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Origins: Not 'A Miners' Life'! Irish attribution?


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Keep your hands on your wages (14)
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)
(origins) Origins: Union Miners / Miner's Lifeguard (50)
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)

Jesse Bassfeller 07 Oct 19 - 05:27 PM
GUEST,Starship 07 Oct 19 - 10:09 PM
Jim Carroll 08 Oct 19 - 02:28 AM
GUEST 08 Oct 19 - 01:51 PM
Joe Offer 08 Oct 19 - 04:09 PM
GUEST,jim bainbridgeDurham Miners' Gala every July 09 Oct 19 - 03:03 PM
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Subject: Origins: Not 'A Miners' Life! Irish attribution?
From: Jesse Bassfeller
Date: 07 Oct 19 - 05:27 PM

I was reading program notes for one of my sons' upcoming choir concerts and found a very nice choral version of A Miner's Life by Seth Houston - I think it's very well arranged for the age groups it's intended for. Well done, Dr. Houston! However I read the following in the notes:

'Arrangement by Seth Houston of traditional Irish song for SATB chorus with tenor soloist, violin, flute, piano, bass, and 2 percussion. Performed by USC Thornton University Chorus, April 28, 2012, conducted by the arranger. Published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Inc. (SBMP 1086).'

Here's a link to the Soundcloud recording:

So, I would understand a Welsh attribution for the tune Calon Lân or American attribution for 'Life's Railway to Heaven' but I don't get the Irish attribution.   



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Subject: RE: Origins: Not'A Miners' Life! Irish attribution?
From: GUEST,Starship
Date: 07 Oct 19 - 10:09 PM

"The melody of this song is similar to the the Welsh hymn ‚Calon Lân’ Recorded by Siwsann George and also by Billy Bragg. It's a parody of the american gospel song "Life is Like a Mountain Railway" (1875) that was penned in the USA in 1890 or thereabouts. It has since been taken up by UK union movements from the 1970s and 1980s."

That is from

I see no connection of the song to Ireland; rather, it seems to be American, both the song and the parody. However, I stand to be corrected.

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Subject: RE: Origins: Not'A Miners' Life! Irish attribution?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Oct 19 - 02:28 AM

I see no Irish connection either
Some time ago Jim Bainbridge attempted to search out Irish miner's songs, with no luck, I presume
There ae several mining musieums in Ireland, Castlecomber, Arigna and Allies (copper), but the industry was small and is poorly researched - any research sheems to be to attract tourists (tha maybe unfair to local historians)
I'd be very interested to larn if there are ANY Irish mining songs; the local song-making traditions appear to have covered every other area of human existence
Jim Carroll

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Subject: RE: Origins: Not'A Miners' Life! Irish attribution?
Date: 08 Oct 19 - 01:51 PM

The link to the Welsh sounding tune and Irish influence can possibly be found here or hereabouts from other similar communities
An aristocracy of labor: The Irish miners of Butte, 1880–1914

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Subject: Melody: Miner's Lifeguard
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Oct 19 - 04:09 PM

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
KEYWORDS: nonballad mining religious labor-movement
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)
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
Mary Travers , "Miner's Lifeguard" (on PeteSeeger01)
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

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Subject: RE: Origins: Not 'A Miners' Life'! Irish attribution?
From: GUEST,jim bainbridgeDurham Miners' Gala every July
Date: 09 Oct 19 - 03:03 PM

interesting info- origin still unclear seeing as it emerged on either side of the Atlantic at similar times.
Pretty certainly not Irish, welsh is the UK source- ask Pat Smith of Llantrisant!
Often heard in the 1984 UK miners' strike & I well remember playing it for the striking Notts miners who were on holiday, hosted by the Kent miners at the Tilmanstone Welfare field.
It's become the anthem of the Harraton band at Durham Miners' Gala every July, Doreen Henderson leading the singing before the County Hotel balcony.

Jim Carroll- you're right that we found little evidence of mining songs in Ireland, although Alan Woods at ITMA did send me a copy of a song by a man called Daly from Arigna- I have it somewhere, but having moved twice in 18 months, it may not emerge for a while, and we never used it at the Arigna events mentioned on another thread.

On that thread, about Irish coal mining songs, I described how Ed Pickford, never having visited Arigna, wrote several songs on the subject, all based on a book I sent him, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the closure of the 400 year old Arigna coalfield.

One song 'In my working days' came out in a bluesy version on a recent compilation of Ed's songs 'The Hooky Mat Project' available from his website, as well as the words to many of his other songs.

This info is not relevant to the thread and I intended to post the words of another one of the set here, but it would be better done on the other one, so that's what's where I'll put it... back to the subject

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