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Trimdon Grange

[ Roud 3189 ; Tommy Armstrong]

This sad coal miner's ballad was sung by Martin Carthy on his 1974 album Sweet Wivelsfield and reissued in 2003 on The Definitive Collection, where it is called The Trimdon Grange Explosion. Carthy sang this at least twice in John Peel BBC Radio sessions: One, recorded on 22 May 1972 and broadcast on 30 May, was included as 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 original 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.

A.L. Lloyd wrote in the book Come All Ye Bold Miners:

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).

Luc McNally sang Trimdon Grange Explosion. on his 2016 EP.

Lyrics

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 brea.d
Death will pay us all a visit,
They have only gone before.
And we will meet the Trimdon victims
Where explosions are no more.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Garry Gillard; thanks to Wolfgang Hell and Susanne Kalweit for the note by A.L. Lloyd. Here is a Mudcat thread about this song. And another one here.