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The Navvy Boy

[ Roud 360 ; Henry H760 ; Ballad Index HHH760 ; trad.]

Huntington, Songs of the People (1990) pp.471-472

Collected by Sam Henry from Robert Lyons of Greenhill, Blackhill, Coleraine, Co Londonderry, on 18 June 1938.

John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris sang The Navvy Boy in 1975 on the Traditional Sound album on the story of England's canals in song, The Bold Navigators. The album was compiled and collated from notes and information by Jon Raven. This song was printed in Raven's books Canal Songs and Victoria's Inferno.

Nick Dow sang The Navvy Boy on his 2020 album of love songs from the British Tradition, In a Garden Grove. He noted:

A broadside put to music by Jon Raven. I learned the song as the direct result of being asked to do a series of magazine articles on navvies and navvy songs for a well known periodical. The song stayed with me.

Lyrics

The Navvy Boy in Victoria's Inferno

When I was young and tender I left my native home
And often to old Scotland I started out to roam.
As I walked down through Bishoptown a-seeking for employ,
The ganger he knew by me, I was a Navvy Boy.

As soon as I did get employ for lodgings I did seek;
It happened to be that very night with the ganger I did sleep.
He had one only daughter and I became her joy.
For she longed to go and tramp with her own dear Navvy Boy.

Says the mother to her daughter, “I think it very strange
That you would wed a Navvy Boy this wide world for to range.
For navvies they are rambling boys and have but little pay;
How could a man maintain a wife with fourteen pence a day?”

Says the daughter to the mother, “You need not run them down;
My father was a Navvy Boy when he came to this town.
He roamed about from town to town just seeking for employ;
Go where he will, he's my love still, He's my own dear Navvy Boy..”

Now just a short time after this her father died I'm told.
And left unto his daughter five hundred pounds in gold;
And when she got the money soon I became her joy,
For she longed to go and tramp it with her own dear Navvy Boy.

Nick Dow sings The Navvy Boy

When I was young and tender I left my native home,
Often through old England's lanes 𝄆 I was inclined to roam. 𝄇
And as I walked down through Manchester seeking for employ,
The ganger there he knew by me 𝄆 that I was a Navvy Boy. 𝄇

As soon as I did get employ for lodgings I did seek;
It happened to be that very night 𝄆 at the ganger's I did sleep. 𝄇
And he had one only daughter, I became her joy.
She longed to go and tramp it 𝄆 with her own dear Navvy Boy. 𝄇

And it was a few months after the father died I'm told,
Left unto his daughter dear 𝄆 five thousand pounds in gold 𝄆.
And when she got the money I became her joy,
She longed to go and tramp it 𝄆 with her own dear Navvy Boy. 𝄇

When I was young and tender I left my native home,
Often through old England's lanes 𝄆 I was inclined to roam. 𝄇