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The Blantyre Explosion

[ Roud 1014 ; Laws Q35 ; Ballad Index LQ35 ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl sang The Blantyre Explosion in 1957 on his Topic album of industrial folk ballads, Shuttle and Cage. This track was also included on his Topic albums Steam Whistle Ballads and The Real MacColl. The album's sleeve notes commented:

The disaster described in this ballad occurred at Messrs. Dixon's colliery, High Blantyre, near Glasgow on October 22, 1877, with the resulting death of over 200 miners. Unlike many pit disaster ballads which take the form of the Irish “come all ye” songs, The Blantyre Explosion is in the tradition of the South-West Scottish Elegy. This version sung here was collected in 1951 and first appeared in A.L. Lloyd's Come All Ye Bold Miners.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang The Blantyre Explosion in 1965 on their Transatlantic album Coaldust Ballads. They commented in their sleeve notes:

The disaster occurred at Dixon's Pit, High Blantyre, near Glasgow in 1877. Melody and fragmentary text were collected from R. Greening, Glasgow in 1951.

Johnny Collins sang The Blantyre Explosion in 1973 on his Traditional Sound Recordings album The Traveller's Rest.

Jon Raven sang The Blantyre Explosion in 1973 on the Trailer album Songs of a Changing World.

Dick Gaughan sang The Blantyre Explosion in 1986 on his album of songs of the Scottish miners, True and Bold.

Niamh Parsons sang Blantyre Explosion on Fromseier Rose's 2003 CD Contradiction.

Alasdair Roberts of The Furrow Collective sang The Blantyre Explosion on their 2014 album At Our Next Meeting. He commented in their sleeve notes:

The song concerns Scotland's worst mining disaster which happened in the Lanarkshire town of Blantyre in October 22, 1877, when 207 miners lost their lives in an explosion at Dixon's Blantyre Colliery. Our version is based on an arrangement written by the great Glasgow-based jazz musician and composer Bill Wells.

This video shows The Furrow Collective at a house concert on February 23, 2014:

Lyrics

By Clyde's bonny banks where I sadly did wander
Among the pit heaps as evening drew nigh;
I spied a young woman all dressed in deep mourning
A-weeping and wailing with many a sigh.

I stepped up beside her and thus I addressed her:
“Pray tell me the cause of your trouble and pain.”
Weeping and sighing, at last she made answer
“Johnny Murphy, kind sir, was my true lover's name.”

“Twenty-one years of age, full of youth and good looking
To work down the mines of High Blantyre he came,
The wedding was fixed, all the guests were invited
That calm summer evening young Johnny was slain.”

The explosion was heard, all the women and children
With pale anxious faces they haste to the mine.
When the truth was made known, the hills rang with their mourning
Three-hundred-and-ten young miners were slain.

Now husbands and wives and sweethearts and brothers
That Blantyre explosion they'll never forget;
And all the young miners that hear my sad story
Shed a tear for the victims who're laid to their rest.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: Blantyre Explosion.