Album: Shangri-La (2004)
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  • 5.15 A.M.
    Snow laying all around
    A collier cycles home
    From his night shift underground
    Past the silent pub
    Primary school, workingmen's club
    On the road from the pithead
    The churchyard packed
    With mining dead

    Then beneath the bridge
    He comes to a giant car
    A shroud of snow upon the roof
    A mark ten jaguar
    He thought the man was fast asleep
    Silent, still and deep
    Both dead and cold
    Shot through
    With bullet holes

    The one armed bandit man
    Came north to fill his boots
    Came up from cockneyland
    E-type jags and flashy suits
    Put your money in
    Pull the levers
    Watch them spin
    Cash cows in all the pubs
    But he preferred the new nightclubs

    Nineteen sixty-seven
    Bandit men in birdcage heaven
    La dolce vita, sixty-nine
    All new to people of the Tyne

    Who knows who did what
    Somebody made a call
    They said his hands
    Were in the pot
    That he'd been skimming hauls
    He picks up the swag
    They gaily gave away
    Drives his giant jag
    Off to his big pay day

    The bandit man
    Came north to fill his boots
    Came up from cockneyland
    E-type jags and flashy suits
    The bandit man
    Came up the great north road
    Up to geordieland
    To mine
    The mother lode

    Seams blew up or cracked
    Black diamonds came hard won
    Generations toiled and hacked
    For a pittance and black lung
    Crushed by tub or stone
    And alone
    How the young and old
    Paid the price of coal

    Eighteen sixty-seven
    My angel's gone to heaven
    He'll be happy there
    Sunlight and sweet clean air

    They gather round the glass
    Tough hewers and crutters
    Child trappers and putters
    The little foals and half-marrows
    Who pushed
    And pulled the barrows
    The hod boys
    And the rolleywaymen
    5.15 A.M.

Comments: 1

  • Pamela Daniels from ChirkMy father was one of the police officers who worked on the Bird Cage Murder (aka the One-Armed Bandit Murder) in Newcastle. The Birdcage, 69, and the Dolce Vita mentioned in the lyrics of 5.15 am were all nightclubs in Newcastle at the time of the murder. It was a time when London gangsters - allegedly including the Krays - were keen to establish a foothold in the North East.

    I believe hewers were the miners who hacked the coal from the seam whilst the crutters opened the tunnels, often using explosives. Trappers were young lads who operated the trap doors allowing the wagons (and air!) to pass through, and putters were those who filled the baskets with the coal the hewers were extracting. The hod boys then carried the baskets of coal to the wagons, which would usually be pulled by pit ponies along the tunnels, or rolley ways. The rolleyway men made sure the passages which the ponies used were kept clear and free-flowing. Children often worked long shifts down the pit where their size and agility were a bonus. The bigger boys were called half-marrows and the smaller ones were called foals. Black lung was the term used for pneumoconiosis caused by inhaling coal dust.
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