Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Shieldhall was a Sludgeboat and she sailed upon the Clyde


A month or so ago the Brother and I made a trip to the deep South. There was a boat show on at the time, but we had no interest in visiting that. After all we had no interest whatever in acquiring one of these,

or these,


and we couldn't afford one of these



On the contrary we were down to visit our old Aunty, who had just become a hundred. Being at a loose end after the festivities we went for a wander into town and soon came upon a sight familiar to us in childhood, the old SS Shieldhall.

Glasgow Corporation had two of these ships taking sewage sludge from the population, then of a million or so, down the river. All of our major cities commissioned similar vessels, which operated until such an activity ceased to be permissible. There were two of these ships in Glasgow, the Shieldhall and the Dalmarnock, daily enduring signals from passing ships along the lines of "Where are you bound? What is your cargo?" in the days before the city ceased to be a great port.

The trips were a great boon for the pensioners of the city, who could get a free trip, a cup of tea and dancing to live music. Many a geriatric romance must have started on board, especially for those without a sense of smell.

Shieldhall now tries to earn her living as an excursion boat on the Solent, but in the present recession she is suffering somewhat. Earlier this year I heard of her plight and resolved to do something for her, not sending money of course but providing her with a nice song, the royalties from which could perhaps secure her future.

From this project I have learned about the difficulties faced by the budding songwriter/singer/impressario. You don't just write the thing and sit back to await fame. Writing it was the easiest part, certainly a lot easier than persuading my musical wife to provide a tune. A group of local women were in the habit of singing in a cowshed on Thursday evenings, but by the time I approached them they had disbanded. Months went by without the song being heard, delaying the anticipated revenue stream endlessly.

The world premiere eventually took place at that centre of the universe, Toberonochy. The song was duly preformed by a male voice choir, Charlie, Ken, Bill, John and self, before an invited audience to ecstatic applause. Sadly the event wasn't recorded as Richard, who was supposed to be there with a camera, had fallen asleep. In case someone else in the blogosphere has more luck, I reproduce the music and the lyric below. You can read more about the Shieldhall here:- www.ss-shieldhall.co.uk



The Song of the Shieldhall

The Shieldhall was a sludgeboat and she sailed upon the Clyde
Two hundred sixtyeight feet long and fortythree feet wide
To Ailsa Craig she'd go, in sunshine and in snow
dropping off her cargo in the deep brown tide

Chorus:      To Ailsa Craig she'd go, in sunshine and in snow
dropping off her cargo in the tide, deep brown tide

The Shieldhall was the finest ship that I have ever seen
Her captain wore a jacket of Corporation green
Her hull was painted grey, she chugged along all day
While the sailors scrubbed the decks and kept them clean, kept them clean

Chorus:      Her hull was painted grey, she chugged along all day
While the sailors scrubbed the decks and kept them clean, kept them clean

Now some ships sail to India and some sail to Tiree
Some sailors meet with sharks and whales and some just see the sea
Those sights are pretty rare, but the best thing I declare
On the Shieldhall you were always home for tea, home for tea

Chorus:      Those sights are pretty rare, but the best thing I declare
On the Shieldhall you were always home for tea, home for tea

From Whiteinch and from Partick and from Yoker to this boat
All had in mind a purpose, to get themselves afloat
And if they did incline, to drink a little wine
Making sure they had a bottle in their coat, in their coat

Chorus:      And if they did incline, to drink a little wine
Making sure they had a bottle in their coat, in their coat

For many years the Shieldhall did sail upon the sea
delighting all, who got a cup of tea
but the finest thing to tell, never mind the rain and smell
for pensioners the trip's completely free, all for free

Chorus:      but the finest thing to tell, never mind the rain and smell
for pensioners the trip's completely free, all for free

If you're daft enough to have read this far you may have noticed the subtle difference between the original version of verse one, given under the tune, and the revised one. The ship was of course launched in 1954, not 1953.

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The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water