> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > The Celebrated Working Man

The Celebrated Working Man / In the Bar-Room

[ Roud 3486 ; Ballad Index RcITBRCW ; Mudcat 19911 , 157385 ; Ed Foley]

Jack and Reece Elliott sang The Celebrated Working Man to Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl in the family's kitchen in the summer of 1961. This recording was released in the same year on their Folkways musical portrait of a Durham mining family, The Elliotts of Birtley. Jack Elliott sang it with the title In the Bar-Room on his posthumous 1969 Leader album Jack Elliott of Birtley. Jack Elliott also sang In the Bar-Room live in the club room of The Barley Mow, Birtley, Co. Durham, in the early or mid-1960s. This recording was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology There Is a Man Upon the Farm (The Voice of the People Series Volume 20).

A.L. Lloyd sang The Celebrated Working Man with quite different words in November 1962 on the album of industrial folk music, The Iron Muse. I don't know if his verses are from the original American version mentioned below or if they are his own.

Lloyd printed Jack Elliott's verses of The Celebrated Working Man in his 1967 book Folk Song in England and, with the title Shovellin' Back the Slate, in the 1978 revised edition of Come All Ye Bold Miners. He commented in the first book:

[…] Of this kind, a good specimen is the favourite called The Celebrated Working Man, a song of American origin, welcomed and boldly adapted by Durham Miners. George Korson has told the history of this song [in Minstrels of the Mine Patch (Philadelphia 1938)], a sly lyrical comment on the kind of workers who boast of their labour-prowess in the comfort of the bar-room. It seems that it was composed by an Irish miner in Pennsylvania, Ed Foley, who first sang it at a wedding in 1892, and it was brought to Durham by a Wobbly collier from Kentucky, Yankee Jim Roberts, some time around the period of the first world war. A comparison of Korson's Pennsylvania version with the […] set recorded from Jack Elliott of Birtley in 1963 shows the creative re-working of oral tradition can still be happily effective in industrial conditions in our time.

Tom Gilfellon sang The Celebrated Working Man or, In the Bar Room in 1976 on his Topic album In the Middle of the Tune. He commented in his liner notes:

I learned The Celebrated Working Man or In the Bar Room from the much lamented Jack Elliott of Birtley who was, until his untimely death, one of my great friends and mentors. The miner was proud of his work skills and these inevitably grew just that little bit larger than life after a few pints, much in the time honoured style of fishermen’s tales of the ones that got away. While the miner’s pride in his work is one thing, his pride in his chosen sport would leave the average religious maniac a poor second in the fanaticism stakes.

Bob Fox and Benny Graham sang Celebrated Working Man in 1995 on their Fellside CD of songs of the mining communities of North East England, How Are You Off for Coals?.

Geordie Wilson learned In the Bar Room (Celebrated Working Man) from a Jack Elliott recording and from Michael Dawney's book Doon the Waggon Way: Mining Songs from the North of England. He sang it in 2012 in this Youtube video:


Jack Elliott sings The Celebrated Working Man

I'm a celebrated working-man, from work I never shirk,
I can hew more coals than any man from Glasgow down to York;
And if you like to see my style then call around on me,
When I've had several beers in the bar-room.

Chorus (after each verse):
In the bar-room, in the bar-room, that's where we congregate,
To drill the holes and fill the coals and shovel back the slate;
And for to do a job of work, oh, I am never late,
That's providing that we do it in the bar-room.

I can judge a shot of powder to a sixteenth of a grain,
I can fill my eighteen tubs though the water falls like rain,
And if you like to see me in the perpendicular vein,
It's when I'm setting timbers in the bar-room.

At putting I'm a dandy, I hope you will agree,
And gannin along the gannin-board I make the chummins flee
Your kelly sweeps and back-ower turns they never bother me,
When I'm sitting on the limmers in the bar-room.

And now my song is ended, perhaps we'll have another,
Now, don't you fire any shots in here or we will surely smother;
The landlord here would sooner pull beer than go to all the bother
And to put up the ventilators in the bar-room.

A.L. Lloyd sings The Celebrated Working Man

I’m a celebrated working man, my duties I don’t shirk
And I can cut more coal than any man from Delaval to York.
I tell you it’s a marvel, lads, how I get through my work
When I’m seated in my glory at the public bar.

I can cut a stand of timbers post or bar a single prop,
I can cut me coals at the bottom, I can cut them at the top.
Just hand me down my pick, me lads, and gox us when I stop
Till I’ll land a set o trams within the public bar.

Oh I can work a two foot seam and never be delayed
By fire or flood or gas, my lads, I’ve never been afraid.
And I can show the manager how to go about his trade
And haven’t I often proved it in the public bar.

I can show the superintendent how the air should circulate,
I can show the engine man how steam he should generate.
And the trouble at the Chowdene pit I can illucidate
And haven’t I often proved it in the public bar.

And now my song is ended and I hope you’ll all agree
If you want any pointers, well you’d better send for me.
But I warn you I’m not worth a damn till I’ve emptied two or three
Of the very biggest tankards in the public bar.