The Exile Song


Jon Says “This goes quite well as a pair with The Lock Keeper – summing up the sadness of having to work away from home. Ewan MacColl has perhaps been somewhat underrepresented in this project. What a great song writer he was.”

I did make the point the other day that Ewan didn’t seem to provide much commentary on the songs he recorded and in that respect, as a voice he’s rarely if ever quoted throughout this project. I wonder if any of you out there saw him perform and whether he was similarly disinclined, as I get the sense of a man who let the songs do the talking. He was, as Jon points out, a considerable song-smith in his own right and this was written for his Radio Ballad series and included in the Song Of A Road, broadcast in 1959. I love the way that the opening line seems to dictate the length of the song and can imagine this working very well in context. Both those late 50’s/early 60’s broadcasts and the more recent set from 2006 are available on CD. Last year’s ballad about the miners is also about to be made available to buy as a download in the near future, although not on CD. I don’t know whether any of you caught it, but it’s incredibly powerful stuff and the mix of song and interview remains faithful to Ewan’s original concept. I found myself quite overcome when listening to it. Anyway, you might like to link here at the Beeb for some more info on the ballad – invaluable little time capsules all of them.



17 Responses to “The Exile Song”

  1. nev perry says:

    this song is one of those songs where the tune is uncomplicated and the lyric simple but a story full of drama and easy to learn. the broadcast mentioned certainly puts a lot of things in perspective for me as i was just one year old at the time.

  2. John Biggs says:

    Ewan was a frequent visitor to folk clubs in the 1960s. along with C.N.D. rallies and anti Vietnam demos, usually with Peggy Seeger, and I was fortunate enough to hear them many times. (My wife and I had our first date at an anti Vietnam concert where he was top of the bill; now there is romance for you.) His politics were uncompromising, and his songs focussed on the plight of working people, the under privileged and the poor. Many of these songs are still frequently sung today, ‘Travelling People’, ‘Shoals of Herring’, etc, but there are many, many more that deserve to be more widely heard, especially in these times.
    His songs were always presented simply with little or no accompaniment and he loved the old songs and ballads of these Islands. Jon, he would have loved A,F.S.A.D. !!

  3. John Purser says:

    Ewan (and Peggy and Bert LLoyd) were resident at the Singer’s Club in London, which I used to attend regularly in the late sixties. He did very little talking as I recall, and as John Biggs said above, presented his songs simply with occasional accompaniment, usually Peggy on guitar or banjo. Peggy was a lot more talkative.

  4. Simon Dewsbury says:

    when Radio 2 had a ‘songs of the century’ listeners poll a few years ago Ewan had songs in the top 3 in both the folk and the soul categories.

  5. Simon Dewsbury says:

    shoals of herring and first time ever I saw your face, as I recollect

  6. Diana says:

    What an interesting song – three versions on Reynard’s site the only difference being when the worker was coming home. Nicely sung as usual Jon.

  7. OLd Muzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    This took me back to the50s/60s when I worked for Clark Equipment.
    We made gigantic, earthmoving machines. I often went out on projects where great swathes of trees had been cut down and the bare earth stretched for miles…..
    I now realise that I was part of the ‘change’ from little windy roads to the motorways we have now.
    Drat…..I forgot to write a song about it!

  8. Diana says:

    What a pity – still it is never too late Muzza. Off you go and less of the OLD please, you are as young as you feel and you are livelier enough

  9. Diana says:

    Something wrong there I suspect – it should be lively and not livelier.

  10. Linda says:

    Mike Harding tomorrow Radio 2 7 o.clock Talking to Fay……..

  11. Reynard says:

    Thanks for the tip, Linda!

  12. Linda says:

    Tried to check back with the Comments[RSS] to see if I d missed any “clan” comments but things seem to be going a bit off line. if you see what I mean.

    It will soon be that time of year again .Will we won’t we survive for another year, if not cheers to everybody who has made the past few years a pleasure and thanks to Jon for introducing me to some brilliant music and also the different artists I have been to see in concert because of this site.


  13. Muzza (N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Oh have made an old man very happy………
    I thought that you had all been wiped out by some virus and I was the only one left…….may I add my thanks to Jon and Admin Simon for the joy that AFSAD has given to us.

  14. Diana says:

    Well said Linda ! Muzza still alive and kicking here.

  15. Jamie says:

    I know this as a piping tune – learnt it from Pipe Major Bert Baron about 25 years ago. I’ve no idea whether the melody was around before the song but it’s a beautiful tune on the pipes.

  16. Diana says:

    Hi Muzza just in case you come on here today, have made it from the iPad.

  17. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey-UK) says:

    Halleeeeeeeeyyyyluuuuulia Diana…………there you are……………insults on FBook finally did the trick………..just nice to know that you are out there with Lindy Lou

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