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The Blantyre Explosion

(Clyde's Bonnie Banks)    Trad

Music sequenced © 2000 by Ron Clarke
<bgsound src="../../midi/gaughan/blantyre.mid" width="280" height="40" loop=1>

  • By Clyde's bonnie banks as I sadly did wander
    Among the pitheaps as evening drew nigh
    I spied a wee lassie all dressed in deep mourning
    A-weeping and wailing wi' mony's sigh

    I stepped up beside her and thus did address her
    Come tell me, young lass, o' your sorrow and pain
    A-sobbing and sighing, at last she did answer
    Johnny Murphy, kind sir, was my ain true love's name

    Twenty-one years of age, full o' youth and good-looking
    To work doon the mines at High Blantyre he came
    The wedding was fixed, all the guests were invited
    That calm summer's evening young Johnny was slain

    The explosion was heard, all the women and children
    Wi' pale anxious faces they haste tae the mine
    When the news was made heard the hills rang with their mourning
    Twa hundred and seven young miners were slain

    Noo husbands and wives and sweethearts and brothers
    That Blantyre explosion they'll never forget
    And all ye young miners that hear my sad story
    Shed a tear for the victims that's laid tae their rest

    As sung by Dick Gaughan

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1958:] It is sometimes argued that the Industrial Revolution killed folk-song, and of course, there is something in that. [...] But it is also true that wherever men work and live and love and suffer, someone will string some words together about it. So that even in the dirty, smoky, clamorous industrial age songs have appeared [...] This song was one of the first I ever heard sung by Rena Swankie [...]. It can, of course, still be heard among the miners in Lanarkshire but also nowadays in Fife and the Lothians. The explosion, one of the biggest disasters in the history of the mines, occurred at High Blantyre on October 22, 1877. (Norman Buchan, Weekly Scotsman, Nov 20)
  • [1967:] In character and in function, the texts were changing fast. Ballads of this kind [...] represent a middling stage. [This song] took a course that resembled and yet was already departing from the way of conventional broadside pieces. As with the stall ballads of lost love and brutal murder, the tragedy was presented in personal terms - [...] a young woman of vague features stands by a river lamenting for her lover killed in the mine. But the listener understands this is no personal tragedy, the young woman is the symbol of all the mourning women in the stricken community. For all that, no comment is offered beyond a general curse on the cruel mine; an air of fatalism hangs over this kind of song, the hero is a fine boy but a mere toy of destiny, like the heroes of the folk ballads of earlier times. [...]

    The Blantyre explosion typefies a slightly later growth [than Johnny Seddon]. The whole panorama is clearer, we know the name of the colliery, the number of miners who died alongside the hero is specified, the community is presented, even if only obliquely, in the mouth of the solitary riverside mourner [...]. (Lloyd, England 335f)

  • [1974:] 'APPALLING COLLIERY ACCIDENT IN SCOTLAND: A fearful Accident took place at Dixon's Pits, High Blantyre, eight miles above Glasgow, on Monday, October 22nd, [1877,] when it is supposed that ABOVE TWO HUNDRED COLLIERS LOST THEIR LIVES' - so reads the prose text above a broadside version of this song, which is known, not only in Scotland, but also in the United States, where there is also a mining district known as Blantyre, and in Northern Ireland. The lovely last verse here is adapted from the version sung to Robin Morton by John Maguire of Tonaydrumallard, Co. Fermanagh, which John said he had learned in a Blantyre pub in the 1920s from an old Highlander who had worked a shift before the explosion. (Dallas, Toil 205)

  • [1975:] In its report on the explosion The Glasgow Herald noted that "from every household in the locality one or more of the members were among the list of the entombed". The effect on a small community like High Blantyre must have been devastating. (Notes Boys of the Lough, 'Lochaber No More')

  • [1983:] Ewan MacColl berichtet, daß sich die Katastrophe, von der hier die Rede ist, im Jahre 1877 in einer der Kohlengruben in High Blantyre bei Glasgow ereignete. Über 200 Bergarbeiter fanden dabei den Tod. Mrs. Cosgrove aus Newton Grange, Midlothian, hat diese Version gesungen; sie wurde von dem Folkforscher Alan Lomax aufgenommen. (Walton 42)

  • [1990:] William Dixon, [then the biggest iron- and coal-master in the Glasgow region,] also owned the pit at Blantyre, outside Glasgow. [...] Of 233 men and boys working in the pit on that day, 207 were killed. [...] Note the name of the miner; in fact, the majority of the slain men were Irish. Dixon's pit was notorious for poor ventilation and bad management. The local miners' leader, Alexander McDonald, was hard put to it to restrain the pitmen from taking summary vengeance on Dixon and his managers. And Dixon, ironically, was regarded as a model employer in many respects. (Damer, Glasgow 27ff)

  • [1996:] 'The Blantyre Explosion' disaster occurred at Messrs. Dixon's Colliery, High Blantyre, near Glasgow on October 22nd, 1877, with the resulting death of over 200 miners. We considered Ewan [MacColl]'s version of this song to be quite outstanding and a must for the album. (Notes 'If It Wisnae for the Union - STUC Centenary Album')

Quelle: Scotland

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