The fight for the short-shanked shull

Barbara Brown, of Camberley, Surrey, who sent us this poem, writes: I have had this poem for more than 30 years and I feel it must be more than 50 years old, and felt it might be interesting for your readers…

The fight for the short-shanked shull

Ye’ll hev hord aboot strikes and wars and the likes,

Ye’ll hev hord about “Blackoots and Knockoots”,

But aa’ll tell ye a tale that’ll turn ye all pale

It’s the tale of a Colliery Lockoot.

Noo auld Jackie Small was ivery mans pal,

A pitman, the truest of blue,

Poor soul he tuck bad, he got a bit caad,

And was idle a month with the flu.


When Jack was at work he nivva would shirk,

He filled like a little conveyor,

He browt from the putters the curses and mutters,

To keep Jackie gan myed tem sair.


The day he went back t’was all the pit crack

The gaffers and keekers were pleased,

Ye cud see them all hustle and rush roond and bustle,

To git all the tub axles greased.


He got walked inbye, he heaved a reight sigh,

He says mar its grand ti be back,

The sight of the coal was balm to his soul,

As he tuck off his claes gynst the pack.


As pert as a sparra he shoots ti his marra,

The chummuns will suen be all full,

And eftor he’d spoken, he picked up his tokens

And went ti the Kist for his shull.


But the cupboard was bare, his shull wasn’t there

Ye cud see by his fyce he was wild;

Perhaps aa’ shud tell, he shanked it hissell,

And he nursed that shull like a child.


He’d reason to swank aboot its short shank

T’was the envy of all in the pit,

The fillers would say “it was worth a weeks pay”,

What a pan! What a shank! What a fit!


The divil in hell must hev hord Jackie uell

Hes any ye seen owt a my shull,

If ye hev, bring it heor or ye’ll get a thick ear

He was wild, he was as mad as a bull.


Aav got the shank, but the pan is at bank,

I’was broken last week wi sum stone,

Now the shanks in me pan, so a claim its me’aan

Came a voice wi a confident tone.


We’ll suen settle that “cum oot ti the flat”

Said Jackie “the deputy’s there”,

So oot cum bill Black wi the shull on his back,

Wi a swaggerin confident air.


They stated their case but the deputy’s face

Was puzzled, he says “Wey aam beat”

The shank is auld jacks and the pan is Bill Blacks

But the shull belangs neither complete.


The lowsed the Flat, auld Jack cursed and spat,

And off he waaked ti the shaft,

Whilst the men in the place, all crawled from the face

And the deputy nearly went daft.


With a smile and a sigh, Bill Black winked his sye

He says “it’s a Union case”,

Ye can think what ye like, but aal call a strike

Wi the shull he marched from the place.


Auld Jack saw the boss who deplored Jackies loss

And he said “I will lock out the pit”,

“I’ll get your shull back in spite of Bill Black”

So he issued the Unionr a writ.


The case went to court, it created some sport,

For the judge knew nowt aboot pits,

The court hoose was full when he asked “whats a shull?”

Wey the pitmen went all into fits.


The argied for days, presenting their case,

And then when the hearing was done,

The judge scratched his heed and wished he was deed

He couldn’t sum up we had won.


The case was then sent on to Parliament

It was Jackies finest hour,

He was whisked throo the Lobbies wi two Cockney Bobbies

To the Minister of Fuel and Power.


They taaked of auld days then they tackled the case,

And then the Mnister of Supply

Says “aave got a plan to git the work gaan,

At least we can give it a try”.


We’ll stop myekin tanks and we’ll myek shovel shanks

Short ‘ins the same as auld Jacks,

So he drew up the plans to fit them to pans,

A process called “Jackies and Blacks’.


Working like turks the Minister of Works

Set up a new plant straight away,

To myek shovel shanks instead of new tanks,

Their output was thousands per day.


The men went back Hyem, they’d gained the’sels fame

The’r shulls was an honoured tool

In the eyes of aal men t’was as great as the pen,

Except in the hands of a fool.


The Lockoot was stopped the argiement dropped,

And harmony reigns in the pit,

The men aal owe thanks ti the famous short shanks
For the thoosands of tons they now git.

S. Henderson, Shilbottle