> John Kirkpatrick > Songs > A Shropshire Lad

A Shropshire Lad

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 21647 ; words Sir John Betjeman, music Jim Parker]

John Betjeman’s song A Shropshire Lad is about the English Channel swimmer Matthew Webb. It is neither part of Alfred Edward Housman’s poem cycle A Shropshire Lsd nor is it related to Fred Jordan’s anthology CD A Shropshire Lad.

John Kirkpatrick sang A Shropshire Lad on his and Sue Harris’ 1976 album Among the Many Attractions at the Show Will Be a Really High Class Band. They commented in the album’s sleeve notes:

Captain Matthew Webb caught the public imagination when he first swam the English Channel in 1875. After performing no end of feats of endurance and prowess in the water, he finally drowned while attempting a conquest of the rapids below the Niagara Falls.

This story of the Captain’s ghost returning to his home town in industrial Shropshire was devised by Sir John Betjeman who recites it to the music of Jim Parker on his Charisma LP Betjeman’s Banana Blush.

John Kirkpatrick recorded A Shropshire Lad again in 1999 for the concertina compilation CD Boxing Clever and in 2012 for his CD Every Mortal Place.


John Kirkpatrick sings A Shropshire Lad

The gas was on in the Institute,
The flare was up in the gym,
A man was running a mineral line,
A lass was singing a hymn,
When Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Came swimming along the old canal
That carried the bricks to Lawley.
𝄆 Swimming along—
Swimming along—
Swimming along from Severn,
Paying a call at Dawley Bank while swimming along to Heaven. 𝄇

The sun shone low on the railway line
And over the bricks and stacks
And in at the upstairs windows
Of the Dawley houses’ backs
When we saw the ghost of Captain Webb,
Webb in a water sheeting,
Come dripping along in a bathing dress
To the Saturday evening meeting.
𝄆 Dripping along—
Dripping along—
To the Congregational Hall;
Oh, dripping and still he rose over the sill and faded away in a wall. 𝄇

Well, there wasn’t a man in Oakengates
That hadn’t got hold of the tale,
And over the valley in Ironbridge,
And round by Coalbrookdale,
How Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Rose rigid and dead from the old canal
That carries the bricks to Lawley.
𝄆 Rigid and dead—
Rigid and dead—
To the Saturday congregation,
Paying a call at Dawley bank on his way to his destination. 𝄇