Lock Keeper


Jon identifies his source as “Written by Stan Rogers – a beautiful anthem for the virtues of a more domestic existence. Sung often by Ian Giles at the Half Moon – Ian actually came and sang this recently at the Spiers & Boden 10th Birthday Bash at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. He sang it unaccompanied. Magic.”

Yes it was magic, but then the whole gig was something special. And so is this song. If like me you don’t know Stan Rogers, then start with Wiki. You can then move onto the website maintained in his honour and thirdly I’ll recommend playing the version of this that you’ll find at Mainly Norfolk. Absolutely lovely!



40 Responses to “Lock Keeper”

  1. Jane Ramsden says:

    What a wonderful song, by both singers! Thanks for the introduction to another artist to add to the cd collection. I particularly liked the song subject of locks, which resonates with my childhood memories of Bingley’s Five Rise Locks. (I’m sure Jon’s partner, Fay, will know them from the locality). Here is a link which shows the rise that goes well with this great song:


  2. Sol says:

    Brilliant song, but I’m not in love with this version. Somehow seems too English to me. May just be I’m too tied to the original…

  3. Yer Gran says:

    Aw Jon,another lovely song which had the,”shiver factor” that you do so well-but where did that ending come from??
    First heard this by Mary Chapin Carpenter and weirdly,the woman does a great job of a man’s song and I like her version even better than Stan’s original

  4. Tim says:

    Stan Rogers was a Canadian national treasure!

  5. Nick says:

    Is there a recording of Ian Giles’ version? I have most things with him on but don’t recall this song…



  6. Simon says:

    Another new discovery for me and I’ve just armed myself with a Very Best Of CD for the weekend.

  7. Reinhard says:

    Simon, try Stan Rogers’ final live recording on “Home in Halifax”. In my opinion this is his very best record, including his tongue-in-cheek explanation of British rituals:

    “Morris dancers are cute little people who dress up in white suits and little green sashes and pork-pie hats with feathers in them. They tie sleighbells to their feet, and they tie hankies to their wrists, long white hankies, and they kind of prance around. And they do this in groups or mobs called “teams.” In any event, they get together at folk festivals and they gather around in their little clot or mob, and they do their little dances.

    And there’s nothing really alarming about this, except for the fact that every once in a while they will arm themselves with cudgels or bludgeons or some kind of blunt instrument like that and, to the accompaniment of accordion and violin, they will rhythmically and ritually hit each other again, and again, and again. And this is considered to be entertainment or some kind of British fertility ritual, or something.”

  8. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Ref Reinhard notes……..
    I feel that good old Stan Rogers may have been on the “Rye” a bit and perhaps witnessed a group of Leprechauns that had formed a morris dancing side so as not to lose the use of their arms.

  9. Reinhard says:

    Morris dancers are English, Leprachauns are Irish. But from far away Canada this might not be such a big difference 😉

  10. elfpix says:

    The depth of panic in Stan’s spirit at the impact his professional life was having on his personal life is pretty much missing here. Maybe one needs to have been there, or at least been close to there, to grasp just how terrifyingly fragile and wistful the pleading is in the song.

    Whatever, the song needs instrumental arrangment and is not in any way a folky type song.

    Sort of like Erlkönig.

  11. Joe Offer says:

    Having grown up in Michigan and Wisconsin, I’ve always loved the Great Lakes. I don’t think Stan Rogers ever told the location of the locks where this song was situated – the song says on the Seaway, so I’m supposing that’s the St. Lawrence Seaway. I’ve always thought it was along the Welland Canal, which parallels the Niagara River and connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, wisely bypassing the Niagara Falls. The area along the Welland Canal is drab – lots of farmland and uninteresting towns, and huge amounts of snow in the winter.

    There are also fascinating locks at Sault Ste. Marie, parallel to St. Mary’s River and connecting Lake Superior to Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. I don’t know of any other locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway – I doubt that there are any on the St. Lawrence River, which connects Lake Ontario to the Atlantic.

    -Joe Offer-

  12. Lenora Rose says:

    I feel terribly snared in the assumptions of my home country reading this.

    Because I am truly boggled at the idea that people in any English-singing country with a strong folk scene could plausibly not have heard of Stan Rogers. Trust me, in Canada, this is approximately as near on impossible as not having heard of Bob Dylan — Barrett’s Privateers is one of those songs that gets sung at nigh on every campfire, and The Mary Ellen Carter has been one of the three traditional closing numbers to the Winnipeg Folk Festival – with the Wild Mountain Thyme and Amazing Grace – for near the whole of the festival’s existence.

    Lock Keeper is less immediately well known, but I always thought it one of his unjustly overlooked songs.

    Of course, lately, as it gets hard to find a distributor over here who even provides most major folk presences from England (Meaning that even a music store that specializes in folk seems thin on Brits), I acknowledge that it’s plausible the same issue happens the other way.

    Stan’s brother and son (Garnet and Nathan respectively) had made themselves respectable enough careers in music as well, though I never much took to Garnet’s solo work.

  13. Muzza(NW-Surrey, UK) says:

    Terrific song and it introduced me to Stan Rogers…..what a rumbly,velvet voice.
    @Lenora Rose….I presume you come from Canada………too late now but it would have been nice for folks to incorporate their country into their “Comment name”.
    I suspect “TwilightJewlry from yesterday is not based in Skipton!

  14. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: More like Transylvania… ever heard of Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse & Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer? Even a vampire addict like missen could not get into them tho’ – turgid!

    If ye want a right good read à la Indiana Jones type story, I recommend Matthew Reilly, especially his trilogy Seven Ancient Wonders, Six Sacred Stones & Five Greatest Warriors… in that order. Excitement literally every page, great save-the-world quest storyline, fascinating historical/mythical ideas and great human values!

    Oh yeah, and this song is fandabbadosi too! Beautifully sung, Jon. Stan Rogers had a wonderful singing voice as per the video on Reinhard’s Mainly Norfolk but, @ Reinhard, the link you have to Stan Roger’s website for this song’s lyrics just gave me 404 Error File Not Found. Not sure if this is permanent or just a temporary non-availability. These are the lyrics I found elsewhere:

    You say, `Well-met again, Lock-keeper!
    We`re laden even deeper than the time before,
    Oriental oils and tea brought down from Singapore.`
    As we wait for my lock to cycle
    I say, `My wife has given me a son.`
    `A son!` you cry, `Is that all that you`ve done?`

    She wears bougainvilla blossoms.
    You pluck `em from her hair and toss `em in the tide,
    Sweep her in your arms and carry her inside.
    Her sighs catch on your shoulder;
    Her moonlit eyes grow bold and wiser through her tears
    And I say, `How could you stand to leave her for a year?`

    `Then come with me` you say, `to where the Southern Cross
    Rides high upon your shoulder.`
    `Come with me!` you cry,
    `Each day you tend this lock, you`re one day older,
    While your blood runs colder.`
    But that anchor chain`s a fetter
    And with it you are tethered to the foam,
    And I wouldn`t trade your life for one hour of home.

    Sure I`m stuck here on the Seaway
    While you compensate for leeway through the Trades;
    And you shoot the stars to see the miles you`ve made.
    And you laugh at hearts you`ve riven,
    But which of these has given us more love of life,
    You, your tropic maids, or me, my wife.

    `Then come with me` you say, `to where the Southern Cross
    Rides high upon your shoulder.`
    `Ah come with me!` you cry,
    `Each day you tend this lock, you`re one day older,
    While your blood runs colder.`
    But that anchor chain`s a fetter
    And with it you are tethered to the foam,
    And I wouldn`t trade your life for one hour of home.
    Ah your anchor chain`s a fetter
    And with it you are tethered to the foam,
    And I wouldn`t trade your whole life for just one hour of home

  15. Diana says:

    Enjoyed both Jon and Stan Rogers’ singing on Reynard’s site – just sorry there wasn’t any words to print off. I realise that Jane has written them out but it isn’t the same as being able to run them off. I’ve tried in the past to run AFSAD off and it takes so many pages to do it that I won’t do it again.

  16. Reynard says:

    Stan Rogers’ site seems to have gone since last spring and has been replaced with a generic record label presence; unfortunately without the lyrics.

    I had the lyrics on my page but they were hidden. Now they are available again for you, Diana.

  17. Diana says:

    Thank you Reynard – I have printed them off for my collection, which by the way is getting quite enormous. Not got every song but I do pick the ones that I have liked the most to keep.

  18. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Reynard & Diana: Am I looking in the wrong place, as still cannot find ‘Lock Keeper’ lyrics on MN?

    Anyways, Diana, easiest way to print lyrics off is to cut & paste into a Word document to store on your own pc, then you can choose to print off or not as and when you want. What are you doing with them all? Are you going to learn them & sing them out somewhere? More than I am brave enough to do! Between us, we will have some folk archive, but Reinhard’s is the original and thorough one!

    Here’s a site I found last night which you might like – Lesley Nelson-Burn’s (aka The Contemplator) Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales & America – with tunes playing in the background, midi files to download (providing guidelines are followed), lyrics, short histories, Child Ballads, music grouped according to theme, countries, sea shanties & links to other tune-related sites. All-in-all, a very useful resource!


    (I cannot, however, listen to the opening background tune (Spanish Ladies) without thinking of the wonderful Robert Shaw singing this in ‘Jaws!’ Reckon he could have been a decent folk singer.)

    And, with Muzzanuendo in mind, but which might make Reynard laugh too is this one:


    Opens with a sample of a supposed rare traditional English song, but scroll down to the bottom of the page to click on a link to more similar delights!

    The Brampton Bugle has many other comic treats in store too, not least the supposed advertising slipped in along the way – hilarious! Some of the content is of a more adult nature, but the history section – Nadger’s History of England by Brampton historian Arthur B. Nadger – has some interesting stuff, not least the theory that “English morris dancing is the earliest known example of biological warfare.”


    @ Muzza: I thought you would appreciate this in return for the (obviously dead) hover-cat on FB t’other day… I am now wondering if Arthur’s article is finally shedding some light on the popular (but likely mis-)conception, that ‘Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses’ was indeed about the plague…

  19. Jane Ramsden says:

    And I knew Yorkshire had to come into it somewhere! Read the very funny history of Jeremiah M. Blunt, in which a village in my locality. Cleckheaton (officially in Kirklees Council area) gets a mention:


    This may well be because they do indeed host an annual folk festival, coming up in July (25th anniversary!) & details of which can be found on their website:


    Nice line-up including, Vin Garbutt, Cara Dillon, Coope, Boyes & Simpson, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan & Martin Simpson to name a few!

  20. Diana says:

    Jane: I have just written a book to you which has mysteriously disappeared, I cannot recall all that I wrote but it was reams. Where the blazes it went I do not know. Will condense message or else I will be here till domesday. Followed your links – entertaining Folk songs – sea songs and “New Yorks Girls” there – surprise.

    Have visited Eyam where “Riley’s Graves” are – the plague victims about which “Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses” was supposed to be.

    Re: cut and paste – Stephen showed me how to do it once and expects me to remember months later. Even if written instructions I don’t seem to be bale to manage it. These young people who use computers extensively do not seem to understand that a parent who came to computers late are not quite as capable.

    Muzza you’ve got it, by George you’ve got it. I hope you are not wondering what you have got!

  21. Diana says:

    @Jane: Excuse any spelling mistakes, I am exhausted with all this re-writing and the first message was sooo long.

  22. Diana says:

    :Jane the lyrics for the “Lock Keeper” are there are present on the Mainly Norfolk link at the top o the page I am sure that they have not been hidden again.

  23. Diana says:

    @Jane: Here I go again, I have recalled more scribblings.

    I too remember Robert Shaw singing in “Jaws” and it wasn’t half bad for a non-singer.

    As for the plague victims I think there were five graves at Eyam, I seem to remember a path and a wall half surrounding the graves but it was a long time ago.

  24. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Diana: If I go through the Mainly Norfolk link above in Simon’s notes, I am seeing no song lyrics, or place to go to find them. I am sure I am being obtuse, but canny see how!

  25. Diana says:

    @Jane I am sorry that I cannot help you I have just been to the Mainly Norfolk link just above where you click on to hear Jon singing, and the lyrics are there under Stan Rogers’ clip.

    Whilst I am here again more scribblings come to mind. You ask whether I intend singing the songs I have collected – well the answer is a definite no. It is a long time since I sang in the school choir and I do not intend to try again, only when I am alone and I sing along with the i-pod and often with the folk singers. To date no-one has complained about the noise.

  26. Reynard says:

    Jane, maybe your browser just has my old page in its cache and needs to be nudged to reload it? Try pressing Ctrl-R; or Cmd-R if your computer is a Mac.

    (Sorry for the late answer but I have been away to my mother’s 82nd birthday.)

  27. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Diana: Well, the lyrics are categorically not there for me. I’ve clicked on the link above and gone into MN via a Google search and the page looks exactly the same as yesterday. No Lock Keeper lyrics under the video of Stan Rogers, just the same words as before and the same redundant link to the lyrics, still redundant! I don’t understand it. There is the record of Reinhard’s recent change, but the change isn’t visible to me. Maybe tomorrow!

  28. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Reinhard: Thanks for solving the mystery! The cache has always been a mystery to me that no-one, even a ‘techie whizz’ person, has ever satisfactorily explained to this defo non-techie-whizz person! I will try your recommendation. Hope your mother had a lovely day!

  29. Jane Ramsden says:

    Reinhard! You are a genius! Worked!

  30. Diana says:

    @Jane so glad the mystery has been solved and you have managed to find words.

    Reynard I join with Jane and hope your mother enjoyed her birthday.

  31. Muzza(NW-Surrey, UK) says:

    @Jane…thank you for the folk links……I now know why Jeremiah Marmaduke Blunt is never seen in the same room as Admin Simon.

  32. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: Having read the article, I can see several reasons why no-one would wish to be in a room with him, nor even the same county! Glad that I am that he left Yorkshire – God’s Own County, of course!

    Ref ‘bougainvillea,’ I just cut and pasted the spelling above (an ‘e’ is missing) in with the whole lyrics from a site other than Mainly Norfolk. If Reinhard also had a mis-spelling, I see he has corrected it now. I was too lazy and it was too late! Lol.

  33. Reynard says:

    Thank you, Diana and Jane, it was a very fine day with nearly the whole extended family.

    And thank you Muzza for the floristic help. I just checked the lyrics in the CD booklet; it has the correct spelling.

  34. Old Muzza (NW Surrey) says:

    I am sorry to say that I have been suffering from that dreaded affliction
    (Looking at tomorrow’s song)…….
    oh woe is me…….it’s getting worse and I am now looking at the songs two days ahead and struggling to control myself from slipping into three days ahead syndrome….!!!!!!!!……
    but at least I have had a wonderful time enjoying the madness of the ‘Brampton Bugle’ link that Janie posted in 2012

  35. John says:

    Can anyone tell me whose wife wears blossoms in her hair, the Lock keeper of the sailor?

  36. Jane says:

    John: Seems clear to me that this is the sailor describing his adventurous life. Also, bougainvillea grows in the tropics.

  37. Jane (Maryland, US) says:

    This is still a fabulous song and performance.

    @Muzza: Thanks for posting the David Gibb and Elly Lucas video at 6/9. They were a treat last year when I was new to AFSAD and they are still delightful on the second go-round.

  38. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Jane (Maryland US)…so gad to see that you are still hanging in there…..
    still only thee and me giving an indication of where we live!…..and I’ve been nagging everybody since 2010 when this great folk song site started!

  39. Jane (Maryland) says:

    Still love this one. And yesterday was almost too much! First Boden singing Bellamy, then Jane R.’s contribution of Land o’ the Leal (and another good cry), and finally David Gibb & Elly Lucas to cheer everybody up.

    And Muzza, I agree with you completely about the coconuts!

  40. OldMuzza(NWSurreyUK) says:

    Jane (Maryland) good to see you are still out there

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