noimage A Song of the Clyde (1882)

Song sung from the perspective of ’a toiler’s wife’ waiting for her husband, a fitter’s lad, to come home after a busy day in the yards.

The whistles blow, the hammers go, and willing hands begin
Tae work for hame, and wife, and weans amid the cheery din,
The whistles’ soun’ again comes roun’ the tools are laid aside;
Wi’ grimy faces hameward speed the toilers on the Clyde.

A toiler’s wife am I; wi’ sweet content I try
Tae keep my hoose baith trig and clean – and sae the days run by;
And blessings on us bide, for this is a’ my pride –
Tae be a richt guid wife tae Jack – a fitter on the Clyde.

Sailon, ‘A Song of the Clyde’, People’s Friend, 10 May 1882
noimage Song of the Clyde Workers (1883)
Alexander G. Murdoch

Song praising shipbuilding on the Clyde. Murdoch began his career as an engineer in the shipyards of the Clyde before becoming a professional poet and singer.

Ho, men of the Clyde, I will sing you a song,
For I, like yourselves, to the “black-squad” belong;
A bred engineer, I can handle the “file”:
Can “chip,” “fit,” and “polish” – a true son of toil!
And what I would sing is no song of a sigh,
No mawkish, soft song with a tear in its eye,
But a right good refrain – and I sing it with pride –
Hurrah for the shipbuilding men of the Clyde!

The men of the Clyde, Glasgow’s honour and pride;
Three cheers for the black-squads that work on the Clyde!

Alexander G. Murdoch, ‘Song of the Clyde Workers’, People’s Friend, 3 January 1883
noimage We’re Building a Bridge to Berlin (1918)
C. K. Gordon (words), Bart E. Grady (music)

First World War propaganda song to inspire American workers. It was used as the accompaniment to two gangs of riveters giving an exhibition of their daily toil at B. F. Keith’s vaudeville theatre in Boston.

noimage Shipyard Ramble (1941)
Erskine Hawkins and his Orchestra

Instrumental big band swing, featuring tenors Julian Dash and Paul Bascomb and with trumpeters Dud Bascomb and Hawkins

noimage Shipyard Social Function (1943)
Lucky Millinder and his orchestra

Instrumental big band swing. Shipyard Social Function is another fine swinger, notable for the gorgeous alto of Tab Smith, good trumpet and Sam Taylor’s tenor.

noimage Song of the Shipyards (1943?)
Harry J. Price

‘This music was the Regimental March of the Second Battalion, the West India Regiment, which was disbanded in 1925 The music is being revived by Todd Shipyards Corporation, of New York, one of the world’s ranking ship construction, repair and conversion concerns, as the “Song of the Shipyards” and as a means of saluting their men and of helping them to get along with the job a little more cheerily. After all, the Army, the Navy and Air Corps, the Marines and other units of our armed forces have their songs, so why shouldn’t the shipyard worker?’

noimage The Shipbuilders (1945)
Ruth Sheffer

Patriotic wartime piano solo. Sheet music illustrated by Roland Roycraft.

noimage Shipyard Woman Blues (1945)
Jimmy Witherspoon with Jay McShann

A macho plea for the return to prewar conditions, when women were back in the home.

Well, they say the war is over, and peace is here again,
Every time they want some shoes, they will have to come and see us men.
Yes, shipyard woman, hang your slacks upon the rack,
You had better put on some of those fine dresses, and give us men our privilege back.

noimage Shipyard Woman (1945)
Big Jim Wynn

A macho plea for the return to prewar conditions, when women were back in the home.

Well, they’ve said the war is over, and peace is here again to stay,
You shipyard workin’ women sure did have your way,
But it’s all over baby, now you girls have got to pay.

Also recorded by Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson.

noimage Got My Shipyard Job Again (1951)
Frankie Ervin with Austin McCoy and his Combo

Scoial comment on wartime shipyard women workers.

noimage Song of the Clyde (1957)
Ian Gourlay and R.Y. Bell

A celebration of the River Clyde:

But from Glasgow to Greenock, in towns on each side
The hammers ding-dong is the song of the Clyde

Sung and recorded numerous times, but most famously by Kenneth McKellar.

noimage The Shipbuilders (1960)
Peter Yorke

Peter Yorke’s Suite for brass band was commissioned for the 1960 BBC Fesival of Light Music. It contains four movements:
1. Web of Steel
2. The Launching
3. All Hands at Work
4. Maiden Voyage

It is a regular test piece on the brass band circuit. It was included in the Vickers Barrow Works Band LP of 1977, A Musical Portrait By The Shipbuilders.

noimage Unity Creates Strength (1972)

LP of folk music created in support of the workers of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ work-in. Includes the following tracks:

‘Pay Day’, Alex Campbell
‘Pack Your Tools’, Robin Hall and Jimmy McGregor
‘Great Iron Ship’, Danny Kyle

noimage Shipyard Apprentice (1964)
Archie Fisher

Also known as the ‘Fairfield Crane’ this song was first produced for the BBC2 series Landmarks in 1964. The song of an apprentice who emulates his father in the shipyard has evolved since first broadcast. It was first recorded in 1972 by Ray Fisher and has since become one of the most enduring folk songs of Clyde shipbuilding with many versions being recorded.

I was born in the shadow of a Fairfield’s crane
And the blast of a freighter’s horn
Was the very first sound that reached my ears
On the morning that I was born
I lay and listened to the shipyard noises
Coming out of the great unknown
I was sung to sleep by the mother tongue
That was to be my own

noimage Scottish Songs of Today (1964)
Matt McGinn

Collection of songs that included ‘Can o’ Tea’ about shipyard tea break disputes:

And the champagne flows, the wineglass glows

The shipyard gates will have tae close

They say it’s a’ because o’ me

They cannae hae their can o’ tea

and ‘The Welder Song’ about a shipyard welder in love:

I’m welding steel from morning till night
Thy say my rod’s aye burning bright.
I wouldna know if it’s wrong or right
For I aye hae my mind on you.

noimage Ballad of the Q4 (1968)
Matt McGinn

Tribute to the builders of the QE2. First appeared on the 1968 album Honesty is out of the Fashion.

We’ll burn and cut and shape and bend
We’ll be welding and riveting and in the end
When the painter’s dabbed his final coat
We’ll be launching the finest ever ship afloat

noimage Ship-Yard Blues (1971)
Jerry Wayne and the Working Men

Country and Western B side from Jeff Wayne’s dad. Vocal with instrumental accompaniment.

noimage Tinny Can on my Tail (1972)
Matt McGinn

Includes two songs in response to the UCS work-in:

Wi’ Jimmy Reid and Airlie
Yes, Yes, U.C.S.

The Clydeside men are angry noo
They’re no going on the dole queue
Tell they men in London toon
We’re taking our control noo

noimage The Shipbuilder (1972)
Bob Pegg & Nick Strutt

A forty minute narrative poem or ‘folk opera’ commissioned by the BBC and first broadcast in December 1972. Influenced by ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. The Great White Lord commissions the shipbuilder to built a boat, but he falls in love with the lord’s lady. The lord finds out and nails the shipbuilder into the hull of the boat. Issued as an LP in 1974. Pegg ‘has surpassed himself with ‘The Shipbuilder’ which in its own way is as important as Townshend’s Tommy’. Melody Maker

noimage When The Shipyards Go Back On Full Time (1976)
The Irish Rovers

Song about the cyclical nature of the Belfast shipyards. Appeared on the 1976 album Live!.

Our troubles are over me woman
For Clancy next door tells me straight
The shipyards go full time on Monday
That’s what he says any rate
Sure the boss has just told him this morning
While he was collecting the dole
That a big one is starting in Belfast
and the shipyards are out of the hole

noimage The Island Men (Shipyard Slips) (1977)
Men Of No Property

Song about the decline of the Belfast shipyards and exile, written by Dave Scott (David Wilde) who was a member of the group Men Of No Property. Originally called ‘The Island Men’, but later re-titled as ‘Shipyard Slips’. Appeared on the 1977 album England’s Vietnam.

Cho: And I served me time with the iron men
And I’ve known good times and work a-plenty
But there’s no work now in these troubled times
And the shipyard slips they’re lying empty

From Belfast town I’m on me way
On a ship that was built for the cruellest trade
I leave me friends and the land where I was born
And I won’t come back till me fortune is made

noimage Shipbuilding (1982)
Elvis Costello

Written in response to the Falklands Conflict. First issued as an EP by Robert Wyatt in August 1982. Recorded by Elvis Costello for the 1983 album Punch the Clock featuring Chet Baker. Since recorded by many other artists including Suede, Tasmin Archer and June Tabor. Probably the best-known song about shipbuilding.

Within weeks they’ll be re-opening the shipyards
And notifying the next of kin
Once again
It’s all we’re skilled in
We will be shipbuilding…

noimage Shipyard Town (1988)
Jerry Rafferty

A love song set against the backdrop of the Clyde.

And we stood out in the moonlight, in the shadow of a factory wall
Music playing soft and low, and a gentle breeze sighing
And the light on the river was magic, yes a magic that I still recall
Moments come and moments go, but these moments still remain.

Remember how we met, down by the waterside
How easily we forget, all the love that we knew.

Featured on the 1988 album North and South.

noimage The Soul Cages (1991)

An album dedicated to Sting’s father, an engineer who regretted not going to sea. The song Island of Souls tells the story of Billy the riveter. As he watches the ships set sail that his father helped build he dreams of taking his father with him to escape to sea. His father is then injured and given three weeks to live.

Billy was born within sight of the shipyard
First son of a riveter’s son
And Billy was raised as the ship grew a shadow
Her great hull would blot out the light of the sun

noimage The River (1993)
Battlefield Band

A dark evocation of the Clyde’s empty shipyards, featured on the 1993 album Quiet Days.

Rows of slipways stand forgotten, empty yards with rotten frames
Silent quays lie abandoned, they once were busy in better days
This old shipbuilding gone forever, no more flags on launching day
Days of pride and days of sorrow, were they as golden as they say.

noimage Shipyards (1993)

An elegy to the loss of industry in the North East by the Sunderland punk bank, featured on the 1994 album The Last.

Throw the fishermen lines close the shipyards and mines
Leaving only the water we’ll still have old wives tales
About the old days deep lonely waters the old days
The old days deep lonely waters the old days
The old days see they can for there they go the old days

noimage My Father Worked on Ships (1995)
The Whisky Priests

Bittersweet song about father’s pride at working in the Sunderland shipyards.

He was proud of those ships he built
He was proud of the men he built with
His dreams sailed with them
The hull was his skull
The cargo his brains
My father worked on ships

Featured on the 1995 album Bleeding Sketches.

An instrumental titled ‘Death of the Shipyards’ also featured on the 1989 album Nee Gud Luck focusing on industrial decline in the North East of England.

noimage Shipyard (1999)
Tucker Zimmerman’s Nightshift Trio

A song that harks back to the labour displacement of the Second World War as workers moved to the shipyards.

Featured on the 1999 album Walking of the Edge of the Blues.

I come to California in 1943
I come to California nineteen and forty-three
nothing in my pockets, four hungry mouths to feed
I got work at the shipyard, down in the deep, dark hole
working at the shipyard, down in the deep, dark hole
welding the steel, just doing what I been told

noimage Shipyards (2001)

A lament for the Clydeside shipyards featured on the 2001 album Canterach.

noimage Newstead (2002)
Goff Richards

A celebration of the Wirral for Brass Band, commissioned for the Wirral Schools’ Music Service. The third movement is titled ‘Shipbuilding on the Mersey’. ‘As the music unfolds, sense the work being done and the ships being proudly set afloat. The movement ends with a soprano cornet sounding out a ‘melody of hope’ for the future.’

noimage Shipyards and Engineering Co. Ltd (2002)

Dutch techno artist Remco De Jong took his cues from the Bolnes shipyard where his studio is located. An old disused dock in the harbour of Rotterdam still filled with large-scale machinery and cranes, the melancholy industrial atmosphere of the place infuses his music. Minimal and mechanical beats are overlaid with floating electronica, evoking the waters of the Maas River moving through the dock.

noimage Shipyard (2009)

Title track of the German techno outfit’s 2009 12”. Other tracks include Cargo, Dockyard and a SQL “Dub” Remix of Shipyard.

noimage Shipyard (2011)
The Same

Polish shipyard techno from the EP Mental Disorder. Also includes a Dereyen remix.

noimage Shipyard (2012)

Shipyard techno from the Cincinnati dubstep producer. Appears on the EP Chemical Equation.

noimage Made in Belfast (2012)
Noel McMaster & Conal McCartney

A musical tribute to Titanic produced for the centenary. All of the songs relate to life around the time of the construction of the Titanic at Harland and Wolff. McMaster and McCartney portray the stark reality of life in both the home and working environment. Songs include ‘Harland & Wolff”, ‘Whiskey for the Boys and ‘Frosty Belfast Morn’. ‘Their music is both haunting and emotional’.

noimage Songs from the Shipyards (2012)
The Unthanks

Music created for the Tyneside Cinema commissioned film Songs from the Shipyards, ‘a beautiful and moving film, tracing the story of shipbuilding’. Includes the songs:

Fairfield Crane
The Romantic Tees
Monkey Dung Man

noimage The Shipyard (2012)
Tor Lundvall

Tor Lundvall is an American ambient/drone producer and painter. ‘The idea of a shipyard themed album is so fascinating and hearing it in its entirety makes it even more worthwhile.’ The first song on the album The Shipyard at Dawn portrays what a shipyard might be like at dawn. The drone synths and atmosphere of the track insinuate a very early morning sound. In the context of a shipyard, the fog has just come in and is surrounding the ships.

noimage The Shipyard (2012)
The Shipyard

Shipyard angst from Polish alternative post punk group. Appeared on the 2012 debut album We Will Sea.

The sky is filled with stars
My heart is filled with your embrace
My ship has reached your shores
The shipyard will never fall asleep

noimage The Last Ship (2013)

A studio album inspired by the musical of the same name. It draws on Sting’s memories of growing up in the shipyard town of Wallsend and is based on the closure of the Tyne shipyards. Includes the songs:

The Last Ship
Dead Men’s Boots
Ballad of the Great Eastern

noimage The Shipyard Song (2013)
Don Smith

Country music song about working at Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula. Its got it all; hardhats, punching in getting up, lunch buckets, boss man, chipping, grinding, painting, fitting, etc., done in a big production with full band and background singers

noimage Distant Shipyard (2013)

A nice bit of Polish shipyard techno…

noimage Shipyard Blues (2015)

Romanian ambient minimal techno.

noimage Shipyard (2015)
Jose Baher

An explosive Funky Tech House with great vocals and textures conducive to the dance floor.

noimage Submarine Shipyard (2015)
DJ Dave Alexander

Dark and scary techno from Canada.

noimage Shipyard (2015)
Shitty Circle

Italian techno from Milan’s DJs and producers Paolo Pozzi & Piero Scibetta.

noimage Shipyards (2015)
The Lake Poets

Sunderland singer & songwriter Martin Longstaff’s homage. ‘My Granddad as a profession used to build Ships, he worked at Austin & Pickersgill on the banks of the River Wear. I am very proud if this fact, so proud in fact that I wrote the song ‘Shipyards’ about him’.

Like a ship you built you’re long gone from the coast
Where you are and where we go we’ll never know
On a ship you built that’s where I see you most