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The Old Miner

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 63120 ; Jim Ellwood]

Bob Davenport sang The Old Miner in 1971 on his Trailer album Bob Davenport and the Marsden Rattlers. He noted:

The Ellwoods of Chester le Street, Co. Durham are a family of champion clog dancers. The Marsden Rattlers had the pleasure of first working with them at the Sunderland Empire in 1968. Johnson Ellwood, the oldest of the family, gave me the words of The Old Miner written by his father, Jim Ellwood. I changed them slightly. The tune is the Dan Leno hornpipe.

Bob Fox and Benny Graham sang The Old Miner in 1995 on their Fellside CD of songs of The mining communities of North East England, How Are You Off for Coals?. They noted:

Johnson Ellwood, the clog teacher, passed this song on to modern day singers but it is likely to have been written by his father, Jim Ellwood. A great song either way.

Canny Fettle sang Old Miner on their 2016 CD Still Gannin’ Canny. They noted:

Bob [Morton] has sung the Old Miner for many years, a song reflecting on society’s rough treatment of an old clog dancing miner, and he learnt it originally at the Marsden Inn, South Shields, from the singing of Bob Davenport.

The late Jimmy Ellwood, father to Johnson Ellwood, was a champion coal-mining clog dancer. In the 1930s he frequently appeared on stage especially in the working men’s clubs around the N.E. and also competed in the regular clog dance competitions.

The song’s exact origin is confused and is best summarised in the words of Jim Bainbridge on Mudcat as follows—“as far as I am aware, Bob Davenport took Jim Ellwood’s poem, re-wrote it, and recorded it on a Trailer LP in 1971. Johnson Ellwood, champion clog dancer of Chester le Street, used to sing a ‘calling-on’ song before he danced, with quite different words and Bob used Johnson’s tune for his revised song version of Jim Ellwood’s poem. The song is not by Johnson Ellwood, it is really a composite from various original performers.”


Jim Ellwood’s The Old Miner

Good evening, friends. I greet you all, and I hope you are all well.
I have just dropped in amongst you now a story for to tell.
I used to be, when I was young, a miner like yourself,
But now today, when my hair turns grey, they have put me on the shelf.

Chorus (after each verse):
So while I am amongst you now, if you’ll give me the chance,
Along with me you will agree, I still can do a clog dance.
So if you’ll pay attention, to please you I will try.
I’ll show to you some champion step I danced in days gone by.

I have been a miner for fifty years and some changes I have seen.
When I was young and a man was done, they set him on the screens,
But now today when his hair turns grey, they kick him on the leg,
And tell him that he is no use; he can go out on the road and beg.

My age is just seventy-nine and for work I have no chance,
And they barred me from the championship in my clogs for the belt to dance.
They said that I am growing old; at dancing I am no use.
They told me to put my clogs away, and go into the workhouse.