Red Vest, Blue Shirt

This song tells the story of Andrew Bowden, my Gt gt uncle, he would have been the brother in law of George Warren, who features in my song, ‘Pease Pudding & Daal’, had he lived to see his sister Agnes’ wedding. Andrew’s death led to the tightening up of some safety regulations in the mines. Andrew was born to an Irish family in Brigham, near Cockermouth, Cumberland. Cumbrian miners got some stick when they arrived in the North East wearing clogs, still in general use in Cumbria. (See Chapter 4,’ Boldon Colliery’ in ‘A Man’s Life’, the autobiography of Jack Lawson.) Details of the clothing of late 19th century pitmen come from the writings of Mr Fred Wade of Annfield Plain, whose writings are full of interesting detail of Durham life

‘The Maryport Mystery’, or ‘Shotley Bridge Fair’


The painting, by William Mitchell is entitled A Barquentine making Maryport harbour in a gale , 1882

The Maryport Mystery C 5 Dec 1846
-B- C# D# E D# C#
He‘d a lump in his throat and his coat on his arm Setting out for the Cumberland pits.
Both his parents were gone, and John had the farm He would try out his strength and his wits
With his neighbours ‘Farewell’ he made for Newry Town
Hoped his might fortune rise as all around went down,
As they sailed from the land a bob in his hand, he vowed that he’d come back one day.

and manys the friendship was made or renewed on a Monday at Shotley Bridge fair (refrain)

Well the crossing was rough on the Collier ’Brough’, With the dirt and the stink and the cold
As he crouched on the deck with the spray on his neck He heard cries from those down in the hold.
There were sighs, prayers and sobs but they at last made land.
As they staggered ashore only the crew could stand
once his balance came back, with his things in a sack
he walked into Maryport Town


Well November passed bleakly, just jobs here and there and he slept out in shippen or barn
and his thoughts turned to Camlough and friends on the land and he thought he’d go back to the farm
but his spirits soon rose on seeing a friendly face
twas the niece of a neighbour from his native place
And her bond to the farmer was ending that May They would strike out and find better days.


Well the crack started around there was work to be found at the new iron works at Crookhall.
They were barrowing ore, there were Paddies galore, And good money to make in that town.
She was bound to the farmer until Whitsun time,
He was off to Crookhall and watch his fortunes climb
As they parted that day they were both heard to say ‘till May at Shotley Bridge Fair’.


Well in Shotley Bridge town on that Monday in May the pubs and the streets were all thronged,
there were singers and pedlars of pastries and pies there were conmen and those they had wronged
there were Black Country lasses and girls from South Wales
there were hinds from the countryside and fops in tails.
There were Irish colleens and a pickpocket team But no one had word of her love.


Well he‘d never left Maryport, that winter day, He’d been hit on the head with a stick.
He’d been thrown in the harbour, he was dead or he drowned No one saw it, it happened that quick.
When they searched him they found a pipe and 1s and 2d
An address ‘, Patrick Bloomer, Crookhall -no one knew.
As the verdict came in they had no name for him, both villain and victim unknown.

and manys the friendship was made or renewed on a Monday at Shotley Bridge fair
but sadly their friendship could not be renewed on that Monday at Shotley Bridge fair

This song came to me in February 2011 but I’ve recently added a refrain. Based on an old newspaper cutting it fleshes out the story of an anonymous workingman. In 19th century Durham, farm hands of both sexes (the males known as ‘hinds’), puddlers (or refiners of iron who converted pig iron into wrought iron) and colliers – miners, were bonded labourers, tied to their employer for the duration of their bond and subject to imprisonment if the were absent from work or tried to leave. A hiring fair was held on the first Monday in May at Shotley Bridge. Words & music copyright Michael Burns 2016

The Fairies’ Hornpipe (trad)

At a session in the Cotton Tree, Withington 6 or 7 years ago, I asked the friendly man, a fine uilleann piper, who had sat down next to me, if he knew a tune called ‘The Fairies’ Hornpipe. He said he was sure he did, but ‘How does it go? You start & I’ll join in’. I did so and so did he, it turned out to the great Michael McGoldrick.

Passengers from Watchet

A couple of summers ago we had a great folk summer school at Halsway (off there again end of Aug – beginning of Sept), took a steam train trip from Stogumber to Minehead. En route I heard the guard shout ‘Passengers from Watchet’ and I thought, right, that’ll have to have a tune. So here it is played one-handed on the melodeon. Copyright Michael Burns April 2016


Red Row, Crookhall, where the Corrs once lived

A picture of Red Row, Crookhall

Crookhall 1847 w&m Michael Burns 16 March 2016

Come all you music lovers,
a sad story I must tell
about a great disaster
at Crookhall it befell
It was on a Monday afternoon
on April’s 19th day
when that great blast of fire and steam
took many lives away

Did they come from Stafford, (chorus)
or from Bilston or Tyrone?
They mebbes hailed from Glasgow,
their birthplace is unknown.
They might have come from Bellingham,
from Wylam or Armagh
Lift up your glass & wish them peace
came they from near or far.

Not long before the country round
was wood & open fell
where raven, rabbit, fox and deer
unchecked by man did dwell
At Caribbees and Stock’ley Burn,
at Shake & Bogle Hole
The wind would whistle low and moan
like manys the lost soul.


But soon the draw of iron and coal
brought many to Crookhall,
keeper, slagman, charger
tended furnaces so tall
the moulder and the engineman,
iron carriers as well
they saw the black smoke dim the day,
flames light up night like hell


They came up to the engine house,
a father & his girl
to sing a ballad, pass the hat,
their daily bread to earn
the workmen came to listen there,
to stand & hear the song
but suddenly the boiler burst,
cruel shards sliced through the throng


And of the 6 that died that day,
their names weren’t worth the print
the papers gave much detail,
but the victims names did stint
both singers died, the fireman fell
with two more labouring men
and a stranger who came seeking work
died in that scalding hell


The coroner excused the works
no blame’s attached said he
the victims’ names remain unknown,
though archives hold the key
And mebbes Durham County
might reveal to one and all
and make known the names of those
who perished at Crookhall


I’ve long intended to write this one about a sad event that I came across in an 1840′s newspaper. Crookhall is a village in my home area of North West Durham. The places mentioned in the chorus are selected from birth places of Crookhall people listed on the 1851 census. The last verse refers to my unsuccessful attempts to persuade the Durham Records Office to help find the names of the victims.

Miss Joan Shorrocks & Barbara and Bill’s (waltzes)” frameborder=”no” scrolling=”no” width=”100%” height=”166″>
Music by Michael Burns
Copyright 2010 Michael Burns


Great Aunty Joan, (aka GAJ), lived until 2011, when she was 92.

This picture shows Joan’s father Alfred Shorrock and Gilbert? (the family had 2 horses, one after the other).  After Alfred came out of the pit he opened a hardware shop in Walkden, west of Manchester.  He would go out on the round selling hardware while his wife ran the shop.

This tune in waltz time was inspired by the Gracie Fields’ song, ‘She’s a Lassie from Lancashire’, it’s followed by ‘Barbara & Bill’s’ a waltz for the golden wedding of my friends, the Scholes of West Haughton.

Joan Shorrocks dots part 1
Joan Shorrocks dots part 2

Michael Burns on Chorley FM

This is a recording of my spot on Jamie Blatchley’s folk programme on Chorley FM, thanks for having me Jamie!

The Ballad of Bart Monaghan (melodeon)

Berry Edge Furnaces C1847

Bart Monaghan farmed on the thin mountain soil
and in Dunamore living was hard
repeat as refrain
and try as he might
when the crop caught the blight
It was time to cross over the sea.

Bart Monaghan sailed for the Cumberland shore
glimpsed the Whitehaven light through the spray
repeat as refrain
well, the boat pitched and rolled
and Bart prayed for his soul
but at last he was over the sea

Well some men from his townland had found furnace work
on the Derwent the Tees and the Tyne
repeat as refrain
So he tramped ‘cross Whinlatter,
up Hartside, down ‘dale
and his welcome at Consett was fine

Bart worked at the furnace he watched and he learned
and soon he was running the job
repeat as refrain
then their wages were cut
and the men went on strike
and he wouldn’t blackleg for a bob

Well the scabs were brought in and candymen came
and the families turned out of their homes
repeat as refrain
— Bart had to leave town
to find a new job
to the banks of the Tyne Barty roamed

Well Bart kept the furnace for Lowthian Bell
at the Low Walker works if you please
repeat as refrain
Then he crossed the three rivers
to Middlesbrough town
worked for Bolckow and Vaughan on the Tees

When Port Clarence blew in on the Tees’ Northern bank
Bart’s family and neighbours moved there
repeat as refrain
It seemed Dunamore
had been founded anew
So our Barty and Mary moved too

When young John was born in 1855
a christening party was held,
repeat as refrain
There was bacon and cabbage
and Poteen and pipes
there was fiddles and dancing as well

At 11 o’clock it was time to go home,
but the ferryman slept in his bed
repeat as refrain
So Bart took the boat
to row his friends home
never thinking they’d all soon be dead

Well alas the boat sunk and the four friends were lost
yes four downed that night in the Tees,
repeat as refrain
Bart and Pat Gavan
and Mary, Pat’s wife
were drowned there with Patrick O’Neal.

Well this song might end sadly as songs often do
but the Monaghan family came through
repeat as refrain
they’re in Manchester, Boro
in New York and Bute
they’re in Consett and Dunamore too