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Ah Cud Hew

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 129832 ; Ed Pickford]

Karl Dallas: One Hundred Songs of Toil.

The Northern Front (Nick Fenwick, Mike Elliott and Ed Pickford) sang Ed Pickford’s song Aa Cud Hew on the 1970 BBC anthology of songs from their radio series Folk on Friday. The album’s sleeve notes commented:

Another of Ed Pickford’s mining songs [besides Farewell Johnny Miner]—this time about the coaldust disease that affects miners. Officially the disease is referred to as pneumoconiosis but it is unofficially and more succinctly called ‘dust’. The struggle to have coaldust classed as an industrial disease is a long and bitter one. Almost nightly in the North-Eastern newspapers you can see the results of coroner’s rulings as to whether coaldust was a contnbutary cause of a Miner’s death. The economic significance of this is that if ‘dust’ is deemed a contributory cause then his widow will receive his pension.

Ed Pickford sang his own song Ee, Aye, Aa Cud Hew on the 1972 Topic anthology of ballads and songs from Newcastle and thereabouts, Canny Newcassel. This track was also included in 1993 on the Topic compilation CD The Iron Muse. Tony Wilson noted on the original album:

One of Ed Pickford’s most powerful songs, written about pneumoconiosis, ‘the dust’, an illness that caused his father to be laid off from the pits and that has been the slow death of so many miners.

Tom Gilfellon sang Dust Song in 1972 on his Trailer album Loving Mad Tom. He noted:

Probably the worst hazard in modern mining is the fine coal dust inevitably breathed in by the pitman. It turns lungs into rock and young men into old, long before their time. By Ed Pickford, one of the North East’s most admired songwriters.

Louis Killen sang Aa Cud Hew in 1980 on his Collector album of songs of the British Industrial Revolution, Gallant Lads Are We. He noted:

Ed Pickford’s moving song of a man whose health, but not his spirit, has been ruined by ‘black lung’, pneumoconiosis. caused by inhalation of the coal dust.

The House Band sang E I Ah Could Hew, in 1985 on their eponymous Topic album The House Band.

Graham Pirt sang Ee Aye Aa Cud Hew, accompanied by his son Sam on piano accordion, in 2008 on their Fellside album Dance ti’ Thee Daddy. He noted:

Coming from a mining family I was still unaware, as a child, of the dangers of ‘the dust’. I was troubled by my Uncle Arnold’s flour-white complexion and his wracking cough as he sat dying in the corner of his pitman’s cottage in Spennymoor, but knew nothing about pneumoconiosis. Ed Pickford’s song brings a realism to it.

Stew Simpson samg Eh Aww Ah Cud Hew in 2017 on Stick in the Wheel’s anthology From Here: English Folk Field Recordings. He noted:

In English it means, “Oh Yes, I Could Pick at the Coals”. It’s a song written by Ed Pickford and I’ve chosen it because it’s a very dynamic song, and it reminds me of home. It’s from the 50s I think—it sounds a lot older, like something Tommy Armstrong would have written, but it’s really not as old as it pretends to be. If I want to go into a room and get the audience’s attention, it’s always a song which grabs them, that’s always fun to do.

George Shovlin and George Lamb sang Ah Cud Hew in 2018 on the Hooky Mat anthology of North East singers singing the North East songwriter Ed Pickford, The Hooky Mat Project.


Please find the lyrics for this song at Ed Pickford’s website.