 99 - 11:54 PM
Glen in Gloucestershire 17 Jun 99 - 09:17 AM
Alice 17 Jun 99 - 10:06 AM
Alice 17 Jun 99 - 10:10 AM
Alice 17 Jun 99 - 10:13 AM
Doctor John 18 Jun 99 - 01:47 PM
Wally Macnow 18 Jun 99 - 02:49 PM
To Alice from Glen in Gloucestershire 19 Jun 99 - 05:19 PM
bseed(charleskratz) 20 Jun 99 - 02:13 AM
Chris Seymour 20 Jun 99 - 10:58 PM
Alice 21 Jun 99 - 12:21 PM
Glen in Gloucestershire 22 Jun 99 - 05:21 PM
To Chris Seymour from Glen in Gloucestershire 22 Jun 99 - 05:35 PM
Alice 22 Jun 99 - 05:44 PM
Glen in Gloucestershire 28 Jun 99 - 06:28 PM
02 Jul 99 - 08:52 AM
Joe Offer 03 Sep 02 - 08:49 PM
Malcolm Douglas 03 Sep 02 - 09:39 PM
Alice 03 Sep 02 - 09:43 PM
Alice 03 Sep 02 - 09:52 PM
Alice 03 Sep 02 - 09:58 PM
Malcolm Douglas 03 Sep 02 - 10:17 PM
Joe Offer 03 Sep 02 - 10:29 PM
JudeL 04 Sep 02 - 03:19 AM
Dave Bryant 04 Sep 02 - 06:28 AM
Snuffy 04 Sep 02 - 07:23 PM
Bill D 04 Sep 02 - 08:37 PM
Bill D 04 Sep 02 - 08:38 PM
GUEST,Mary Humphreys 05 Sep 02 - 06:38 AM
Bennet Zurofsky 05 Sep 02 - 09:41 AM
JudeL 05 Sep 02 - 01:19 PM
Bennet Zurofsky 05 Sep 02 - 01:29 PM
GUEST,K 06 Sep 02 - 07:38 AM
sian, west wales 06 Sep 02 - 09:47 AM
CET 07 Sep 02 - 06:14 AM
GUEST,John Needham - Yorkshire 13 Aug 03 - 03:55 PM
Alice 14 Aug 03 - 01:16 PM
GUEST 15 Aug 03 - 04:27 AM
Amos 31 Jan 08 - 11:18 PM
Mick Tems 01 Feb 08 - 04:39 AM
GUEST,Richard Jones 01 Feb 08 - 12:46 PM
GUEST,Richard Jones 01 Feb 08 - 01:02 PM
GUEST,Wayne 01 Feb 08 - 01:02 PM
Herga Kitty 01 Feb 08 - 03:58 PM
GUEST,John Stapleton 02 Feb 08 - 10:06 AM
Chris in Portland 02 Feb 08 - 10:37 AM
GUEST,John Stapleton 03 Feb 08 - 05:58 AM
Herga Kitty 03 Feb 08 - 08:00 PM
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Subject: Tune please - Union Miners
From: Glen in Gloucestershire
Date: 15 Jun 99 - 08:27 PM

Can anyone suggest where I can hear the tune for Union Miners,I would love to hear a recording of it soon. I last heard this cracking song in the Middle Bar, of the Anchor Inn, Sidmouth Folk Festival.

Cheers.


Click for lyrics & tune in the Digital Tradition


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: The_one_and_only_Dai
Date: 16 Jun 99 - 03:35 AM

It's actually called The Miner's Lifeguard - if you search for this, you might get better results. Hope this helps...


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: Chris Seymour
Date: 16 Jun 99 - 11:54 PM

Is this the one with the refrain:

Union Miners stand together
Heed no operators tale
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eye upon the scale

If that's it, Dick Gaughan rewrote it and recorded it as "A miner's life is like a sailor's" on his miners' songs album "True and Bold."


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: Glen in Gloucestershire
Date: 17 Jun 99 - 09:17 AM

Hi Chris,

Spot on! They are the words I remember, as I said a brilliant song.I would love to sing it one evening with the Gloucestershire Morris Men. Any Chance of doing a bit of recording for me? I'll gladly repay any costs.

You can contact me on 01453 731517 or Email me at Glen@cadsonbury.cix.co.uk

Many thanks for your help

Glen


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Subject: ADD Version: MINER'S LIFEGUARD^^
From: Alice
Date: 17 Jun 99 - 10:06 AM

I sing it as recorded by the Welsh singer Siwsann George.

MINER'S LIFEGUARD

A miner's life is like a sailor's,
Aboard a ship to cross the waves,
Every day his life's in danger
Still he ventures, being brave.
Watch the rocks they're falling daily,
Careless miners always fail.
Keep your hand upon your wages,
And your eyes upon the scale.

chorus
Union miners stand together,
Do not heed the owner's tale,
Keep your hand upon your wages,
And your eyes upon the scale.

You've been docked and docked again, boys,
You've been loading two for one,
What have you to show for workin',
When your mining days are done.
Worn out boots, and worn out miners,
Lungs of stone and children pale.
Keep your hand upon your wages,
And your eyes upon the scale.

chorus
Union miners stand together,
Do not heed the owner's tale,
Keep your hand upon your wages,
And your eyes upon the scale.

There is a third verse, but only the first two are the ones I usually sing, so they came to mind. I have it all written down somewhere, but a quick search through a trunk of music didn't spot it. If no one else comes up with the third verse, I will look for it again.

alice in montana
^^


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: Alice
Date: 17 Jun 99 - 10:10 AM

..dhoh... I should have checked first... it is in the Digitrad database under the title "Miner's Lifeguard" with a little history about it at the bottom of the lyrics. click here

alice in montana


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: Alice
Date: 17 Jun 99 - 10:13 AM

I meant to also say that the words I posted are a little different than those in the database. Instead of "lungs of stone, etc" the verse in the DT has "Overalls and cans for rockers, In your shanties, sleep on rails. " -alice


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: Doctor John
Date: 18 Jun 99 - 01:47 PM

I guess there may be many a variation of this. The Dixon Brothers recorded "A Weaver's Life" which also was later recorded by the Almanacs but not released until fairly recently. This variation is said to be by Woody Guthrie but obviously isn't.


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: Wally Macnow
Date: 18 Jun 99 - 02:49 PM

Siwsann George's recording is on "Tradtional Songs of Wales" and Tom Lewis has it on his newest CD "Mixed Cargo". The tunes are slightly different. Tom's tune is the American "Life's Railway to Heaven". Siwsann's is a variant.


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: To Alice from Glen in Gloucestershire
Date: 19 Jun 99 - 05:19 PM

Dear Alice,

Any chance of sending a tape to me, I will gladly pay for any costs incurred. Thanks to Mudcat I've got the words - but alas the tune is fuzzy in the 'ol brain box.

I would love to sing this song during one of our sessions, the chorus is so powerful. Plus it echoes my slightly Left wing sense of politics.

You can contact me on 01453 731517 (uk) or Email me at Glen@cadsonbury.cix.co.uk


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: bseed(charleskratz)
Date: 20 Jun 99 - 02:13 AM

"Life's Railway to Heaven" ("Life is like a mountain railway...")is in the digitrad, all right. The first place I heard it was on The Amazing Rhythm Aces (I can't remember the name of the album if it was different from that of the band), who started with an old-timey country version and halfway through kicked the tempo up to a bluegrass version, and on The Nitty-Gritty Dirt Band's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken II)--Johnny Cash sang the lead vocal on that one. If you can find either of those albums, you have the tune. I'm sure lots of other people have recorded it--it's a great, very singable song.

--seed


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: Chris Seymour
Date: 20 Jun 99 - 10:58 PM

Glen, I'll gladly record Dick Gaughen's version on a cassette for you and send it to you, but I can't get to it quickly-- this week is jam packed and then I'm away to Old Songs Festival for the first time. Can it wait a bit?

Best,

Chris


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: Alice
Date: 21 Jun 99 - 12:21 PM

Glen, I emailed to your address yesterday... did you get it? I can record a voice email and send it with a free player to listen to it. I need to know if you have a Mac or a PC. -alice


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: Glen in Gloucestershire
Date: 22 Jun 99 - 05:21 PM

Hi Alice,

I got your Email, thanks. I have replied to you with full comments regarding my ability to receive voice mail. I am now waiting for the outcome!

I am really looking forward to hearing the elusive tune with baited breath.

I should be "out with the lads" at the moment, but I thought I'd give myself a treat - an early night!

Cheers for now, Glen.


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: To Chris Seymour from Glen in Gloucestershire
Date: 22 Jun 99 - 05:35 PM

Hi Chris,

This web site is truly fantastic! It seems that I will soon be inundated with music, all I'll have to do then is pick the best tune. Dick Gaughen's version will be a bonus!

As a matter of interest where in the world is the Old Songs Festival being held? It's not around these parts for sure! It sounds like you are very busy at the moment. Must be something to do with the long summer evenings I guess.

If you Email me I'll send you my postal Address.

All the best, Glen.


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: Alice
Date: 22 Jun 99 - 05:44 PM

Glen, I sang the song into a voice email a few hours ago and sent it to your friend along with the player. Let me know if it doesn't come through, and I will send it again.

alice


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Subject: RE: union miners
From: Glen in Gloucestershire
Date: 28 Jun 99 - 06:28 PM

Dear Alice,

Not yet I fear!

He's on holiday with his wife and family.

So no Union Miners as of yet. I am looking forward to the completion of my quest! So lets not give up.

Why not E mail me so we can have a chat (talk).

best wishes from

Glen in Gloucestershire


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Subject: RE: KEEP YOUR HAND UPON YOUR WAGES - info?
From:
Date: 02 Jul 99 - 08:52 AM

But Derek Brimstone sang it and recorded it.


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Subject: Alternate Tune - Miner's Lifeguard??
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Sep 02 - 08:49 PM

Is there an alternate tune?


When I was in Whitby, I heard somebody sing this song to an alternate tune. I asked about it, and the singer said it was the tune ordinarily used for the song in the UK. I didn't have a chance to take down the name of the tune, but I figured I'd find out from one of my UK hosts.

Well, everybody else in the UK said they use the same tune I use, Life Is Like a Mountain Railway, which is the tune we have in the Digital Tradition.

Anybody know what the alternate tune could be??

Dick Greenhaus rightfully chastised me for not taking notes when I should have, and I am truly sorry. Gee, most people give me a hard time for being a compulsive note-taker at singarounds...

Please help me do right by Dick Greenhaus.

Thanks.

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 03 Sep 02 - 09:39 PM

Since this thread has returned from the dead, I should just mention that the set recorded by Siwsann George quoted many months ago is Ed Pickford's adaptation (1972) with a few small changes and a bit left out, not traditional Welsh. I don't think that Dick Gaughan had any writing input, though I'm up for correction on that; I've heard him sing it it live, but quite a long time ago. So far as I remember, he credited it to Ed.

The tune in the DT is pretty much the one I've always heard it sung to, though it's usually given a bit more melodic variation over here (c.f. the set in A.L. Lloyd's Come All Ye Bold Miners, 1978 edn.). It may be that the person you spoke to had changed it even more without realising what they'd done, or maybe it's sung differently where they live. They might have been fibbing, of course; I'm afraid people do, sometimes.


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Alice
Date: 03 Sep 02 - 09:43 PM

Joe, it's possible that the alternate tune is the one recorded by Welsh singer Siwsann George, the one I mention earlier in the thread, as it is different than the American tune to the song. I sang Siwsann's version for someone from Chicago who had to promptly "correct" me and sing it to Life Is Like A Mountain Railway. Maybe there is a sound clip at CD now or some other site that you could find.

Alice


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Alice
Date: 03 Sep 02 - 09:52 PM

Joe, I found a clip from a recording of Welsh music on the CD Now site that is the same tune that I learned from the Swissan George recording. Traditional Songs of Wales, A MINER'S LIFE.


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Alice
Date: 03 Sep 02 - 09:58 PM

Posted without seeing your message, Malcolm. The CD linked above unfortunately also calls the version trad instead of giving credit to Ed Pickford for the arrangement.


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 03 Sep 02 - 10:17 PM

It's me that was wrong; I'm afraid that I mis-read Lloyd's notes, which are of the very annoying kind that are stuck at the back of the book with no page references attached. Though Ed Pickford did write a song called A Miner's Life, it isn't actually the one we were supposed to be talking about! My apologies for the confusion.

The set Lloyd gives of A Miner's Life is Like a Sailor's is described thus: "Text from George Evans of Aberaman (1951), @sung to the Welsh hymn tune Calon Lan', or more precisely, to the adaptation of that tune used for the evangelical hymn Life's Railway to Heaven. Mr Evans remarks, 'Not many miners in South Wales know this one.' It is well-known in the USA, however (see George Korson, Coal Dust on the Fiddle, p.413.) It was issued on a broadside 'produced for the National Union of Miners, Betteshanger Clliery, May 1958'."

I'd guess that Siwsann George has gone back to the original hymn tune; from the brief sound sample you mentioned, it seems closely related though distinct. Perhaps that's the answer to Joe's question.


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Sep 02 - 10:29 PM

Oh, you guys are good. Calon Lan is the tune. I found a MIDI sequence by Barry Taylor at this site (click) - click on "Calon Lan." Cyberhymnal has one here (click).
Thanks a lot, Malcolm and Alice.
-Joe Offer-


Thread #166752   Message #4012587
Posted By: Joe Offer
08-Oct-19 - 04:09 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Not 'A Miners' Life'! Irish attribution?
Subject: Melody: Miner's Lifeguard

The melody I know for "Miner's Lifeguard" is identical to the melody for the hymn Life's Railway to Heaven, which was published in 1891. The Welsh song, Calon Lân, was written by John Hughes and was apparently also published in the 1890s. The two melodies are very similar, but I don't think they're identical. I think it's likely that the melody for "Calon Lân" would be more familiar to British singers than is the American hymn, so British singers might be likely to use the Welsh tune.

It's quite obvious (at least, to me) that the lyrics of "Miner's Life(guard)" are a parody of "Life's Railway to Heaven."

The Traditional Ballad Index isn't very helpful with information about the origins of "Miner's Lifeguard" - just that the earliest source they've indexed was 1940:

Miner's Lifeguard

DESCRIPTION: A union song with religious overtones. The miner is advised to "Keep your hand upon the dollar and your eyes upon the scales."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1940
KEYWORDS: nonballad mining religious labor-movement
FOUND IN: US(Ap)
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Botkin-SoFolklr, p. 730, "Miner's Lifeguard" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greenway-AFP, pp. 15-16, "(Life Is Like a Mountain Railroad)" (1 text, plus fragments of assorted parodies, of which this is the first)
Silber-FSWB, p. 138, "Miner's Lifeguard" (1 text)
DT, MNRLFGRD*
ADDITIONAL: Jon Raven, _VIctoria's Inferno: Songs of the Old Mills, Mines, Manufacturies, Canals, and Railways_, Roadside Press, 1978, pp. 85-86, "Complaint: Miner's Life" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #3510
RECORDINGS:
Mary Travers , "Miner's Lifeguard" (on PeteSeeger01)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Life's Railway to Heaven (Life Is Like a Mountain Railroad)" (tune) and references there
NOTES [8 words]: A parody of "Life Is Like a Mountain Railroad." - RBW
Last updated in version 3.1
File: BSoF730

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2019 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


MINER'S LIFEGUARD (Digital Tradition entry)
(Charles Davies Tillman, words anon.)

Miner's life is like a sailor's.
'Board a ship to cross the waves.
Ev'ry day his life's in danger,
Still he ventures being brave.
Watch the rocks, they're falling daily.
Careless miners always fail.
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eye upon the scale.

cho: Union miners stand together,
Heed no operator's tale,
Keep your hand upon the dollar,
And your eye upon the scale.

Soon this trouble will be ended,
Union men will have their rights.
After many years of bondage
Digging days and digging nights;
Then by honest weight we labor
Union workers never fail.
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eye upon the scale.

Let no union man be weakened
By newspapers' false reports,
Be like sailors on the ocean
Trusting in their safe lifeboats.
Let your lifeboat be Jehovah
Those who trust Him never fail.
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eye upon the scale.

You've been docked and docked, my boys,
You've been loading two to one;
What have you to show for working
Since this mining has begun?
Overalls and cans for rockers,
In your shanties, sleep on rails.
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eye upon the scale.

In conclusion, bear in memory,
Keep the password in your mind:
God provides for every nation
When in union they combine.
Stand like men and linked together,
Victory for you'll prevail,
Keep your hand upon the dollar
And your eye upon the scale.

Note: an 1890ish parody on Life is Like a Mountain Railway, ca. 1870
@mining @union @UMW @work @American
filename[ MNRLFGRD
TUNE FILE: MNRLFGRD
CLICK TO PLAY
RG

Popup Midi Player




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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: JudeL
Date: 04 Sep 02 - 03:19 AM

Having listened to both the Swissan George clip (which appears to be calon lan's tune)and the life is like a mountain railway clip - it seems to me that the tune Miner's Lifeguard most frequently gets sung to (in southern england at least) is mostly but not quite the mountain railway tune - there are differences although these may be down to "the folk process".


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 04 Sep 02 - 06:28 AM

I first learnt the tune to a CND song "H-Bomb's Thunder" - it was many years before I heard the proper words.


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Snuffy
Date: 04 Sep 02 - 07:23 PM

The tunes are too similar - whenever I try to sing it to Calon Lan, I usually stray into Mountain Railway at some stage, but always end up back at Calon Lan for the end.

WassaiL! V


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Sep 02 - 08:37 PM

you can hear a very 'boom-ching' version of "Life's Railway to Heaven" by Patsy Cline at the Record Laty's site....

try this as a direct link to download it

or

or this to play it

if for some reason they don't work (she has added some javascript to the setup), you'd have to go to the 'entry' page at http://recordlady.webgcs.com/main.htm and click 'go to the music'...then "Real Country Archives-page 7" .....in any case, her site is worth the trip...


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Sep 02 - 08:38 PM

so...I 'think' those will work...


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: GUEST,Mary Humphreys
Date: 05 Sep 02 - 06:38 AM

For the Mudcatter who wanted the 3rd verse,I sing a version which goes as follows:

In conclusion, bear in memory
Keep this watchword in your mind
God provides for every worker
When in Union they're combined
So stand up strong & stand together
Victory for you'll prevail
Keep your hands upon your wages
And your eyes upon the scale.

I agree about the Siwsann George tune - it is very close to 'Calon Lan', which I know well from years of Welsh hymn singing at school. I first heard the song sung by the group 'Offa' ( based in Wrexham, North Wales ) and it is probably closer to the 'Mountain Railway' one, though still very like 'Calon Lan'. That is the one I use. It is quite likely that emigrant Welsh miners took the hymn over to the USA and , like any good tune,it got recycled into the Mountain Railway song & thence into Miner's Lifeguard.


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Subject: Lyr Add: PUBLIC WORKERS STAND TOGETHER (P McKenna)
From: Bennet Zurofsky
Date: 05 Sep 02 - 09:41 AM

Paul McKenna set new union words to the Mountain Railway tune, adapting it to public sector workers. He calls his song "Public Workers Stand Together." My group, the Solidarity Singers of the New Jersey Industrial Union Council, recorded McKenna's version on our CD, Solidarity-It Can't Be Beat! Our CD is available for $15.00 (US) from me (I'll pay postage) @ Bennet Zurofsky; 744 Broad Street, Suite 1807; Newark, NJ 07102; bzurofsky@reitpar.com.

Here are McKenna's lyrics:

PUBLIC WORKERS STAND TOGETHER
(P McKenna)

Times are tough for public workers, every day it's something new;
Layoff threats and hiring freezes, freezes in our wages too.
Paychecks pounded by inflation, budgets cut down to the bone;
We have got to stand together; it's no time to stand alone!

CHORUS: Public workers stand together! Stand with pride and dignity.
We are all in this together, every public employee.

The papers slander and insult us, call us lazy parasites.
They say we're only civil servants, and servants have no civil rights
They turn the populace against us with the lies they fabricate.
Let's tell our side of the story, then we'll set the record straight. CHORUS

Workers in the private sector, we're no different from you.
We work hard to feed our families, pay our rent and taxes too.
It doesn't matter who we work for; we're all workers just the same,
But the rights you take for granted we're still fighting to obtain. CHORUS

In conclusion, fellow workers, we must organize for power;
"Solidarity Forever" is the watchword of the hour.
Let's fight back in opposition against the bosses and the press,
Build a workers' coalition and march onward to success. CHORUS


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: JudeL
Date: 05 Sep 02 - 01:19 PM

Thanks for that, being a union steward working in the public sector, I'm always on the lookout for apt songs ( ie ones that don't assume you are either a miner or a man! )


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Subject: Lyr Add: WE WERE THERE (Bev Grant)
From: Bennet Zurofsky
Date: 05 Sep 02 - 01:29 PM

For Jude -

For an apt labor song that doesn't assume you are a miner or a man you might also like Bev Grant's anthem "We Were There" (which we also included on our CD). Here are the lyrics (it has its own melody composed by Bev):

WE WERE THERE Tune: Bev Grant
Lyrics: Bev Grant
© 1997 Beverly Grant (ASCAP)

This was written on International Women's Day 1997. We learned it from the singing of the Righteous Sisters, a women's chorus from Montclair, New Jersey, that used to be directed by Bev Grant, the composer.

We have plowed and we have planted. we have gathered into barns.
Done the same work as the men with babies in our arms.
But you won't find our stories in most history books you read.
We were there and we're still here, fighting for the things we need.

CHORUS: We were there in the factories. We were there in the mills.
We were there in the mines and came home to fix the meals.
We were there on the picket lines. We raised our voices loud.
It makes me proud just knowing we were there.

From the textile mills in Lawrence to the sweat shops in New York,
From the fields in California where our children had to work,
We fought to make a living. Bread and roses was our cry.
Though they jailed and beat our bodies, our spirit never died. CHORUS

We were Polish. We were Irish. We were African and Jew,
Italian and Latina, Chinese and Russian, too.
They tried to use our differences to split us all apart,
But the pain we felt together touched the bottom of our hearts. CHORUS

We are teachers. We are doctors. We are cooks and engineers,
Letter carriers, truck drivers, conductors, and cashiers.
We operate machinery. We fly the big airplanes.
And we help to build our unions. We got struggle in our veins. CHORUS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyGT6gfDFms


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: GUEST,K
Date: 06 Sep 02 - 07:38 AM

A fantastic song, I agree.

I've got a version -lyrics as above given by Welsh singer Siwsann George- done by Jeffrey Shurtleff. He was a begin 1970s protégé of Joan Baez (they were at Woodstock) and made one album of his own (as far as I know) on which he does some magnificent covers of Paul Siebel, John Prine etc. And also Miner's Life. A great, moving version.
Anyone interested might contact me for a mp3: k.vanderhoeven@chello.nl


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: sian, west wales
Date: 06 Sep 02 - 09:47 AM

I was speaking to Siwsi last night and she says that, yes, she uses the same tune as the hymn Calon Lan (which is certainly what I remember from her gigs) although in some concerts - and I think on some recordings - she does a medley, starting with Calon Lan and moving into what she calls, "the Pennsylvania version" (Miner's Lifeguard). Neither of us tend to think that this is a variant of the hymn. Calon Lan was composed by John Hughes (Swansea, 1872 - 1914) and was particularly popular during the famous (in Wales) 1904-05 Revival so, dates-wise, it sits along fairly comfortably with Rev. Charles Tillman who is *credited* with "Life's Railway to Heaven". However, if it's the same tune as the Weavers Song, and and that one is earlier ... hmmm.

Several of us tend to think that the Calon Lan connection arose with the habit of finding new tunes for these vary familiar words. Calon Lan is particularly fun, even today; I've been at singarounds where people try to find the most unusual tune to fit. I particularly like "Halls of Montezuma" or "Springtime in the Rockies". Anyway, you can certainly swap Life's Railway and Calon Lan quite easily.

As it happens, I'm trying to help another friend unravel a similar situation. She started by working on the Welsh tune, Mentra Gwen, which is a tune name but *also* refers to a popular *metre* in Welsh folk song. The search has included "Jack Hall", "Ye Jacobites By Name", "Put in All" and "Sound a Charge" ... and one source even mentioned the Southern Harmony hymn "Wondrous Love" as a variant. As it turns out, "Wondrous Love" isn't a variant, but it certainly is the metre.

My point being that, what with tune-swapping, metres, etc., maybe that's where people starting drawing conclusions about the tunes being more closely related than they actually are.

Personally, I always thought "Life's Railway" was a variant of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"...

Oh, and Siwsi also mentioned that Recordiau Sain is about to reissue a lot of her past work (17 tracks) on a new "Goreuon Mabsant" (The Best of Mabsant). Good to hear!

sian


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: CET
Date: 07 Sep 02 - 06:14 AM

Yes!! I am really looking forward to hearing the CD. There aren't enough Siwsann George recordings.

If Miner's Lifeguard isn't a variant of Calon Lan, it certainly is remarkably close. Does anyone know when these words were first sung to the Calon Lan?

Edmund


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Subject: ADD Version: Miner's Lifeguard
From: GUEST,John Needham - Yorkshire
Date: 13 Aug 03 - 03:55 PM

Here's the words I use to sing during the years 1990 - 93. The new third verse was written by me after visiting home and finding no towers at the pit.

MINER'S LIFEGUARD

A miner's life is like a sailors
Board a ship to cross the waves
Everyday his life's in danger
Still he ventures being brave
Watch the rocks they're falling daily
Careless miners always fail
So keep your hands upon your wages
And your eye upon the scale

Ch.
Union miners stand together
Do not heed the owners tale
Keep your hands upon your wages
And your eye upon the scale

You've been docked and docked again boys
You've been working two for one
And what have you to show for working
Since your mining days begun
It's worn out boots and worn out miners
So keep your hands upon your wages
And your eye upon the scale

Pit head's gone and gone forever
Winding gear's been blown away
Shaft's been filled with stones and rubble
No more coal will come this way
Jobs are gone and lost forever
No more miners will be killed
No more lungs clogged up with coal dust
No more children on their own

In conclusion bear in memory
Keep the password in your mind
God provides for every worker
When in union they combine
So stand like men and stand together
Victory for you will prevail
So keep your hand upon your wages
And your eye upon the scale


A couple of years on from me writing the new third verse, I was told by a stranger that they had heard that version being sung by someone else. Nice to know.


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Alice
Date: 14 Aug 03 - 01:16 PM

John Needham, thank you for posting that verse. It brought tears to my eyes. I plan to sing this in Butte, MT, a big mining and union town.

Alice Flynn


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Aug 03 - 04:27 AM

Wow Alice!!

Does that mean I've become an International Flok song writer? ;-)

Hope everyone enjoys it.

JOhn


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Amos
Date: 31 Jan 08 - 11:18 PM

Miner's Lifeguard was also recorded by the The Almanac Singers on their "Talking Union and Other Union Songs" album way back when.


A


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Mick Tems
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 04:39 AM

I took down the South Wales song The Miner's Life (called in other areas Miner's Lifeguard) from a South Wales miner working at the now-closed Morlais colliery on the River Loughor, Carmarthenshire and recorded it on my album Gowerton Fair (1977). When Pat Smith and I got together as the duo Calennig, working from Llantrisant, The Miner's Life became our theme song.

Here's a brief history of The Miner's Life: The coal owners adopted The Sliding Scale, which meant that when the market went down, wages went down. The South Wales miners came out on strike, and The Miner's Life was written as the rallying song, to the tune of Calon Lan ("Calon lan yn llawn diogi, techach yw na lili dlos"). Afterwards, the South Wales miners emigrated to America, where American miners adopted The Miner's Life and spread it across the USA. I rest my case!

Mick Tems


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: GUEST,Richard Jones
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 12:46 PM


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: GUEST,Richard Jones
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 01:02 PM

So when miners sing "keep your hands upon your wages and your eyes upon the scale," that was the real Sliding Scale they were singing about? What an interesting revelation. Thank you, Doctor!


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: GUEST,Wayne
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 01:02 PM

That's fascinating, Dr Price. Do you have a date as to when the song was first sung? I sing it often, having learnt it from a Calennig album, as it happens. Usually in tandem with your History & Prophecy. Another wonderful song.

I suppose when you come from South Wales, the pits stay with you!


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 03:58 PM

Re Glen's original post - I expect I and many others will be singing this song in the Anchor in Sidmouth at the Middle Bar Singers' winter reunion in 3 weeks time!

Kitty


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: GUEST,John Stapleton
Date: 02 Feb 08 - 10:06 AM

Interesting point, Kitty. I bet you the Middle Bar Singers will be copying the American version, whereas the whole of Wales will be singing the original Miner's Life song with its roots firmly in the Sliding Scale strike. But that's the folk process for you.


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Chris in Portland
Date: 02 Feb 08 - 10:37 AM

I did the song last year at our St. David's Day dinner. This year I'll do it again and have the folks stand and belt it out. Another footnote is that Ry Cooder wrote a version for his recent cd, Buddy.
Chris in Portland


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: GUEST,John Stapleton
Date: 03 Feb 08 - 05:58 AM

Good on you, Chris!


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Subject: RE: tune? - union miners - Miner's Lifeguard
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 03 Feb 08 - 08:00 PM

John Stapleton - I just learnt the song 30+ years ago by osmosis at my local folk club from other club members, Jim Mageean and Johnny Collins...

Kitty


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