Wednesday 14 January 2015

Song: Autobiography of a Navvy

The lyric of this song can be found in my song lyric book, Love Death and Whiskey...
See, for example...
I made it my contribution to TradConnect's Songwriter Showcase with Christy Moore...
I wanted to show support for TradConnect and Tony Lawless - this was a nice, straightforward project, clearly meant to be a service to TradConnect's members, making no attempt to exploit us.
My lyric seemed to fit within the rules of the Songwriter Showcase, as they were at the beginning of the project, or as I understood them.  We were required to put a sung version of the song on Soundcloud.  So, I did.  But I also persuaded Stephanie Hladowski to put an austere version of the song out there...
The lyric connects with various projects to do with my development of Irish Diaspora Studies.
The title of the song is a kind of homage to Patrick MacGill (1889-1963), 'The Navvy Poet'. There is a hint, too, of the grimmer songs of work and diaspora, like An Spailpin Fanach.  It is a grim lyric
The lyric also connects with a small research project conducted by the charity, Leeds Irish Health and Homes, which looked at precisely where in Ireland the Leeds Irish come from. Mostly the Irish of Leeds come from Mayo, and have well-established links and networks.
But the charity also found a number of elderly men, from many different parts of Ireland, living isolated lives in bedsits in Leeds. These were the navvies, still living where they happened to be when the last contract ended, and when the body could no longer do the work.
My lyric uses some 1970s navvy words, like 'lump' and 'subby'.
The lyric will go to the tune that in Ireland is known as 'The Croppy Boy', and in England is known as 'Lord Franklin' - and is very like the tune used by Bob Dylan in 'Bob Dylan's Dream'. But the lyric has a very simple, strong structure, and could be set in any number of ways.
Tony Lawless's and TradConnect's Songwriter Showcase has now closed...
Patrick O'Sullivan
January 2015

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