Sykehouse Bridge

by Graham Pirt



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I was born on the Aire and Calder canal
The water was in me soul
The barges were both me joy and me tears
A workmaster powered by coal

To turn from the wheel the dust and the grime
Was always me dream at the night
But each waking day I would rise and return
To the dirt and the work and the fight

Chorus :
Down to Sykehouse Bridge we sail
The water lies ribbon straight
Tonight at home I'll rest me head
And the barges they can wait

When I was a lad me back it was broad
Like a man at the wheel I would stand
I'd haul, trim and fender from mooring til night
But if I ran the gate I was dammed

For the skipper was hard in hand and in heart
To deckies who never could fend
The curses and beatings you lay there and wished
That the trip it could come to an end


As manhood came on, I'd a barge of me own
A 60 foot sheffield keel
I'd moor her tight up by Sprotbrough Flash
And take to the rod and the reel

For the time that I had was all of my own
No master to curse and to swear
For if I didn't make a lot before dark
Then I'd only me own hand to fear


As me sons became men I took them aboard
And showed them the work that was mine
I taught them to coil, to splice and to hope
That the barge would be there's given time

But they all moved away to jobs in the town
Canals held no place in their heart
I sit by the dock with the barge moored up
Watch it rusting and falling apart


Now time has gone by, the tom puddings have gone
The coal hoists have moved their last
The sand and the coal now come in by road
Making barges a thing of the past

But you can't moor a wagon at Ferrybridge Wharf
Nor hear water lap at its bow
No you won't hear the names of girls and of dales
Nor call them back like I do now


The song was written by Graham Pirt and was recorded by the group of which he was a member, 'Cockersdale', on their CD 'Wide Open Skies', Fellside FECD123 (1997).

The sleeve notes state : When Graham moved to Goole he was very impressed by the short history of the town, set up as a company town for the Aire and Calder canal. The unique industrial heritage of the town includes the 'tom puddings'; small barges carrying coal and towed in long trains down the canal to Goole where they were lifted aloft by equally unique Bartholomew's Coal Hoists to empty the coal into ships.