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The Oily Rig

[ Roud 1853 ; Mudcat 43648 ; trad.]

Bob Roberts recited The Oily Rig on his 1978 Topic album Songs From the Sailing Barges. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

Finally, for good measure, Bob gives us the recitation piece, The Oily Rig. Topical enough in these days of North Sea drilling, the poem is founded on a fantasy—the draining of the ocean through a big hole—that sci-fi writers have returned to over and over again, usually with less wit and success than Bob shows here.


Bob Roberts recites The Oily Rig

Well fishing was bad, and me boat laid up,
Though me and the boy weren’t shirkers,
And a chap come into our village pub,
He say he’s looking for workers.

He talked like a bit of a Yank I thought,
Though he stood us a couple or three,
He say, they’re building a hoily rig,
To get hoil from out the sea.

He say there’s riches there for all,
And gas as well as oil,
And all he wanted was us local chaps,
To help with the work and the toil.

“How much ’d we earn?” I venture to ask.
“Oh twenty, thirty pounds or more.”
“Is that a month?” I say. And he laughed.
“No, a week – and maybe more.”

Well I went home and told my missus this yarn,
I’ve heard these yarns afore,
But I couldn’t see no good could come
Of drilling these holes off shore.

I’d rather work on the boat with the lad,
But the old woman sit and fret,
“You’d earn more money there in a week,
Than a whole bloody year wi’ your net.”

So in the end, I took the job,
And the boy he’s in the tug,
I thought some good might come of it,
If it was only some beer in me mug.

Well, we worked on a platform thing they’d made,
And this drill went whee, whee, whee,
And it drilled a bloody great big round hole
In the bottom of the old North Sea.

Well, there weren’t no gas, there weren’t no oil,
Not a sight nor smell they found,
’Til one day the lad he give me a shout.
“Hey dad, our tug’s aground!”

So I looked overside and the boy was right,
The water was leaving the tug,
And a-swirling away down this hole we’d made,
Like out of a bathroom plug.

Well I looked all around and there weren’t no sea,
And everywhere I spy,
There’s ships and boats and liners aground,
And the fish all high and dry.

It looked just like a desert, boy,
Enough to make a man afraid,
And the last of the sea going glug, glug, glug,
Down this bloody great hole we’d made.

Then, a hiss and a roar and a cloud of steam,
From out of our hole it came,
And up popped the head of the devil himself,
“Hey, what’s the bloody game!

“You’ve flooded all me furnaces
And put me fires out,
And hell’s all cold and sodden wet,
Ya puddin’ headed lout!

“Blast your bloody oily rig,
You’d make an angel sob,
I’ll never get hell hot again
I’ve lost me bloody job.”

Right riled he were, but I only laughed,
For I don’t care a mite,
“You won’t burn no more souls,” I say,
“Wi’out a bloody light.”

So we done some good wi’ our hoily rig,
We doused hell in a hurry,
So now, if you die, there’s only heaven,
So no more need to worry.