Settle Carlisle Line CD Project

Until recently I lived for over 20 years within 2 miles of the Settle Carlisle Railway near to Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria. I travelled it’s length many times over that period, never giving a thought to who built it, or the complexities of building a railway line across such difficult terrain. I was more concerned with just getting from A to B.

It was Mike Harding who suggested a song for me to sing called Alice White written by Alan Bell. This song spiked my interest into the lives of the Navvies who built the line; their many hardships, their dependents, the conditions in which they lived. Many late nights and hours of research followed. I read books by Terry Coleman and W.R. Mitchell to name just a couple. I scoured the internet for references about The Settle Carlisle Railway and about Navvies generally. I read about what was happening in the 1870s; the politics, fashion, the working classes, the music they liked. This all combined to provide me with a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to write these songs. In fact, there was such an abundance of information and stories that I decided to focus this collection of songs around the Ribblehead Viaduct, Blea Moor Tunnel and the Shanty Batty Green.

Musicians involved in the making of this CD:
Karin Grandal-Park – lead vocals & harmonies (singer/songwriter, poet)
Rebecca Clare Douglas – Music Director for this project. Violin, Piano, Viola, Backing Vocals. (Graduate in Music from Oxford University (BA (Hons) Oxon), a qualified teacher of the Associated Board of The Royal Schools of Music and former Head of Strings at Giggleswick School.)
Allan Ideson – guitar. (Talented multi style guitarist of Irish Folk, Appalachian, English Folk, contemporary)
Mike Harding – Banjo, Mandolin, Bodhran, Harmonica. (singer/songwriter, comedian, author, poet, broadcaster and multi-instrumentalist)

This project is part of Stories in Stone, a scheme of conservation and community projects concentrated on the Ingleborough area. The scheme was developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership, led by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. ‪

‘Lives on the Line’ – Song Words

‘Going on a Randy’ was a phrase that Navvies used to describe going on a drinking spree. These Randy’s could last for days, basically until the money ran out and they sobered up. Often this would mean that a Navvy would have nothing to live on for a month until his next pay day. This resulted in Navvies having to ask for credit from the company (or Truck as they called it) This ‘Truck’ was usually in the form of vouchers/tickets that could only be redeemed at the Company Shop. These shops were much more expensive than other shops.

He’s going on a Randy, until all his money’s lost
He’s going on a randy, doesn’t care about the cost
He’s going on a Randy, drink all that he can take
He’s going on a Randy, a thirst he has to slake

End of shift on pay day, he goes to collect his dues
With anticipation , he waits, standing in the queue
He’s avoided the missus, who would take his pay away
What’s the use of saving, he’s only living for the day

His mates are all a grinning, a Randy they have planned
Women, Whiskey, Ale, a fight, all at their command
Mary Ann Lee will dance that night at the Old Hill Inn
With whistles and shouts they make their way their Randy to begin

A rival gang has turned up, from further up the line
They’re squaring up for a fight, they’re making all the signs
Insults are a-flyin’round and ale it has been spilt
A Navvy roars with laughter until his mouth is filled

Women start a shriek in’ one jumps upon his back
He’s going round in circles while he fends of this attack
His mate comes to the rescue but she downs him with a kick
She’s seen enough of Navvy fights to know all of their tricks

The fight moves outside the Inn, Navvies roll upon the ground
They all freeze with horror when they hear a terrible sound
His wife has caught up with him, she ain’t what you’d call petite
With a hand on the scruff of his neck she’ll use the other just to beat

All the navvies see what’s happening and they double up with glee
They watch in fascination as he does his best to flee
The fight now forgotten, they shake hands, head back inside
Still laughing at the Navvy whose wife just tanned his hide

Alice White – written by Alan Bell, published by Tamlyn Music Ltd

My name is Alice White, I’d have you all to know
I left my father’s farm, a long long time ago
My mother called me a silly lass, she said I’d rue the day
That I followed on the heels of the navvies

My first man Dandy Jack, was handsome young and fine
And we travelled throughout England as we trudged from line to line
We lived in shanty houses, had lodgers and children three
As I worked to fill the needs of the navvies

When Dandy Jack was killed, beneath a fall of stone
I wept and cursed the day, that ever I was born
But the children needed feeding and many men looked at me
So I jumped the brush to stay with the navvies

Time came I was deserted, when my children numbered five
And I had to take another man, just to keep us all alive
And now I’ve had so many men, they call me Alice Free
As I’ve lived my life away with the navvies

And now I’m getting old, and grey before my time
With the work and the childbearing, as we trudged from line to line
I often think of poor Dandy Jack, lying so cold in his grave
He’s the only one I loved of the navvies

The Market Train
I was intrigued about a story I read. This was about the use of a small locomotive, to pull wagons to transport the Navvy Folk to the shops and services of the Shanty at Batty Green each Saturday. These wagons or ‘gritty trucks’ as they were known, were used daily to carry the soil and clay that had been excavated by the Navvies. Wooden racks were added so that people could sit in the wagons whilst travelling to the market. This song is how I would imagine what these Saturday events were like.

The market train from Jericho, calls at Jerusalem as she goes
Carrying the folk across the Dale, to Batty Green and the Market Sale
Gritty trucks used for carrying the clay, transport the Navvies to spend their pay
Folk clamber in and sit on the racks, for the journey along the railway tracks

On a Saturday they come in their droves, to buy their goods or soothe their woes
Have a few drinks, hear all the craic, then catch the train for the journey back
At the market the kids are playing tag, women are fighting over the Boneman’s rags
Dogs are barking running around, drunks sleeping it off upon the ground

Sly eyed Joe is hawking his wares, hob nail boots and leather squares
Holes in your soles, mended while you wait, 2nd hand boots a dead mans fate
Black and brown, some red and fancy, buy them for your wife or your latest Nancy
Keep your feet all warm and dry, while digging the muck for the tracks to lie

Smells of cooking, of sweat, and of waste, hang in the air you can almost taste
Bare knuckle fighting cheered on by the men, the bell is rung and they’re at it again
Billy Williams is standing his ground, trading blows, round after round
Blood it is flowing, the bets are laid down, for ‘The Cock of the Camp’ he must be found.

The light it is fading, it’s time to go, to catch the train back to Jericho
A change of shift, gangs head to the line, the work carries on no matter the time
Looking down on this scene, the viaduct supreme, still wrapped in her girdle of scaffold
24 arches has she, and for miles you will see, the trains on the Settle Carlisle Railway

In the Springtime
My first introduction to the lives of the Navvies was a song called Alice White, written by Alan Bell and recommended to me by Mike Harding. It tells the story of Alice who runs off with a Navvy called Dandy Jack. I was kindly given permission by Alan Bell to record this song on this CD. Alice has a hard life and is forced to take another man after Dandy Jack’s demise. He died following a fall of stone whilst working on the line. I was inspired to write the story of how Alice met Dandy Jack and some more of her trials and tribulations.

I met him in the Springtime, beside the Skandal Beck
A red and white handkerchief, he wore around his neck
Eyes of the brightest blue, his hair a fiery red
A smile to melt the hardest heart, come from Ireland is what he said

I met him in the Springtime, in the county of Westmorland
Off to work the Settle Carlisle Line, be a Navvie he had planned
He asked me to go with him, so we jumped over the broom
Me Ma she wept and told me, I’d made myself a fool

Had our first child in the Springtime, in the Shanty Batty Green
I wrapped him in my mother’s shawl, I was then but seventeen
I tried so hard to save him, another 80 died of the same
That Springtime I will never forget, nothing takes away the pain

I longed for the Springtime, when the Shanty a sea of mud
The wind blew through the gaps in the walls, enough to freeze your blood
Me Dandy he’s a good man, despite what my mother cried
I love him with a passion, through the hardships we abide

Oh to be a Navvy
When I first read about how most Navvie’s could shift up to 20 tonnes of earth a day, I was shocked. Researching this further I read that it could take up to a year before a new Navvy could achieve this. This song is about such a Navvy, a lad who leaves his fathers farm to find employment as a Navvy, believing that he could earn a better wage.

His first day as a Navvy, he was home by 3 o’clock
His hands all cut and bloody, his face pale with the shock
He told me he had shifted 6 tonnes of earth that day
Only earned 2 shillings of the 5 that was his pay

Oh to be a Navvy, be a hard and drinking man
Oh to be a Navvy, earn the best pay that he can
Oh to be a Navvy, work the Settle Carlisle Line
Oh to be a Navvy, come the rain, the hail or shine

He grew up a strapping lad, he had worked his fathers land
With thoughts of easy money, he got more than he had planned
He thought he was a strong lad until he worked a Navvies shift
Took him nigh on a full year, afore he could work the whole of it

His breakfast off a shovel, fried up by the gangers lad
2Ibs of beef, a galleon of ale, on most days he will have
He’s particular about his clothing, canvas shirt, red handkerchief
Moleskin trousers, square tailed coat, and a cudgel up his sleeve

He’s now working on the Barrow Runs, on the highest Navvy rate
Not bad for this poor Irish lad, he is often heard to state
I fear for him daily and hope he makes it home
Better to be a Navvy wife, than a widow left alone

A Day like any other
The building of the Blea Moor Tunnel was a huge feat of engineering. 500 feet below the surface and 2,629 yards long, it claimed many lives during its excavation. This song tells the story of a cave in when Navvies were excavating one of the seven ventilation shafts.

It was a day like any other day, though some snow lay on the ground
The wind howled like a Banshee, as we took the track from town
From Batty Green to the tunnel we trudged, our breath froze in the air
We laughed about the night before, at The Gearstones Inn, a good night there

Our work today and every day, to shift the tonnes of dirt
Excavating the Tunnel we crawl, deep within the earth

With a pick axe and a shovel, a new thing called Dynamite
More often with just our bare hands we clear the rubble off the site
Labouring in the semi dark, our sweat runs down our backs
As foot by foot we claw our way, so Midland can lay their tracks

A tearing thundering sound is heard, the earth it shifts and quakes
The air rushes past as we lie there, a howling sound it makes
Gasping, coughing, terrified, we stumble as we run
Dragging our mates we reach daylight, and the shock that makes us numb

Four good men we lost today, digging out a ventilation shaft
It was hours before they got to them, I saw the bodies as they passed
The women are all awailing, the bairns in shock they stare
What you might read in the local press, ain’t the truth of what happened there

Hide from the Devil
Inspiration for this song came from reading about the actvity of the Temperance League who tried to work with the Navvies to stem the amount of drunkenness and wild behaviour that went on within the Shanty Towns and beyond. I have also drawn inspiration from two true stories; 1. A man wandering home in a drunken state, decided to ‘sleep it off’ with his head resting on the railway track! 2. A Navvie who’s wife ran off with a man half her age!
You can hide from the devil, run from your wife
But never let the Temperance League get you in their sights
They’ll descend upon you like a flock of angry crows
I’d sooner he fight 10 Navvie lads, than deal with the likes of those

His woman’s got religion, it changed her overnight
Now she’s reading scripture, quotes from the Bible, every time they fight
She tells him he’s a drunkard, won’t let him have his way
Until he gives up on the drinking, on the bed her side she’ll stay

A man she knew he fell asleep, head on the railway track
He was drunk as drunk as drunk could be, now he’s never coming back
Train came through in the middle of the night, driver never saw him Lyin’
Sleepin’ it off on a Railway track is a sure way of dyin’
Hey, hey, hey

His woman’s gone and left him, for a Navvy half her age
She met him at her Bible class, says he has been saved
Not a drop of liquor, all his wages she receives
I swear to god he’ll help him pray, when he knocks him to his knees
Hey, hey, hey

He’s shifted tonnes of earth today, 5 shillings is what he’ll get
A fair price you might say, as payment for his sweat
The whiskey helps to numb the pain, it takes away the aching
Working hard, playing hard, for a short life he is takin’
Hey, hey, hey