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The Sheffield Grinder

[ Roud - ; AFS 384 ; trad.]

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang The Sheffield Grinder in 1972 on their album Something to Sing About. Ian Campbell noted:

In the 1860’s the Sheffield steel industry was notorious for the abuse of child labour, made necessary by the underpricing of Government contracts for Army goods. This song expresses the bitter contempt of the Sheffield men for the Government enquiry commission who reported that bad working conditions were largely the fault of the workmen.

Roy Bailey sang Sheffield Grinder on his 2005 album with Martin Simpson and John Kirkpatrick, Sit Down & Sing.

Lyrics

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sings The Sheffield Grinder

The Sheffield grinder's a terrible blade,
    Tally hi-o, the grinder.
He sets his little 'uns down to trade
    Tally hi-o, the grinder.
He turns his baby to grind in the hull
Till his body is stunted and his eyes are dull,
And the brains are dizzy and dazed in the skull.
    Tally hi-o, the grinder.

He shortens his life and he hastens his death
    Tally hi-o, the grinder.
Will drink steel dust in every breath.
    Tally hi-o, the grinder.
Won't use a fan as he turns his wheel,
Won't wash his hands ere he eats his meal,
But dies as he lives, as hard as steel
    Tally hi-o, the grinder.

These Sheffield grinders of whom we speak,
    Tally hi-o, the grinder,
Are men who earn a pound a week
    Tally hi-o, the grinder.
But of Sheffield grinders another sort
Methinks ought to be called in court,
And that is the grinding Government Board
    Tally hi-o, the grinder.

At whose door lies the blacker blame?
    Tally hi-o, the grinder.
Where rests the heavier weight of shame?
    Tally hi-o, the grinder.
On the famine-price contractor's head,
Or the workman's, under-taught and under-fed,
Who grinds his own bones and his child's for bread?
    Tally hi-o, the grinder.