Signalman On The Line

 [382Notation]

When the train is swiftly speeding on the metal through the night
And the drivers are watching for the distant signal light
He will give a smile of pleasure when the red is turned to white
For he knows that all is clear upon the line
But the man who works the signals has a weary task in store
At the telegraph and lever for a dozen hours or more
And he often sleeps exhausted till a sudden crash and roar
Tells the tale of a collision on the line

Chorus: Ah Pity the weary signalman
            Think of the hours he stands
            Alone in his box with human lives by thousands in his hands
            If he's a father his thoughts will be torn
            Back where the home lights a welcome shine
            Back to the dear ones who watch for the signalman on the line

Work of course he was unfit for, in his great domestic grief
He had begged the station master to allow a nights relief
Though his cheeks were pale and sunken, yet his master answered brief
You must not neglect your duty on the line
Of for god's sake sir don't say so poor Tom answered with a sigh
For my little one is dying, I'm not fit for work today
I'm half asleep already but the master turned away
And my mate is at his signals on the line.

Hark! The down express approaching, I can hear it through the night
I can see the signal gleaming in the distance, clear and bright
But another train is coming and the signal flashes white
There is surely some mistake upon the line.
They are nearing to each other like the onward rush of fate,
Why are not the signals altered, on they come at lightening rate
Oh God put the lines at danger change the signals - too late

 

Sources (texts, music) & Publishing data

Origin Parlour Ballad
Source Title Signalman on the Line
Bargery Number 382
Roud V40098
Latest Date 1893
Evidence for Latest Date Publication date
Source of Text British Library shelfmark H.3403.(17.)
Author Daly, Brian
Source of Music as text
Composer Bond-Andrews, John Charles (1854-1899)
Performer Celli, Frank H (1845-1904)
Where Printed London
Other Imprints The song was also included in a cheap songbook consisting of two folded sheets [Bodleian Library Firth b.28(10a/b)]
First Line When the train is swiftly speeding on the metal through the night
Parsed Title Signalman on the Line

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