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The Trimdon Grange Explosion
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The Trimdon Grange Explosion
[ Roud 3189 ; Tommy Armstrong]
A.L. Lloyd wrote in his book Come All Ye Bold Miners on The Trimdon Grange Explosion:
As sung (one verse only) by R Sewell of Newcastle (June 1951). Remainder of text from J. Jefferson, Trimdon Grange, County Durham. From a ballad by Thomas Armstrong, who prescribed for it the tune Go and Leave Me If You Wish It, now it is usually heard attached to the come-all-ye type tune given here. The explosion occurred on 16 February 1882. Seventy-four miners were lost (six of them died in the neighbouring East Hetton colliery due to afterdamp seeping through from Trimdon).
Louis Killen sang The Trimdon Grange Explosion on the 1962 Topic EP of mining songs of the Northumberland-Durham coalfield, The Collier's Rant, which was also part of the 1968 Topic LP Along the Coaly Tyne. The track was included in 1993 on the Topic CD re-issue of The Iron Muse. Louis also sang this song on the 1965 Topic album Tommy Armstrong of Tyneside.
Bob Davenport sang The Trimdon Grange Disaster in 1971 on his Trailer album Bob Davenport and the Marsden Rattlers.
Martin Carthy sang Trimdon Grange on his 1974 album Sweet Wivelsfield. This track was included in 2003 as The Trimdon Grange Explosion on his anthology The Definitive Collection. Carthy sang this song at least twice in John Peel BBC Radio sessions: One, recorded on 22 May 1972 and broadcast on 30 May, was included as a bonus track on the 2005 CD reissue of his album Shearwater; the other from 1974 was finally released as Trimdon Grange Disaster on The Carthy Chronicles.
Martin Carthy commented in the first album's sleeve notes:
On 16 February 1882 there was an explosion of either firedamp or coaldust at the Trimdon Grange colliery in South County Durham (which is still remembered to this day) in which seventy-four were killed. The usual fund-raising procedures—all unofficial of course—went into action, and one of them was the writing and selling on the streets of this song. The tune is the Victorian parlour ballad Go and Leave Me If You Wish It to which Tommy Armstrong wrote these words. The tune was also used by Evangelists as a hymn tune both here and in America where it is also known in the guise of Columbus Stockade. I thank Bob Davenport for teaching me the song.
Swan Arcade sang Trimdon Grange Explosion on their 1976 album Matchless.
Isla St Clair sang Trimdon Grange Explosion in 1981 on the soundtrack album of her BBC television series The Song and the Story.
Bob Fox and Benny Graham sang Trimdon Grange Explosion in 1995 on their Fellside CD of songs of the mining communities of North East England, How Are You Off for Coals?.
Battlefield Band sang The Trimdon Grange Explosion in 1997 on their Temple album Across the Borders.
Maddy Prior sang Trimdon Grange Explosion in 2008 on her Park Records CD Seven for Old England. She noted:
Tommy Armstrong (1848-1920) was born in County Durham at the height of the expansion of the mining industry, and lived most of his life in Stanley which was ringed round with pits and drift mines and was described as ‘like the Klondyke’. During his life the area was transformed from a rural landscape to a major urban complex. He documented these changes and all the life around him was celebrated in his songs, and he became known as the s‘'Pitman Poet’. He would get his verses printed up and sell them around the pubs for a penny, and the money, in many cases went to the victims of tragedies, or else to pay for his beer (he had fourteen children).
The Unthanks sang Trimdon Grange Explosion in 2012 on their CD Diversions Vol. 2: The Unthanks with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band.
Luc McNally sang Trimdon Grange Explosion on his 2016 EP.
Ken Wilson and Jim MacFarland sang Trimdon Grange Explosion in 2017 on their CD Here's a Health to the Company!. They noted:
A fine ballad written by the ‘Pitman's Poet’ Tommy Armstrong, about the explosion on 16 February 1882 at Trimdon Grange Colliery, County Durham, which claimed the lives of 74 miners.
Karina Knight sang Trimdon Grange on her 2020 album of songs learned from her parents, From the Knee.
Martin Carthy sings Trimdon Grange
O let's not think about to-morrow
Lest we disappointed be,
For all our joys they may quickly turn to sorrow
As we all may daily see.
To-day we're strong and healthy,
Tomorrow there comes the change,
As we may see from the explosion
That has been at Trimdon Grange.
Men and boys set out that morning
For to earn their daily bread,
Never thinking that by the evening
They'd be numbered with the dead.
Let's think of Mrs Burnett
Once had sons but now has none;
In the Trimdon Grange disaster
Joseph George and James are gone.
February has left behind it
What will never be forgot;
Weeping women and helpless children
May be found in many's the cot.
They ask if father's left them
And the mother she hangs her head,
With a weeping widow's feelings
She tells the child its father's dead.
God protect the lonely widow
And raise each drooping head.
Be a father unto the orphans
Do not let them cry for bread.
Death will pay us all a visit,
They have only gone before.
And we will meet the Trimdon victims
Where explosions are no more.
Transcribed by Garry Gillard; thanks to Wolfgang Hell and Susanne Kalweit for the note by A.L. Lloyd.