Good Old George

by Jon Raven


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Aye Georgie's the lad that'll show 'em
He'll teach 'em their p's and their q's
When he comes down from Coalville to London
They'll see a man what don't know how to lose.

He'll give of his best for the brickies
For once he was a brickyard child himself
But now he has fought all their battles
And used up all his hard earned wealth.

He rose from a child in the brickyards
To manage a firm on his own
But he lost all his money and then lost his job
When he fought the children's cause all alone.

Well he's won an act of Parliament for the brickies
Though he's got no job, three children and a wife
Now he's fighting for the navigation children
And living on handouts every day of his life.

You'll see him by day at the cutside
As he talks with the boatees and their wives
By night he writes his letters to the papers
To tell the world about the boatmen's lives.

Now some say he's a stubborn do-gooder
Who'd do his best to look unto himself
But some of us believe that he's a her
And we'll follow him in poverty and wealth
Written about George Smith of Coalville for a stage musical documentary 'Canal Folk'. Jon Raven comments that it should be sung 'to a sentimental, even maudlin, tune of the music hall type'. He also points out that it was one of a number of songs written to fit particular scenes in the play and may therefore not stand up too well in ordinary performance.

George Smith was a Victorian philanthropist who started life working (aged 9) for thirteen hours a day in a brickyard. He worked his way up to become a brickyard owner and colliery manager. Despite being reduced to near poverty at times, he championed the cause of brickyard children, then the canal community and gypsies.