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This is a version of a song called "The Bold Navigators" (See Raven, John, Victoria's Inferno, ISBN 0950372234, British Library Music Collections X.439/8529) the chorus of whic is "For that's the rule of the bold navigators / For we are jovial banksmen all" and which lacks the first verse given here but otherwise is almost identical Canal building went on well into the railway age and navvies moved easily between the two sorts of contract. The reference to Barley-Bree does not occur in The Bold Navigators. Perhaps that song was taken up by Irish navvies who changed the chorus to suit a railway setting. This version of the song probably dates from soon after work began on the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1826 http://www.mosi.org.uk/media/33871623/theliverpoolandmanchesterrailway,construction.pdf although it is possible that it dates from the time of the construction of the Stockton and Darlington that opened in 1825.

 

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