Close The Coalhouse Door

2014
10.20

One form the pen of Alex Glasgow and Jon says, “I think I learnt this from the Colpitts but can’t really remember. We recently had The Wilsons at our club (www.royaltraditions.com) and this one brought the house down.” Alex was a Socialist and songwriter who grew up in the North East of England and this song was originally about the struggles of the regions coal miners. You’ll note that there is an extra verse added here about the Aberfan disaster – “Close the coalhouse door boys, there’s bairns inside…” and you’ll read more, including a couple of later miners strike era additions on this Mudcat thread. Regulars of a certain age will at least be familiar with his singing of the theme music for When The Boat Comes In, but that’s hardly the pinnacle of his achievement, as he also wrote several of the episodes of that series. This song title is also shared by a musical play written by Alan Plater that included some of Alex’s songs amongst a series of sketches. There’s also mention of When The Tyne Slides By, a song cycle created for another BBC series, as his masterpiece in this Wiki entry. It’s worth a few minutes as is this Guardian obituary from Alan Plater, still poignant and perhaps more so almost 10 years on.

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20 Responses to “Close The Coalhouse Door”

  1. muzza says:

    Ref my rant yesterday….Just me then..didn’t notice todays song.(another senior moment!)
    This sort of song is from the heart and is the soul of a mining community……..Mrs Jackson is obviously the generic name for we grockles that just burn the coal without thinking of how it got to us……like many things today. I remember Aberfan and that verse completes the circle that the whole community lives & breathes, depends on the mine.

  2. Simon says:

    Sorry for the lateness today folks, but presumably like me, you haven’t been able to access the site anyway. I even tried from home late last night just in case it was specific to the office situation, but with no joy. It seems that there was a technical issue with the hosting company and for one reason and another we didn’t find out, still better late than never.

    On another issue, you will have become aware of various derogatory comments being posted recently. Although various names have been used they all came from the same IP address, which means there are either a bunch a people who all seem to take pleasure in slagging this site off gathered around one computer (unlikely), or that one person thinks they are being very clever by using different names to post their own bile here (likely.) It’s relatively easy to track this and to block the IP address from further posts, but rather harder to explain why some lame brain would think such a thing clever in the first place. There is after all a whole world wide web, please go forth and multiply your personalities elsewhere, somewhere amongst the general detritus is something tailor made just for you.

  3. Lizzy says:

    Thank you Simon! Clearly somebody with a shoulder-chip… fortunately completely outweighed by the way that everyone leaps to Jon’s defence, and rightly so!
    Keep it up Jon! Everything you do is top stuff – you are bringing a lot of beauty and pleasure to our lives.

  4. Nige Rivers says:

    Wow, that’s a strong song.

    Took a look a your club site, love the idea of a set list of house songs, it must encourage a more confident mass joining in rather than the usual splintered join in if you know it scenario. I shall suggest it to our club down south.

  5. Ladygeeke says:

    I remember the play, I saw it at York Theatre Royal I think, late 60s/early 70s. It was very moving.

  6. Evie's Mummy says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Lizzy and Simon.
    Well done you! And keep it up Mr Boden sir, please.
    xxx

  7. Shelley says:

    What a moving song, found that quite a hard listen first thing this morning. I’m being exposed to so many new songs and songwriters through this project – thanks Jon!

    (As for the Royal Traditions Club – highly recommended!)

  8. Jan says:

    I learned this from a now-defunct folk group called Hebrec. I have a fondness for coal songs as I spent my early years in Wakefield when the mines were still going strong, and the Aberfan verse of this song has special meaning as my cousin’s husband grew up there and was one of those who helped dig the children out. Thanks for your version, Jon.

  9. SRD says:

    Regarding the derogatory comments; I suppose it’s possible that the songs that are the subject of them are really favoured by the poster who hopes to boost them up the popularity polls with a bit of controversy but I think that people are entitled to their opinions and to air them, even if they don’t have the courage to put their real names to their posts (who the hell is that SRD anyway 😉 ), I find the problems occur when people respond to what are obviously inflammatory remarks.

    Good song by the way.

  10. SRD says:

    By the way, the address for the Folk Club is http://www.royaltraditions.co.uk, not .com

  11. Simon Dewsbury says:

    really well sung, again. And what about doing his ‘socialist ABC’ Jon? that’d up the comments count.
    ‘S is for sad Stalinism that gave us all such a bad name; and T is for Trotsky the hero who had to take all of the blame’

  12. Iggy says:

    Is it coincidental or was, perhaps, the posting of this fantastic song an early reminder that the 21st Oct is the 44th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan_disaster

  13. Maggie says:

    Really good to hear this great song again. Especially at a time when people around the world have been cheering on, and celebrating, the Chilean miners.

  14. Reinhard Zierke says:

    It’s probably coincidence, Iggy, as Jon could have put the song in today’s slot but he didn’t. But thanks for reminding us of the anniversary date.

  15. Simon says:

    Iggy, I’ll ask Jon. I suspect Reinhard is right as it was me that made the Aberfan connection in researching the song and I must confess the anniversary even slipped me. I’d emphasise it’s not the main focus of the song, but the verse was added after the disaster and naturally has stuck. The miners’ lot in general has rarely been a happy one. Still, it’s poignant to remember. As a child I don’t think the scale of the tragedy ever really sank in, but many will still carry the terrible burden.

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    One of those sad songs that I generally go for, and I do remember the Aberfan disaster. I was about 12 years old, I think, so old enough to appreciate it was serious, if not with a wholly adult eye, though my father was always good at explaining the significance of such things to me in empathetic human terms, without completely frightening me.

    I’m with Maggie on celebrating the Chilean miners’ rescue, whilst not forgetting this tragedy. How well-timed the song with the anniversary of the disaster, even if not intentional. It does emphasise what some folk music is about and how songs re-surge, are adapted and added to as things happen in communities.

    And beautifully sung, Jon.

  17. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    Wonderful to hear this song again after so many years and Jon sings it beautifully. It was very popular in the folk clubs in the 60s, I think I remember Roy Bailey singing it.
    Spare a thought tomorrow for the people of Aberfan as the anniversary comes round again and they remember and think of what might have been for so many children

  18. Jane Ramsden says:

    The words of this song are hugely poignant when you really listen. I’m sparing a thought for those children, who would have been over 45 if alive today. Terribly sad, but beautifully sung, Jon.

    @ John B: Thanks for the mention of Roy Bailey. Here’s a link to his new web site:

    http://roybailey.net/

    Can’t find this song listed on any of the CDs posted on site, but very pleased to see he is coming to Bradford on 25th Nov for ‘Raise Your Banners!’ I was minded to go to this to see John Tams and Barry Coupe again, but they may be on a different day, as is Peggy Seeger. Will the funds stretch to all?!! And it is taking place in part in St Peter’s House, Forster Square, a building I occasionally used to work in.

  19. Diana says:

    I cannot say I like this song – it brings back memories of a most terrible event.

  20. george says:

    It’s so long since I heard that song, and so well sung on Sunday morning. My grandfather, George, lied about his age, he swore he was 15 when he was only 14, but the BRITISH ARMY accepted him and he went to fight for his Queen and Country in THE BOER WAR… He, having seen ordinary men (Light Infantry) like him, cut to pieces around him, without any backup from… George came back a man and a worked down a coal pit for the rest of his working life. Any person who works in the darkness of a hole in the ground to bring light to us above, deserves good pay and some more.

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