Their Front Pages

A song about the Tory war on decency and the Tory rags that fan the flames.

Express Migrant children 01

Their Front Pages

What’s the latest front-page lie?
What packs a tabloid punch?
700,000 “foreign” kids are claiming free school lunch!
They demonize the weak and poor,
There’s no empathy, there’s no shame,
And when they call this Austerity it’s a cull by another name.

Let’s have Princess Di and Maddie stories
From your wretched servile hacks
And never mind the foodbanks, never mind the bedroom tax.
They’ll means-test this, they’ll means-test that
And then reject your claim
Cos when they call this Austerity it’s a cull by another name.

Give us “Rule Britannia” headlines
And then call us lazy shirkers.
Blame Europe, blame the unions, and let’s blame the migrant workers.
Make the old and sick jump through endless hoops
In a twisted hopeless game
Cos when they call this Austerity it’s a cull by another name
And when they call this Austerity it’s a cull by another name.

Click here for a version recorded at home, October 2017

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Dublin Bill

A song about my grandad William (1919–2007).

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Dublin Bill

Shall we begin back in County Kildare, Dublin Bill?
Would it be fair to say you weren’t a one for school?
All your bridges swiftly burnt
And your letters left unlearnt,
Just a tearaway, but you could charm them all,
Nobody’s fool,
Sooner use your wits than follow any rule.

You took a girl for a romp in the hay, Dublin Bill,
At the farm down the lane, in a shed.
Found some guns in the straw,
Told your dad what you saw.
“Breathe one word of this and we’ll all be dead,”
Father said,
“Here’s a clip round the ear, now off to bed.”

The next morning you’re put on the boat, Dublin Bill,
Bound for London to live with Auntie May.
When you find out she ain’t real
You don’t know what to think or feel,
Then two ladies of the night kindly say
“It’s okay,
If you want you are welcome to stay.”

And they taught you to read and to write, Dublin Bill,
Slowly taught you to write and to read.
Then the press-gang hit town,
Combed the streets all around,
They said “Paddy boy, you’re just the kind we need,
Yes indeed
You’ll be better off in khaki than in tweed.”

It’s the bomb disposal unit for you, Dublin Bill,
Bomb disposal will suit your steely eye.
Soon you’re shaken to the core,
Can’t do the job no more
When you see your new best mate blown sky high,
God, you cry,
Jesus Christ that ain’t no bleedin way to die.

Well you’re settled down in Ashford, so it seems, Dublin Bill,
And showing fillums at The Flea Pit keeps you calm.
You’ve wed your Chislet girl,
Got one young Patrick, one young Pearl,
But you’re a tearaway so now your winning charm
(Or is it smarm)
Don’t belong at home but down the Denmark Arms.

Click here for a version on SoundCloud

Click here for a live version at The Anchor in Wingham, June 2017

Click here for a version performed by Cookie, May 2017

Fearful Song

Not been the easiest of years, 2016, has it? A year when empathy took a fierce kicking from the I’m-Alright-Jackboots.

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Fearful Song

There was a heart before the broken heart
A young heart, young heart
There was a heart before the broken heart
A young heart, young heart
Young heart still within, under the skin, listening in
May the broken heart not win

There was a man before the hateful man
A young man, young man
There was a man before the hateful man
A young man, young man
Young man still within, under the skin, listening in
May the hateful man not win

There was a land before the selfish land
A young land, young land
There was a land before the selfish land
A young land, young land
Young land still within, under the skin, listening in
May the selfish land not win

There was a world before the bitter world
A young world, young world
There was a world before the bitter world
A young world, young world
Young world still within, under the skin, listening in
May the bitter world not win

And there was a song before the fearful song
A young song, young song
And there was a song before the fearful song
A young song, young song
Young song still within, under the skin, listening in
May the fearful song not win
May the fearful song not win

Click here for a ropey version recorded at 3.30am in the car up Larkey Valley Woods, 12th November 2016

Click here for a version performed by Colin Tucker with lovely chords, November 2016

Pig Farmer

A cheery ditty of domestic abuse. And pigs.

pig farmer

Pig Farmer

When a maiden I was, in the Spring of my life,
I was promised to a farmer for to be his wife.
He had a bull, he had cows, he had a dozen fat swine,
And a dresser and a feather-bed, ’twould all be mine.

And he had a good house and a measure of land,
I was lucky, so they told me, for to take his hand,
And he had a good house and a measure of land,
I was lucky, so they told me, for to take his hand,
Take his hand, marry that man,
Lucky, so they told me, for to take his hand.

To the man I was wed, to the man I was wed,
And he took a liking to the beating of my head,
And he give me a kick, and he give me a clout,
Saying, ‘Woman, hold your tongue or have your teeth knocked out’.

He was a wicked old man, he was a wicked old man,
And he thought he taught a lesson with the back of his hand.
He was a wicked old man, he was a wicked old man,
And he thought he taught a lesson with the back of his hand,
Back of his hand, wicked old man,
Thought he taught a lesson with the back of his hand.

I was ready one night, I was ready one night,
And I loaded his gun and then I give him a fright,
And I made him to weep, and I made him to die,
And I did it with the blessing of the lord on high.

And I did it with hate, and I did it with love,
And I did it with the blessing of the lord above,
And I did it with hate, and I did it with love,
And I did it with the blessing of the lord above,
Lord above, love love love,
Did it with the blessing of the lord above.

I’m as free as a lark, I’m as free as a lark,
I am sitting in the dock and I’m as free as a lark,
And the magistrate glares, and the magistrate frowns,
And the magistrate mutters, ‘Has the body been found?’

‘Has the body been found? Has the body been found?
Are the officers a-digging up the farmyard ground?
Has the body been found? Has the body been found?
Are the officers a-digging up the farmyard ground?’
Digging in the ground, down down down,
Never going to find the body if they’re digging in the ground.
Digging in the ground, down down down,
Never going to find the body if they’re digging in the ground.

O farmer of pigs, O husband of mine,
I’m in hopes you think it fitting that I fed your swine,
O farmer of pigs, O husband of mine,
I’m in hopes you think it fitting that I fed your swine.

Click here for a version recorded at home, April 2015

Click here for a version recorded at the Nelson & Railway in Kimberley, 7th May 2015

Click here for a version recorded at the Sumac Centre in Nottingham, 30th April 2016

Click here for an Acacia Radio Random Country Session version, 21st February 2016 (starts at 1:24:30)

Click hear for a version on SoundCloud

Rivers of Blood

European parliamentary elections don’t usually inspire me to put pen to paper, but in the 2014 campaign the stink of overt racism which came wafting across the Channel mingled to a dispiriting degree with the stink of covert racism hovering over the UK.

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Rivers of Blood

I heard the man on the news, mother,
I heard the man on the news –
Says Romanian men gonna set up their den of iniquity
Next door to you.

And I read the newspapers too, brothers,
I read the newspapers too –
Saw the redtops report how we gotta deport all them Poles
Or there’s no jobs for you.

Rivers of blood never flowed,
No the rivers of blood never flowed.
Please don’t go down, please don’t go down,
Please don’t go down that old road.

I had a dream in the night, father,
I had a dream in the night –
The masses had voted and one leader gloated,
His Bierkeller Putsch went alright.

I smell the fear in the air, neighbours,
I smell the fear in the air –
Are you losing your land by extending a hand?
An Englishman’s home is his lair.

I put my trust in your hands, children,
I put my trust in your hands –
Can you see through the lies? Is there hope in your eyes
Or compassion or love in the land?

Rivers of blood never flowed,
No the rivers of blood never flowed.
Please don’t go down, please don’t go down,
Please don’t go down that old road.

Click here for a version recorded at home, June 2014

Click here for a version recorded at the Sumac Centre in Nottingham, 25th April 2015

Click here for a version recorded at the Poppy Folk Club in West Bridgford, 11th October 2015

Chopping an Onion

Here’s an attempt at writing a war poem, prompted by the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. The arrival of the dreaded telegram was the initial idea, combined with a taste of the efforts of the wartime housewife to grow more food during a time of shortages and rationing.

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Chopping an Onion

She was chopping an onion, an onion she’d grown
In the vegetable patch she’d dug in her lawn.
She glanced out the window and then looked again
As the telegram boy turned into the lane.

She shamefully wished the young angel of death
Upon innocent neighbours, under her breath,
Then her heart split apart and a single tear fell
As he walked up the path and rang on the bell.

He stood in his navy-blue jacket and hat
And held out the envelope, eyes on the mat.
She opened it painfully. ‘Thank you,’ she said.
‘REGRET TO INFORM …’ was as far as she read.

Re-reading the words as she sits on the stair
With a cold cup of tea and a howl of despair,
It’s been seventeen hours and she can’t understand
Why her son had to vanish in some distant land.

It’s been seventeen weeks and she wishes she knew
If he suffered, how he suffered, where he suffered, and with who,
And then comes a letter describing a grave,
Says she ought to feel proud – he was strong, he was brave.

It’s been seventeen years and she’s never known
Why her boy had to go, why he didn’t come home.
She’s still growing veg and she’s still baking pies
And when she chops onions no-one asks why she cries.

Click here for a version recorded at home, December 2013

Click here for a version with Nick Gibbs (from Folklaw) on fiddle

Click here for a version recorded at The Royal Children in Nottingham, 28th May 2016 (starts at 5:56)

Click here for a version recorded at the Sumac Centre in Nottingham, 25th April 2015

Click here for an alternative arrangement recorded in the cellar, February 2016

Click here for a version performed by Malcolm Fife, March 2016

Click here for an Acacia Radio Random Country Session version, 21st February 2016 (starts at 28:45)