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The Old Miner

[ Roud 1136 ; Mudcat 6258 ; trad.]

The Singing Tradition (Julie West, Martyn Briggs, Bob Lapworth, Mick Nash) sang The Old Miner in 1971 on the Topic album of songs, stories and tunes from the central countries, The Wide Midlands, produced by Roy Palmer. He noted in the sleeve notes:

An old miner at Haunchwood Pit, Nuneaton [Warwickshire], made up this song to a tune he had learned in his native Durham. John Moreton heard it in the early 1960’s.

A year later, Roy Palmer included the song in his book Songs of the Midlands (EP Publishing 1972).

The Silly Sisters (Maddy Prior and Jone Tabor, accompanied by Dan Ar Braz, guitar; Huw Warren, keyboards; Jim Sutherland, percussion) recorded The Old Miner in 1988 for their second album, No More to the Dance. This recording was included in 2000 on the English folk anthology And We’ll All Have Tea.

John Kirkpatrick, accompanied by himself on accordion and Sue Harris on hammered dulcimer, sang The Old Miner in 1989 on their Topic album Stolen Ground. This track was also included in 1994 on his anthology CD A Short History of John Kirkpatrick. They also sang it in 1993 for the 2 cassette miner’s benefit compilation, Undefeated.

Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton sang Old Coal Miner on their 1998 album The Bee-Loud Glade.

Jon Wilks sang The Old Miner in 2023 on his album Before I Knew What Had Begun I Had Already Lost. He noted:

A favourite from Roy Palmer’s Songs of the Midlands book, collected in the early 60s from an old miner in Nuneaton. He said the song had travelled with him from his home in Durham. My version is the result of listening to traditional folk and Massive Attack at the same time—not a bad combination, as it turns out.

Lyrics

The Silly Sisters sing The Old Miner

Oh who’ll replace this old miner
And who will take my place below?
And who will follow the trepanner,
Oh, dear God, when I go?

Oh who will wield this heavy pick
That I did wield for forty years?
And who will hew the black, black coal,
Oh, dear God, when I go?

Oh who will ride the miners’ train
That takes him to the dark coal face
Who’ll take my place upon that train,
Oh, dear God, when I go?

Oh who will load this great iron top
And who will strain his bending back?
And who will work, sweat and ache like hell,
Oh, dear God, when I go?

Oh who will cry when the roof caves in
When friends are lying all around?
And who will sing the miner’s hymn,
Oh, dear God, when I go?

For forty years I’ve loved the mine,
For forty years I’ve worked down there.
Now who’ll replace this old miner
When I’ve paid God my fare?

John Kirkpatrick sings The Old Miner

Oh who’ll replace this old miner?
who will take my place below?
Who will follow the trepanner,
Oh, dear God, when I go?

Oh who will ride the miners’ train?
To the dark coal face it runs so slow.
Who’ll take my place when it runs again,
Oh, dear God, when I go?

Who’ll wield my pick that now I hoe
And first did wield long time ago?
Oh who will hew the black, black coal,
Oh, dear God, when I go?

Oh who will bow beneath the wait?
Who’s back will strain and bend and bow?
And who will work and sweat and ache,
Oh, dear God, when I go?

Oh who will cry when the roof caves in
With mates and friends by gas-light low?
Oh who will sing the miner’s hymn,
Oh, dear God, when I go?

For forty years I’ve loved the mine,
For forty years I’ve worked below.
Now who will take this place of mine,
𝄆 Oh, dear God, when I go? 𝄇

Jon Wilks sings The Old Miner

Oh, who’ll replace this old miner?
And who will take my place below?
And who will follow the trepanner
Oh, dear god, when I go?

Oh, who will wield my heavy pick?
That I did wield for forty years?
And who will hew the black, black coal?
Who, dear god, when I go?

Oh, who will ride the miner’s train
That takes him to the dark coal face?
Who’ll take my place upon that train?
Who, dear god, when I go?

Oh, who will load this great iron tub?
Oh, who will strain his bending back?
And who will work, sweat and ache like hell?
Who, dear god, when I go?

Oh, who will cry when the roof caves in
When friends are dying all around?
And who will sing the miners’ hymn?
Who, dear god, when I go?

For forty years I’ve loved this mine
For forty years I’ve worked down there
Now, who’ll replace this old miner
When I’ve paid my god my fare?