Monday, September 04, 2006

Song For Labor Day

This is an old, very old, labor song. From bonny Scotland. This one predates the industrial revolution and shows a working man's awareness of his worth. I provide it here, without trying to accentuate the Scot's burr which is required to make the poetry truly scan and rhyme. The Clancy Brothers recorded an excellent version of this. Do some digging, it's worth a listen. This song was also the inspiration for the name of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger's group "The Weavers"

To hear the melody line in MIDI click

The Work O' The Weavers

We're all met together here to sit and to clack
With our glasses in our hands and our work upon our back
There's nae a trade among 'em who could mend or could knack
If it wasna for the Work O' the Weavers


If it wasna for the weavers wha' would ya do?
Ya wouldna hae no cloth tha's made o' wool.
Ya wouldna hae no greens, nor your greys, nor your blues
If it wasna for the work o' the weavers.

There's soldiers and there's sailors and there's glaziers an' a'
There's doctors and there's ministers
An' them as read the law
There's them as count up money but they'd do no work at all
If it wasna for the work of the weavers


There's folks tha's independant of another tradesman's work
For women need nae barbers and the dykers need nae clark
But nae o' them could walk about wi'out a coat and shirt
For a' tha' they must come to the weavers


The weaving is a trade which never can fail
As long as we wear clothes for ta keep a body hale
So let us all be merry an' o'er a beaker of good ale
We will drink to the health of the weavers


Of course, weaving as a trade vanished with the industrial revolution. But it's a good thing to remember that those work at trades like the weavers of old are well aware of the vital quality of their work. Mr. Shakes was indeed gracious enough to give voice to the lyrics, for which we are grateful.
Happy Labor day, to those who are lucky enough to have work to do, to all those who are looking. I offer my best wishes.


After a little more research, including the aforemention Mr. Shakes, I chose to turn the word in the first line, first verse back to "clack." I did this because that was how I learned the song. I did this even after consulting two confirming sources that listed it as "crack." I learned the song from an Irishman, so you have the whole Irish guy doing the Scots' accent, but there's a punnish aspect of having it be "clack" that appeals to me. They could be chatting, they could also be "clacking" at their looms. Hey, it's folk music. Don't complain to me I didn't make the rules of folk tradition which allow you to rework, rewrite at full liberty.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The word you changed to "clack" actually is "crack. It's the same "crack" as in "wise-crack," and it's an old word for "chat."

9:59 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

thanks for the correction, the change has been made. i've been singing it wrong for over twenty years now. i wish it was as easy to change that as it was to edit blogger.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Shakespeare's Sister said...

Mr. Shakes, as it turns out, could be prevailed upon.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Mr. Shakes said...

Btw, "clack" can mean to chatter or talk quickly, so it's not necessarily incorrect. I'm not familiar with the original song, but I do think it's possible that it could have been clack, especially since I'm sure I've heard it used before in Old Scots.

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Darryl Pearce said...

Here's another song I've enjoyed:

Carls o' Dysart

3:13 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i thought about it some and changed it back. it just sounds and feels better in my mouth. i even sat down with the guitar to try and sing it saying "crack" and it just wouldn't work for me. i'm a pretty awful singer as it is, i don't need to have the lyrics fighting my mouth. thank you so much for your help and the addition of your voice mr. shakes.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Mr. Shakes said...

My pleasure, Sir.

7:37 AM  
Blogger The Fat Lady Sings said...

I am a huge fan of Pete Seeger. I grew up listening to his music - and I agree with most of his politics as well. Good man, that.

1:41 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

me too. pete is a national treasure. i've had the honor of sharing the stage with him and had a total blast. offstage he's a hoot and a half too. his work helping to clean up the hudson river alone would have been enough good deeds for most lifetimes.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

David Shaw's word was 'crack' and comes from the Gaelic craic for conversation.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous kim said...

I couldn't find any version of the song they would let me play to hear it. there's several references to it. They will let me download it, supposedly free (I don't believe them, since they want me to sign up for something...) but no one has anything to listen to.
Has anyone else found one?

8:53 PM  

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