Railwayman's Lament

Synopsis: The author tells his life story with particular emphasis on his working life and makes bitter comment on the lay-off of railway workers consequent on the Beeching report.

I started on the railway in nineteen twenty-five.
I walked the streets to look for work and daily did I strive.
I thought I had a job for life with security.
For forty years I paid the price and bitter it was to be

The first ten years of poverty I find it hard to speak,
To try and keep a family on thirty shillings a week.
They sent me down to Ely and stations down the line,
The railway tried cold-bloodedly to make me the job resign

My wife she went out cleaning to try and make ends meet,
To add it to the little that I sent her every week.
Two long years slowly passed before it was to be,
I returned to Bethnal Green to live with my family

I battled through six years of war and managed to survive.
I voted for a brave new world in nineteen forty-five.
A name upon the housing list was all they had for me,
Very soon I realised what the future was to be.

I saw a brighter future with railways nationalised,
Then came Doctor Beeching with his plans to modernise.
I heard a conversation upon the telephone,
The closure of our station, my heart was like a stone.

They gave to me a letter, these words to me did say,
You're surplus and redundant with resettlement pay.
They treat me like a unit, dispense with as they please,
They think I can retire and live a life of ease.

They're making me redundant, they're giving me the sack.
When I leave on Friday, I won't be coming back.
To those I leave behind me, to all I wish you well,
You won't be long behind me, the staff of NCL.

Commentary:

Karl Dallas writes that when this song was pinned up in the staff canteen at the National Carriers Ltd (NCL) depot where the author worked, it was torn down by a trade union official who criticised Jim for its bitterness. In retrospect, Jim feels he may have been right, and would like to think of a more 'constructive' last verse. But it must be hard to be constructive when you're on the dole.

The railways were nationalised in 1948.

National Carriers Ltd was formed in 1955 to move parcels by rail. [Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LYNX_Express]

Other Songs by Jim Ward are bar 015 ~ A-Working on the Railway and Bar 358 ~ Redundant Railwayman