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Martin Graebe Origins: Down in a Coal Mine (J. B. Geoghegan) (22) RE: Origins: Down in a Coal Mine (J. B. Geoghegan) 16 Mar 11


I must have missed this thread when we were travelling last year.

I did a bit of work on this (and had a bit of correspondence with Malcolm Douglas and Brian Peters about it) when we recorded it in 2008. I'd picked it up in the Sharp manuscripts, collected from Louie Hooper and Lucy White (though he wrote 'not, of course, a folk song' at the bottom). It is on a number of broadsides (see the Bodleian collection) but is quite different - and consistently so. Dating the broadsides is tricky but they are within a decade or so of the date Bert Lloyd gave for Geoghegan's (Rowley's?) composition. At the time it was not possible to be definite but it is possible that The broadside pre-dated the music hall version. It has been suggested that this happened with a number of Geoghegan's songs - and given the state of copyright laws at that time there is no real issue here. But it would be interesting to establish the actual sequence of events. To confuse things further I also have a copy of a broadside from Baltimore that is the Geoghegan version without attribution.

The version that Sharp collected is closer to the Broadside than to the music hall version.

In me you see a collier,
A simple, honest man
Who tries to do his very best
To help his fellow-man.
He works entire from morn till night
Hard work he finds to do
From digging up the fuel from
The bowels of the earth.
[Chorus]Down in the coal mines
Underneath the ground,
Where no gleam of sunshine
Never can be found,
Digging dusty diamonds
All the season round,
Down in the coal mines
Underneath the ground.

You oft-times read of accidents
Which happen down the mine
How hundreds of poor colliers
Are shortened of their time;
Explosions they are numberless,
They're caused by fiery damps
Which when the gas escapes,
Comes in contact with their lamps.
Down in the coal mines, etc.

But when the winter comes round
The colliers' work is found
Old England spreads it
To all the nations round.
That those at home rejoice and sing
Their hearts are filled with mirth
For what would England do
Without the boys that dig the coal?
Down in the coal mines, etc.

The broadside versions run:

In me you see a collier, a simple honest man
Who strives to do his very best to help his fellow-man.
We toil away from morn till night where hard work's to be found,
Digging dusty diamonds from underneath the ground.
(Chorus) Down in a coal mine, underneath the ground,
Where a gleam of sunshine never can be found,
Digging dusty diamonds all the season round,
Down in a coal mine, underneath the ground.

In the morning when we go to toil, and down the mine we go,
Contented with our lot in life, and free from care or woe,
We often think of home and wife, and hearts that's filled with mirth,
While digging up the fuel from the bowels of the earth.

You often read of accidents, which happen down the mine,
How hundreds of poor colliers are shortened of their time:
Explosions they are numerous, and caused by fire-damps,
Which when the gas escapes, it comes in contact with our lamps.

But when the wintertime comes in, the collier's worth is found:
Old England's commerce it is spread to all the nations round.
Let those at home rejoice and sing with hearts and voices full,
For what would England do without the boys that dig the coal?


For our own version (see on our website here ) we have added a verse from the broadside and moved a few words about.

Martin


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