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Us Poor Fellows

[Peter Bellamy]

Nic Jones sang Us Poor Fellows in the role of the Father in Peter Bellamy’s ballad opera The Transports. Did Tony Rose learn it from him via their Bandoggs co-operation? He recorded the song in 1982 as the title track of his album Poor Fellows.

Cockersdale sang Us Poor Fellows in 1997 on their Fellside CD Wide Open Skies.

On the 2004 re-recording of The Transports there is another version of Us Poor Fellows sung by David Jones. This recording was taken from his Folk-Legacy album From England’s Shore.

Jon Boden sang Poor Fellows as the 22 November 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He commented in his blog:

From The Transports by Peter Bellamy, sung originally by Nic Jones in what is, for me, his finest vocal performance on record. Bellamy wrote all of the songs with particular singers in mind and, in most cases, this led to some pretty remarkable vocal performances.


The times they are hard and the wages are poor
None of us poor fellows has money in store
So how can a good man keep the wolf from the door?
Poor fellows, we all will go down:
When work it is scarce, tell me, how can we eat?
How can we afford to buy shoes for our feet
And how can we get clothing to keep off the sleet?
Poor fellows, we might as well drown.

If we could find labour we ne’er would complain
We’d work well for a master his favour to gain
We’d be honest and faithful with never a stain
But, poor fellows, how will we survive?
We could plough the good land, we could fish the salt sea
We could work in the woodland a-felling of trees
But when only the breath of our bodies is free,
Poor fellows, can we stay alive?

Now a man that is single, he’s free of all care
He can soon leave a district if no work be there
There’s no manner of hardship that he cannot bear
Poor fellows, if he is alone;
But a man with a family, his hands they are tied
He must look to their comfort or lose all his pride
He can’t wander away but must stay by their side
Poor fellows, and maintain his home.

Oh a man that is willing can’t understand why
He can find no employment how hard he may try
And it break his poor heart for to see his wife cry
So poor fellow, he’ll do what he can;
And a man that is desperate and can’t find a job
He will not be contended to sit home and sob
But he ever so honest, he’ll turn out and rob
Poor fellow, to prove he’s a man.

If a good man goes robbing, you know it’s a shame
He brings scorn and misfortune on his honest name
But it pitiful straits, tell me, who is to blame?
Poor fellow, you know he must try;
So let’s hope that these hard times they soon pass away
All unto our sweet saviour we earnestly pray
That this dark cloudy morn brings a glorious day
Poor fellows, some time ere we die.