> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > With Me Pit Boots On

With Me Pit Boots On

[ Roud 516 ; Ballad Index RcWMPBO ; trad.]

The tinker Lal Smith of Belfast sang The Bold English Navvy on the anthology Songs of Seduction (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 2; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968).

Frank Purslow and John Pearse sang Wi' Me Cattle Smock On in 1961 on their album Bottoms Up!

A.L. Lloyd recorded With Me Pit Boots On in November 1962 for the album of industrial folk music, The Iron Muse. He sang it again in 1966 on his album The Best of A.L. Lloyd, accompanied by Alf Edwards on concertina. Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

There's a widespread humorous song about a young man who visits his girl at evening with a billycock on, a cattle-smock on, a leather apron on. The song gets its laugh because whatever happens, the hero never removes the badge of his standing of trade. Northern industrial workers know the song as well as southern farm folk. This is a Durham miners' version.

Jimmy McBeath sang The Bold English Navvy in a recording made by Sean Davies in his studio at Cecil Sharp House, Camden Town, London, in 1966 or 1967. In was published in 1967 on McBeath's Topic album Wild Rover No More, and was also included in 1998 on the Topic anthology Who's That at My Bed Window? (The Voice of the People Series Volume 10).

Bob Davenport sang Navvy Boots in 1975 on his Topic album Down the Long Road.

Bill Parnell sang Navvy Boots in a recording made in 1974-76 on the Topic anthology of traditional singers, Devon Tradition.

Louis Killen sang Pit Boots in 1980 on his Collector album of songs of the British Industrial Revolution, Gallant Lads Are We.

Isla St Clair sang The Bold English Navvy in 1981 in the BBC television series and on the accompanying album, The Song and the Story.

Mary Delany sang Navvy Shoes in one of Jim Carroll's and Pat Mackenzie's recordings of Irish Travellers in England. It was included in 2003 on their Musical Tradition anthology From Puck to Appleby. They commented in the album's booklet:

The navvies who dug the canals and laid the railways in Britain had, and earned, a reputation as hard fighters, hard drinkers and womanisers. In 1839, Lieutenant Peter Lecount, assistant Engineer to Robert Stephenson while building the London to Birmingham railway, wrote of them:

These banditti, known in some parts of England by the name of ‘Navies’ or ‘Navigators’, and in others by that of ‘Bankers’, are generally the terror of the surrounding country; they are as completely a class by themselves as the Gypsies. Possessed of all the daring recklessness of the smuggler, without any of his redeeming qualities, their ferocious behaviour can only be equalled by the brutality of their language. It may be truly said, their hand is against every man and before they have been long located, every man’s hand is against them; and woe befall any woman with the slightest share of modesty, whose ears they can assail. From being long known to each other, they in general act in concert, and put at defiance any local constabulary force; consequently crimes of the most atrocious character are common, and robbery, without an attempt at concealment, has been an everyday occurrence, wherever they have congregated in large numbers.

Of the handful of songs that were made about the navvies, this is undoubtedly the one that has survived the best.


A.L. Lloyd sings With Me Pit Boots On

A-diggin' and a-pickin' as I was one day,
The thought of my true love had led me astray.
Well, the shift being over and the night coming on,
And away I ran with me pit boots on.

I tapped at my love's window, crying, “Are you in bed?”
The minute that she heard me she lifted up her head,
She lifted up her head, crying, “Oh is that John?”
“Indeed it's me with me pit boots on.”

She come to the door and invited me in,
“Draw off to the fire and warm your skin.”
The bedroom door it opened and the blanket it turned down
And I rolled into bed with me pit boots on.

We tossed and we tumbled until the break of day
Not thinking of the hours that we had passed away.
Till my love she sat up, crying, “Oh what have I done!
The baby will come with his pit boots on.”

I chastised my love for talking so wild,
“You silly young girl, you will never have a child,
For all that I've done it was just a bit of fun,”"
But away I ran with me pit boots on.

Come all ye young gals wherever that you be,
Beware of them colliers who are single and free.
For their hearts do run light and their minds do run young,
So look out for the fellows with the pit boots on.


Lyrics copied from the Digital Tradition at the Mudcat Café and adapted to the actual singing of A.L. Lloyd by Reinhard Zierke.