> Martin Carthy > Songs > A Question of Sport

A Question of Sport

[Martin Carthy]

There are several live recordings of A Question of Sport by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick: The first, recorded live on 23 February 1990 at Focal Point, St. Louis, MO, USA, is on their album Life and Limb; it was re-released on Rigs of the Time: The Best of Martin Carthy. The second was recorded in Pittsburgh on 17 October 1991 and released on The Carthy Chronicles. And a third was performed on 5 July 1992 at the Tanz & Folkfest Rudolstadt ’92. They also played this on their 1992 video 100 Not Out.

Martin Carthy commented in the Life and Limb sleeve notes:

A Question of Sport grew over the space of about three years as the response of someone who is very fond of sport (me), to the apparently never ending stream of sportsmen detaching themselves from the real world with the cry “Just doing my job.”

And the Tanz & Folkfest Rudolstadt ’92 sleeve notes said:

Es geht um Südafrika, um Apartheid, um Sport, um die Engländer, und um die englische Zeitungslandschaft. Vor allem darum, dass der Engländer als solcher nach Lektüre seiner Tageszeitung fest davon überzeugt sein musste, die einzige negative Auswirkung der Apartheid in Südafrika war, dass das Land nicht an den Olympischen Spielen teilnehmen konnte.

[It’s about South Africa, about apartheid, about sport, about the English and about English newspapers. But most of all it’s about this: After reading their daily news, the English had to be convinced that the only bad result of apartheid in South Africa were to forbid this country to participate in the Olympic Games.]


Martin Carthy sings A Question of Sport

Oh I am humanity cast in the flood
Waive your liberty as I come among you
I ride the ark on a sea of blood
They call me the Great Azania
I soared like the dove released in the air
When they tossed me through the window tied to a chair
I landed in the middle of Trafalgar Square
I’ve come to visit all your bad dreams upon you

Now the first that I met when I came into land
Was the Grantham grocer’s daughter
She cried aloud, “How sorry I am
There wasn’t anybody here for to caught you”
She crooned in my ear like I knew she could
Her Cabinet briefing on the misunderstood
Bathed my wounds in my very own blood
Calling on the world press to support her

Oh the cameras rattled and the questions flew
Everybody sang Rule Britannia
The Cabinet jumped up two by two
Joining in with their own memoranda
They went, “Maximum leverage, minimum force,
You get your dividend but you gotta stay the course.”
They sang as they all trooped off to the house
“God save our gracious TINA.”

Oh they knew by the bruising around my body
I clearly was a threat to the nation
They knew that menace to life and limb
Was a matter of interpretation
They had me down at the dog track running like a hare
I was huge on the replay screens up there
Crowds flung their hats in the air
Marvelling at my acceleration

Oh they heard me cry when I fell among thieves
The billy club beat a tattoo on me
They joined the brokers and crowded the eaves
Jostling to get the best view of me
They sang “Suffer little children” and “See how they run”
As the tear gas flew and the sjamboks sang
Still as the white-walled necklace burned
They prayed out aloud for their piece of me

Oh the birdmen of Pollsmoor ranged in the dark
Rand man come to saddle up and ride them
Birdmen of Pollsmoor built them an ark
No divine telegram to guide ’em
Rand man shouted, rand man cajoled
Did the township jive for photo call
The words of the birdmen spangled the wall
A weeping tear gas diadem

He said, “I am humanity cast in the flood
Waive your liberty as I come among you
I ride the ark on a sea of blood
They call me the Great Azania
I soared like the dove released in the air
You left me for dead at the foot of the stair
And when I stand/rise in the middle of Trafalgar Square
Resurrection’s all around you”


Transcription by Garry Gillard. Thanks to Geoff Barker for some helpful comments with this difficult transcription—and the Pollsmoor note.