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Lyr Req: Moses of the Mail (not MacColl)

Richard Mellish 02 Apr 10 - 09:25 AM
GUEST,Erich 02 Apr 10 - 10:33 AM
Reinhard 02 Apr 10 - 11:30 AM
Richard Mellish 02 Apr 10 - 06:24 PM
Richard Mellish 03 Apr 10 - 04:37 AM
Reinhard 03 Apr 10 - 02:15 PM
Richard Mellish 03 Apr 10 - 05:21 PM
GUEST,Richard Owen 10 Jan 12 - 09:15 AM
Richard from Liverpool 11 Jan 12 - 12:39 PM
GUEST,999 11 Jan 12 - 03:45 PM
GUEST,Paul 30 Oct 16 - 08:03 AM
Richard Mellish 02 Nov 16 - 11:10 AM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Moses of the Mail (not MacColl)
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 09:25 AM

There are so few British railway songs, in contrast to the abundance of American ones, that Dave Goulder was moved to write some of his own. It seems therefore desirable to make good use of those that do exist.

The song Moses of the Mail as sung by Ewan MacColl is tolerably well known; but there is a more complete version. A friend once sent me a photocopy from the magazine of a railway enthusiasts' society with a considerably longer text. That text was also, I think, more authentic: for example where MacColl sang about "both front fenders" rather than "both injectors".

Unfortunately I have lost the piece of paper, I have no recollection of which society's magazine it was copied from, and I have lost contact with the friend.

Has anyone encountered that fuller version, in print or on a recording?

I haven't heard Harry Boardman's version. Was that the same as MacColl's?

Richard


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Moses of the Mail (not MacColl)
From: GUEST,Erich
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 10:33 AM

I never heard of a version by H. Boardman, but I think you may talk of Tony Rose's version. It's on the LP Steam Ballads (Broadside BRO 121) together with Harry Boardman, Kempion, Jon Raven and Tony Rose. Well, Tony Rose's version ist the same as MacColl's. Those are the only two version that I know of.


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Subject: Lyr Add: MOSES OF THE MAIL
From: Reinhard
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 11:30 AM

Ewan MacColl's version on the 1957 LP "Shuttle and Cage" (reissued in 1964 on "Steam Whistle Ballads") and Tony Rose's version on the Broadside LP "Steam Ballads" are nearly the same; only a few word differ. The latter album cites MacColl's book "Shuttle and Cage" as source, too.

This is my attempt at a transcription; you will probably want to correct some mis-hearings:

It was a dark and stormy night and snow was falling fast
I stood on Thorpbridge Junction while the reckless Moses passed
His hair was widely waving as through the air he sped
He'd never had such doings since he started up the shed

The signals sat at mute and heath the shed was close at hand
He sent his mate for some more oil and a couple of bags of sand
At Mostom's dreary cutting the struggle was extreme
Both front tenders failed to work and the engine wouldn't steam

On passing up Wood Cabin he heard the engine growl
And reaching for the tallow pot He broke his collarbone
When Castleton appeared in view he shook his weary head
And stepping over to his mate this is what he said

I've worked upon the L&Y for forty years or more
But such a wretched night as this I've never had before
At Hepton Bridge they stopped the train some wagons to reload
And Moses shouted to his mate, We're off the blooming road

Up came old Moses sticking hand, his head hung down with grief
He viewed the scene contemptuously, then wired for relief
Pray don't lie iron hands on me poor Valentine did exclaim
I know you've done your very best, I know you're not to blame

Now flowers may bud and boom in spring and memories fade away
But they will not forget that night until their dying day.
But when I'm dead and laid to rest place on my grave sweet roses,
These were, I'm told, the very last pathetic words of Moses.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Moses of the Mail (not MacColl)
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 06:24 PM

> I never heard of a version by H. Boardman, but I think you may talk of Tony Rose's version. <



Well, I can correct at least two mis-hearings. Verse 2, line 1, "The signals on at Newton Heath" ("on" meaning that they indicated that the train had to stop, thus providing an opportunity for the driver to send the fireman to the shed). Verse 2, line 3, the place is Moston, on the outskirts of Manchester. Verse 2, line 4, I think MacColl sang


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Moses of the Mail (not MacColl)
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 04:37 AM

My 06:24 posting was sent by mistake, unfinished. A bit later, when I had finished what I wanted to say, no new postings were appearing, so here goes again.

> I never heard of a version by H. Boardman, but I think you may talk of Tony Rose's version. <

On looking back at the web page where I found both the song and Harry Boardman mentioned, I see that there were indeed other singers on the record, including Tony Rose.

I can correct at least two mis-hearings in the above transcription. Verse 2, line 1, "The signals on at Newton Heath" ("on" meaning that they indicated that the train had to stop, thus providing an opportunity for the driver to send the fireman to the shed). Verse 2, line 3, the place is Moston. That and Newton Heath are both on the outskirts of Manchester. Verse 2, line 4, I think MacColl sang "both front fenders" rather than "both front tenders", but I could be wrong. Anyway neither makes sense. "both injectors" would make sense, but I have just realised that the most plausible original is "both front sanders", whatever MacColl actually sang.

I don't know about "up Wood Cabin". I heard it as something like "Hopwood cabin" but I can see no such place on the map between Moston and Castleton.

Unfortunately none of this gets us to the fuller version of the song.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Moses of the Mail (not MacColl)
From: Reinhard
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 02:15 PM

According to Google Maps, "Hopwood is a suburb of Heywood, a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, in Greater Manchester, England", so that fits too. Thank you very much, Richard.

The last verse in my above transcription has a typo; "boom" of course must be "bloom".

I understand that the lyrics are printed in MacColls Book "Shuttle and Cage". Unfortunately I don't have the book, only the same-named LP. If somebody should have access to the book, can he/she please give us the printed version?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Moses of the Mail (not MacColl)
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 03 Apr 10 - 05:21 PM

> According to Google Maps, "Hopwood is a suburb of Heywood, a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, in Greater Manchester, England", so that fits too. Thank you very much, Richard. <

And thank you too. I had tried Multimap, which hadn't found it. Google Maps not only finds Hopwood but shows Hopwood Hall College and Hopwood Clough Nature Reserve close to the railway line about a mile south of Castleton. So it seems very plausible that there would have been a signal box ("cabin") named for that place.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Moses of the Mail (not MacColl)
From: GUEST,Richard Owen
Date: 10 Jan 12 - 09:15 AM

In the version I heard many moons ago it was not fenders or tenders or sanders but " The fire was full of clinker and the engine would not steam ".


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Subject: Lyr Add: Moses of the Mail
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 12:39 PM

Reinhard asked for the printed version of this song from The Shuttle and Cage a year and a half ago - well, I'm a bit late to the party, but here it is, together with the acommpanying note

Moses of the Mail
Collated from three versions collected at Newton Heath Loco Shed, Manchester. Moses was the nickname of Henry Poyser, engine driver on the Manchester-Warrington run in the '80s.

It was a dark and stormy night,
The snow was falling fast
I stood on Thorpebridge Junction
Where the reckless Moses passed,
His hair was wildly waving
As thro' the air he sped;
He'd never had such doings
Since he'd started at the shed.

The signals all at Newton Heath,
The shed was close at hand;
He sent his mate for some more oil
And a couple of bags of sand.
At Moston's dreary cutting
The struggle was extreme -
Both front tenders failed to work
And the engine wouldn't steam.

On passing Hopwood cabin,
He heard the engine groan
And, reaching for the tallow-pot,
He broke his collarbone.
When Castleton appeared in view
He shook his weary head
And, stepping over to his mate
This is what he said:

"I've worked upon the L. and Y.
For forty years or more,
But such a wretched night as this
I've never seen before."
At Hebden Bridge they stopped the train
Some wagons to re-load,
And Moses shouted to his mate,
"We're off the blooming road!"

Up came old Moses, stick in hand,
His head hung down with grief;
He viewed the scene contemptuously
And then wired for relief.
"Pray don't lay violent hands on me!"
Poor Valentine did exclaim:
"I know you've done your very best -
I know you're not to blame."

The flowers may bud and bloom in Spring
And memories fade away,
But they will not forget that night
Until their dying day.
"But when I'm dead and laid to rest,
Place on my grave sweet roses."
Those were, I'm told, the very last
Pathetic words of Moses.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Moses of the Mail (not MacColl)
From: GUEST,999
Date: 11 Jan 12 - 03:45 PM

The song was recorded in 1951 by MacColl as a 78rpm record (Topic TRC51)
accoerding to the following site:

http://www.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/~zierke/tony.rose/songs/mosesofthemail.html

#############################################


"Steam Ballads - Broadside - BRO 121 (1977)

Harry Boardman, Kempion, Jon Raven, Tony Rose

Recorded in 1977. The songs, mostly 19th century ballads, are:

Navvy on the Line / The Bold Navvies / Paddy Works on the Railway / A New Song on the Opening of the Newcastle & Shields Railway / Johnny Green's Trip fro' Owdhum to see the Manchester Railway / A New Song on the Opening of the Birmingham to Liverpool Railway / Iron Horse / The Oxford and Hampton Railway / The Cockney's Trip to Brummagem / The Wonderful Effects of the Leicester Railway / Cosher Bailey / Moses of the Mail / Fireman's Growl."

from

http://www.library.folknorthwest.co.uk/harry_boardman.htm


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Moses of the Mail (not MacColl)
From: GUEST,Paul
Date: 30 Oct 16 - 08:03 AM

I've really liked this song for decades. Thanks to your thread I've realised I haven't seen my copy of "Steam Ballads" for at least ten years. I probably confused it for a duplicate of "Steam Whistle Ballads" and deleted it...

"Moses of the Mail", is I think a sarcastic title. We can imagine Old Mr Poyser pootling along on his decrepit Lancashire and Yorkshire locomotive doing his nightly freight trip from Manchester to Warrington and back.
Thorpes Bridge Junction, just south of Newton Heath, is where the Oldham Loop diverges from the Calderdale Line. Mr Poyser took the Calderdale Line.
Presumably "Moses" was white-haired and bearded. His hair may have been "wildly waving", but he wasn't "speeding through the air" at Thorpe's Bridge Junction as he stopped straight after the junction for an "on" signal opposite the loco sheds at Newton Heath. His old locomotive will have needed regular oiling round as it chugged through the night and its sandboxes would need sand to spread onto the wet rails for extra grip.
Moston cutting is dreary.
If the fire was full of clinker, then the engine wouldn't have steamed very well. This is probably a more sensible version but doesn't sing so well. If both injectors didn't work then the boiler wouldn't have got any more water and the train would have been stopped. "Front tenders" is meaningless and McColl should have known better. Perhaps "Both front sanders" is the better option: maybe the sand got wet as the fireman was filling the boxes at Newton Heath. Perhaps the engine wouldn't steam as the fire had got low while the fireman was out of the cab.
Hopwood was a suburb of Heywood, which is now Oldham. Castleton East signal box is (or was) there, and controlled a diverging line which is now the East Lancashire Railway and which used to go to Bury.
By implication one of the slower moving bearings on the engine was "growling" and so needed a bit of lubrication. That's why "Moses" reached for the tallow pot (I'd always wondered why a steam loco had a teleport fitted.) He'd have had to stop again to lubricate the bearings. Isn't a broken collarbone quite nasty?
This Castleton is a suburb of Manchester, not the lovely Castleton of the Peak District. That had me confused too.
I don't know why they wanted to reload wagons at Hebden Bridge, perhaps it's because "reload" rhymes with "road". I imagine the train would stop if some of its wagons had derailed.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Moses of the Mail (not MacColl)
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 02 Nov 16 - 11:10 AM

Thanks for reviving this thread and for the further thoughts, most of which I agree with. But how do you bring in Warrington? The journey commemorated in the song was NW out of the Manchester area, going at least as far as Hebden Bridge.

I agree that "reload" doesn't make a lot of sense. Maybe they were supposed to drop some wagons off there and/or collect some. A derailment could have occurred in the course of shunting into or out of a siding.


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