Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Only last week I found myself trying to recall the lyrics of this song which I used to own on vinyl (The Valley of Tees, Vin Garbutt) as a student. I managed all bar two lines, so thanks to Bob Bolton for getting all of them. I think he made a couple of errors which I've corrected.

The synchronicity is that Clare has just posted one of her Girls' Fun teenage diary entries from a trip to Staithes.

Lyrics: Barry Slater

Tune: Vin Garbutt (not that that helps much here, does it?)

One fine August day as I was making my way
Along the hardship-cobbled streets of Staithes,
I saw the seagulls flying in the grey northern sky,
Heard the shifting chorus of the waves.
Ah, Staithes looked so fair in the crisp morning air,
Sea mist yielding to fragmented specks of light,
And on the sea wall, though the mist's lifting pall,
An old man sitting there came into sight.

Well, we sat side by side until the turning of the tide
But not a single craft put out to sea.
As the water receded, still unheeded lay the boats,
The pots and nets neglected on the quay.
I asked him the reason why no boats put to sea.
He looked long and thoughtfully at me
And then, with a sigh, he said: "You might well wonder why
For who'd have thought such things could ever be."

"Aye, there's days I remember when from March till November
The men of Staithes set out with net and line,
And every day from morn till night, every man and boy would fight
To fetch the family's living from the brine.
And when the boats came back to land, the women lent a willing hand
To get the hard-won catch safe on the shore.
Hard work for women and for men, pots to pull and lines to mend,
Hooks to bait all ready for the morn."

"But now the boats come empty in, no fish will buy no bread:
To fish today you need a radar screen.
The trawlers with their fine mesh nets are out to take all they can get,
Between them they'll soon fish the North Sea clean.
So Staithes now wears a different face, the fishwives' bonnets trimmed with lace
Are only curios and souvenirs,
And since they've taken berried hens the lobsters too are at an end:
The only fish is frozen now in Staithes."

"So now you see the fishing's gone, the folk are moving on,
If it's Staithes you came to see, you came too late.
Although the seagulls still fly high, our men now work at ICI,
They've moved up to the council house estate.
Ah, think on now you've heard me tale, these cottages you see for sale,
For a way of life they are an unmarked grave."
And on the sea air's salty breath I seemed to catch the smell of death
Along the hardship-cobbled streets of Staithes.

Transcribed from Vin Garbutt's recording by Bob Bolton, and refined in line with my own recollections.


At 25 June, 2008 09:02, Blogger Clare Sudbery said...

Oh, what a sad song!

Do you know when it was written? I wonder what Staithes is like now.

At 25 June, 2008 23:38, Blogger Rob said...

Well, Vin Garbutt recorded it on his album "The Valley of Tees" in 1972, so I'd guess early 1970s or the very end of the 60s. I've never been to Staithes so i don't know what it's like. But yeah, sad and lovely song.

At 24 June, 2009 19:07, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic song which I heard Vin Garbett sing at a folk club around about 1978 or 79. Great to see the words.

At 11 September, 2013 13:02, Blogger Chris Waywell said...

Can you also recall the lyrics to Valley of Tees?

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