Blackleg Miner

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Blackleg Miner is a 19th-century English folk song, originally from Northumberland (as can be deduced from the dialect in the song and the references in it to the villages of Seghill and Seaton Delaval). Its Roud number is 3193.[1]

History[edit]

The song is believed to originate from the miners' lockout of 1844. Although this was a national lock-out, the language of the song suggests that it refers to the dispute in the north-east coalfield, which lasted roughly 20 weeks. The lockout largely collapsed as a result of "blackleg" labour.[2]

The lyrics, which are traditional, depict the determined, uncompromising stance against strikebreakers adopted by unionized strikers - the term blackleg being an older word for scab (the mining sector in the UK was always heavily unionised and strikes could cause bitterness both within and between pit communities, but more often gave rise to expressions of solidarity such as sympathy strikes by other pits, material assistance such as food, and a feeling of belonging to a proud and powerful community of workers).

For a period in the 1960s and 1970s, the song's uncompromising lyrics were appreciated for their directness and militancy by many young people radicalized by the student rebellions of 1968, and the song was often sung at folk music societies. The song gained another revival during the hard-fought strike of the 1980s. However, some of the violent clashes during the 1980s strike (most notably the attacks on Michael Fletcher and David Wilkie) caused many to feel uncomfortable with suggestions of violence against strikebreakers.

Thereafter, playing the song became a political statement in support of the strike and some folk clubs avoided the song due to its description of violence used by others than the army and the police. This was counterbalanced by an increase in bands that played the song. In particular, the song enjoyed a revival with a 1970 recording by Steeleye Span, which was later used during the '84-85 strike to intimidate working miners.[3]

Covers[edit]

Other artists to have played this song include Steeleye Span, the Ian Campbell Folk Group, the High Level Ranters, Highland Reign, the Houghton Weavers, Broom Bezzums, Ryan's Fancy, the New Minstrel Revue, Blue Horses, New Celeste, FinTan, Duo Noir, Cameron Muir, Smoky Finish and Clatterbone, Len Wallace, John Maggs, Seven Nations, Sol Invictus, Louis Killen, the Angelic Upstarts as well as Richard Thompson, Ewan MacColl, Dick Gaughan, Aengus Finnan, Jon Boden, Maddy Prior, Andy Wainwright, John Hewitt, The Inchtabokatables, Banjax, Eric Fish, The Dixie Bee-Liners, Settlers Match and David Wrench with Black Sheep.[4]

Lyrics[edit]


It's in the evening after dark,
When the blackleg miner creeps to work,
With his moleskin pants and dirty shirt,
There goes the blackleg miner!


Well he takes his tools and doon he goes
To hew the coal that lies below,
There's not a woman in this town-row
Will look at the blackleg miner.


Oh, Delaval is a terrible place.
They rub wet clay in the blackleg's face,
And around the heaps they run a foot race,
To catch the blackleg miner!


So, dinna gan near the Seghill mine.
Across the way they stretch a line,
To catch the throat and break the spine
Of the dirty blackleg miner.


They grab his duds and his pick as well,
And they hoy them down the pit of hell.
Doon ye go, and fare ye well,
You dirty blackleg miner!


So join the union while you may.
Don't wait till your dying day,
For that may not be far away,
You dirty blackleg miner!

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.vwml.org/roudnumber/3193
  2. ^ Amos, David (December 2011). "THE NOTTINGHAMSHIRE MINERS', THE UNION OF DEMOCRATIC MINEWORKERS AND THE 1984-85 MINERS STRIKE: SCABS OR SCAPEGOATS?" (PDF). University of Nottingham. p. 289. Retrieved 19 July 2015. The song, Blackleg Miner, is thought to originate from the 1844 Miners' Lockout in the North East Coalfield. The Miners' Association of Great Britain and Ireland (MAGBI), founded in 1841 by Martin Jude, was in dispute over the yearly bonding systems. The union was demanding fortnightly contracts. The lockout in the North East lasted twenty weeks and collapsed largely as a result of the introduction of 'blackleg labour'.  line feed character in |quote= at position 162 (help)
  3. ^ Amos, David (December 2011). "THE NOTTINGHAMSHIRE MINERS', THE UNION OF DEMOCRATIC MINEWORKERS AND THE 1984-85 MINERS STRIKE: SCABS OR SCAPEGOATS?" (PDF). University of Nottingham. p. 291. Retrieved 19 July 2015. The song 'Blackleg Miner' was revamped by the folk-rock group Steeleye Span in 1970, and became part of their repertoire in live performances during the 1970s and 1980s. During the 1984-85 miners' strike the song was used by striking miners in some coalfields to intimidate those who continued to work. The song became a political statement for supporters of the strike. 
  4. ^ "David Wrench/Black Sheep — Spades & Hoes & Plows". Headheritage.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-09-02.