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Close the Coalhouse Door

[Alex Glasgow]

Alex Glasgow, a pitman's son from Gateshead, wrote Close the Coalhouse Door originally for a BBC radio programme. It later became the title song for the 1968 stage musical written by him and Alan Plater. He added the “bairns” verse after the Aberfan disaster, about which see also Leon Rosselson's song Palaces of Gold.

Derek, Dorothy & Nadine Elliott sang Close the Coalhouse Door in 1976 on their Traditional Sound Recordings album Yorkshire Relish.

The Wilson Family sang Close the Coalhouse Door in 1991 on their Harbourtown album The Wilson Family Album and in 2009 on their CD A Grey Lock or Two. They noted:

For as long as we’ve been singing together we’ve invariably finished off a club booking or concert set with this song. For most of our generation, the Abberfan disaster was as significant as Kennedy’s death which preceded it or the moon landing which came a few years later. Although not specifically written about that disastrous event, it was composed at or about the same time and Alex Glasgow's lyrics seem heavily influenced by it. The song was actually written as part of a musical play by Alan Plater based upon the historical reminiscences of a north east mining family compiled from the short stories of Sid Chaplin—it remains a ‘classic’ to this day!

This video shows The Wilson Family at Ripponden Folk Club in March 2010:

Jon Boden sang Close the Coalhouse Door as the 20 October 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He commented in his blog:

I think I learnt this from the Colpitts but can’t really remember. We recently had The Wilsons at our club [Royal Traditions] and this one brought the house down.

The Unthanks sang Close the Coalhouse Door in 2011 on their CD Last.

Lyrics

Jon Boden sings Close the Coalhouse Door

Close the coalhouse door, lad. There's blood inside,
Blood from broken hands and feet,
Blood that's dried on blackened meat,
Blood from hearts that know no beat.
Close the coalhouse door, lad. There's blood inside.

Close the coalhouse door, lad. There's bones inside,
Mangled, broken piles of bones,
Buried 'neath a mile of stones,
And there's no-one there to hear the moans.
Close the coalhouse door, lad. There's bones inside.

Close the coalhouse door, lad. There's bairns inside,
Bairns that had no time to hide,
Bairns who saw the blackness slide,
Oh, there's bairns beneath the mountainside.
Close the coalhouse door, lad. There's bairns inside.

Close the coalhouse door, lad, and stay outside.
For Geordie's standin' on the dole
While Mrs Jackson, like a fool,
Complains about the price of coal.
Close the coalhouse door, lad, and stay outside.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Close the Coalhouse Door.