Monday, 18 May 2020

The Song of the Shieldhall



The Song of the Shieldhall
Glasgow Corporation had two fine 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. The Captains of the Shieldhall and the Dalmarnock had to endure daily 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.
Many years ago the Brother and I went to the Deep South on a last visit to our Auntie, who was having her hundredth birthday. We came across the Shieldhall trying to earn her living as an excursion boat on the Solent, a nice legacy from my native city. I resolved to do something for her, not sending money of course but providing her with a shanty, the royalties from which could perhaps secure her future.
From this project I have learned about the difficulties faced by the budding songwriter/singer. 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 Anne 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 performed 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 had the camera, had fallen asleep.
I tried again years later, giving live solo renderings at the Cullipool Ceilidh and later in a shed on the shores of Loch Tummel, but so far I haven’t been invited onto BGT.
The Song of the Shieldhall
The Shieldhall was a sludgeboat and she sailed upon the sea
Her keel was laid at Renfrew in Nineteen fifty three
To Ailsa Craig she'd go, in sunshine and in snow
dropping off her cargo in the deep blue sea
Chorus:
To Ailsa Craig she'd go, in sunshine and in snow
dropping off her cargo in the deep blue sea
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

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The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water