Monthly Archives: October 2018

Wrekin [demo]

Neither the words nor the tune are quite set in stone yet… If you’re familiar with the Welsh Marches Line, it probably won’t surprise you that the first draft of this was born on my way from Shrewsbury to Newport.

Wrekin (words and music by David Harley)

The Abbey watches my train crawling southward
Thoughts of Cadfael kneeling in his cell
All along the Marches line, myth and history, prose and rhyme
But those are tales I won’t be here to tell

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

Lawley and Caradoc fill my window
Facing down the Longmynd, lost in rain
But I’m weighed down with the creaks and groans of all the years I’ve known
And I don’t think I’ll walk these hills again

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

The castle dreams its humble glories
Glories that will never come again
Across the Shropshire hills, the rain is blowing still
But the Marcher Lords won’t ride this way gain

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

The royal ghosts of Catherine and Arthur
May walk the paths of Whitcliffe now and then
Housman’s ashes grace the Cathedral of the Marches
And he will not walk Ludlow’s streets again

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

And I may never pass this way again

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My Boy Jack [demo]

My setting of the poem by Rudyard Kipling. It’s often assumed that it refers to the loss of his son John, presumed killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915. The confusion was probably increased by the TV adaptation of David Craig’s play, which missed out the 3rd Act and finished with Kipling reciting the poem. However, while Kipling’s own grief did, no doubt, contribute to the overall tone of the poem, it was first published at the top of a series of articles on the Battle of Jutland, in which the British fleet sustained heavy losses, and it seems to me (and others) that, given the importance of ‘the tide’ in the poem, that the name Jack probably reflects the more generic ‘Jack Tar’. (While the earlier ‘Tommy; has a very different tone, it does use the generic name ‘Tommy Atkins’ in a somewhat similar way.)

‘My Boy Jack’
1914-18

“HAVE you news of my boy Jack? ”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide. 

David Harley