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My Grandfather Knew the Plough

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 102016 ; Phil Colclough]

Nic Jones sang My Grandfather Knew the Plough in a BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session recorded on 8 July 1976 and broadcast 23 July 1976.

Phil Colclough wrote this song while he and Nic were both regulars at the Red Lion Folk Club in Stoke-on-Trent and is, in fact, based on the life of Phil’s own grandfather. Phil’s introduction to the song was a graphic description of his Shropshire grandfather arriving in Stoke-on-Trent by train. The smoke and sulpher laden air from the pottery kilns made his grandfather think he had arrived in hell.

Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton sang My Grandfather Knew the Plough on their 2002 album Swapping Seasons.


Nic Jones sings My Grandfather Knew the Plough

O my grandfather knew the plough
He cut the long furrow before the swallow came to stay
He could tell the weather by a brinded sky at night be gold or grey
Yes the ploughman had his place and in good grace
Spring grain waved in the sun when summer came

Now the ploughman he had his trade
His gear and tackle trimmed all in the spring
Under sacks he walked the road sheltering from the April winds
And was blottered and paced with care fall fallow and plain
He’d sing a harvest home when autumn came

Now my grandfather walked the lanes
When the thin rain come oozing through the thorn
Making for the higher ground to find the ewes and rams when they were born
Yes the shepherd he had his place and in good grace
Lambs were sheared again to keep him warm when winter came

(instrumental break)

Now the shepherd he took to the roads
In high bonnet and crook and dogs that walked in pairs
Making for the country towns to try his luck at the hiring fair.
Yes the shepherd he had his trade and with a good will
Spring lambs and ewes and rams the downs did fill

Now my grandfather saw the change
From high summer to winter’s frost upon the plough
From the faded autumn leaves to small birds that sang so sweet upon the bough
Yes the tradesman had his place and in good grace
His sons would walk the land, from boy to man, as seasons change

Now my grandfather left the plough
He walked a hard mile to reach the town and catch the train
To the fields he waved goodbye where he sweated hard all in the sun and rain
Yes the ploughman’s had his day and he’s gone away
Trying his hand as best he can some other way.