Category Archives: Getting Around

The Cruise of the Calabar

It’s been awhile since the last post so time to bring out a few more pieces of verse which have been waiting in the wings.

This is actually a folk song and, like so many such songs, it has been tailored to suit the part of the country it is sung in. It is believed to have been written originally as a dialect song by Lancashire born Johnny Greenwood in 1870. Versions derived from this often bear little resemblance to the original; verbal transmission, i.e. the ‘folk process’, having taken effect.

It is a parody about the perils of life aboard a canal barge. Canal boaters/singers often altered the locations from the Rochdale Canal original and the story became increasingly more absurd. This version, set on the Teign, is no exception!

Where the name “Calabar” comes from is not clear but one potential source is the port in Nigeria. Calabar was named by the Spanish and during the era of the Atlantic slave trade it became a major port in the transportation of African slaves. By the 18th century, most slave ships that carried slaves from Calabar were English, with around 85% of these ships being owned by Bristol and Liverpool merchants.

Thanks to Ian Marshall for pointing me in the direction of this background information and for providing the soundclip of him singing the song with Cyril Tawney, from which I was able to transcribe the lyrics. I have added the last verse which appears in a number of other versions and seems to tie up the end of the story neatly.

For more information check out:  Songs from Devon

The Cruise of The Calabar

Come all ye dry-land sailors bold and listen unto my song
There are but forty verses so it won’t detain you long.
It’s all about the history of this here British tar.
Who shipped as a man before the mast on board the Calabar.

The Calabar was a clipper flat, copper-fastened before and aft
Her rudder stuck away out behind, her wheel was a great big shaft
With a swelling gale to fill each sail she’d make two knots an hour
The smartest craft on the whole canal though only one horse power.

Her capn was a strapping lad, he stood about four foot two
His eyes were black, his nose was red and his cheeks were Prussian blue
He wore a leather medal that he’d won in the Crimea war
And his wife was pilot and passenger’s cook on board the Calabar.

Our vessel ploughed the waters of the Teignmouth to Newton canal
All under close three topsails for the glass foretold a squall
‘Twas in old Salty pool me lads we was beaten about the surf
All bound for the port of Newton with a cargo of Dartmoor turf.

We started off with a favouring gale, the weather was all sublime
We were just a-passing the Teignmouth bridge where you can’t pass two at a time
We were struck midships by another flat which gave us a serious check
She stove in our larboard paddle-box and destroyed our hurricane deck

While hugging the shore near Netherton Point, a very dangerous spot
We ran down onto a cobb of coal that wasn’t marked down on the chart
So to keep the ship from sinking and to save each precious life
We threw the cargo overboard, including the captain’s wife.

And all was great confusion while the stormy winds did blow
The bosun slipped on an orange peel and he fell in the hold below
A piratical joke the captain cried and on us she doth gain
Next time I go to Newton me-boys b’jaggers I’ll go by train

We got our arms all ready for to meet the coming foe
Our grappling arms, our boarding pikes, our Armstrong guns also
Unfurl all sail the captain cried for we are sorely pressed
But the engineer replied from the back that the ‘orse was doing his best

The ship came past, the heroes fell and gallons of blood were spilt
And many fell before they were touched to make sure they wouldn’t be killed
And when the enemy struck her flag, the crew being laid on their backs
We found that she was a sister ship with a cargo of cobbler’s wax.

The ship is in the marine store now; the crew in the county jail
And I’m the only survivor left to tell the terrible tale
But if I could release that ship, I’d sail her off afar
And admiral be of a blooming fleet on the fighting Calabar



Ode to Sunday October 5th

Fast train with motion blur.

going by train …..

Here’s another walking group, this time from Bristol, who decided to immortalise in verse their outing from Bristol with a walk from Dawlish to Teignmouth along the SW coast path on October 5th 2008.

They appear to be a group who travel by train to somewhere where they can do a walk.  The train service which brought Victorians to Teignmouth in its heyday is still doing the job.

They commented that:  It was not at all like Keats’ 1818 view of Devon while staying in Teignmouth – “a splashy, rainy, misty, snowy, foggy, haily, floody, muddy, slipshod County” ( in the Oxford Literary Guide to the British Isles.).

Ode to Sunday October 5th
(Anne Wellings)

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Intrepid Strollers journey to the coast
A walk from Dawlish is their plan
With David their inimitable host.

Alas! The skies are dark and lowering
As they set off from Temple Meads in dread
The clime may yet prove overpowering
If only they had never left their bed!

But as their journey takes them south
Their chat is ever merry on the train
And as they reach their destination
Oh, miracle! There is an end to rain!

See how they sweat on coastal path
And, moaning, strew their sticky garments hence
If only they had known….and yet
The sun, it must be said, is recompense.

Nay, more than this – ‘tis sheer delight !
Laughing, they dodge the lashing waves
That threaten to engulf them on the wall
And Teignmouth head. The pub is now in sight.

But first to reach it they must hire a boat.
It comes: they climb aboard with cheer.
Despite its heavy cargo it can float
And thoughts turn longingly to food and beer.

With pleasant views a hearty meal they eat
Then head off chatting via caves
To sandy cove ( they can’t believe the heat! )
And from the beach they contemplate the waves.

But some of sterner stuff are made
Lissom Diana plunges deep and floats!
David and Michael follow suit, mad fools!
The rest of us lie round in heaps on coats.

Alas, the day is nearly done. We sigh in vain.
The journey homewards must be made
But kind Diana treats us all
There’s scone and jam to munch at on the train!

So hearty thanks we send from one and all
To David and Diana very dear
For this dark day which ended up so fine
And was for sure the best of all the year!


A Sunday Stroll through Teignmouth

John Andrews in 'Man in Green'

John Andrews in ‘Man in Green’

Some people simply like to walk to or through Teignmouth enjoying the ambience and the views.  The link with the previous post is that John Andrews is also an afficionado of folk music seen in the attached picture playing “Man in Green” at Tiverton Beer Festival.

A Sunday Stroll through Teignmouth
(John Andrews)

I would like to go for a walk with you
While the sun shines, near the sea
Where we could both enjoy the sights
I would like you to accompany me.

At Teignmouth we could walk through town
Past the Endeavour pub and lifeboat station
The lobster pots, and remembrance flowers
Go back , perhaps make a donation.

I would like to go for a walk with you
I know you’ll accompany me
If I promise to stop at that seaside café
For a biscuit and a pot of tea.

A new roof here, a summer coat of blue paint there
The beach huts dressed up to the nines
Watch the Shaldon ferry weave through waves
Take care of the fishermen’s lines.

I would like to go for a walk with you
We could watch the changing ocean
With dredgers, ski jets and cargo ships
From port to port in onward motion.

On the sand bar, with gulls in attendance
We could see the cormorants sun bathe
Past the pier that weathered the winter storms
Nearby buoy bobbing on a wave.

We could walk along searching for sea glass
Bleached by sun and washed by sea
In opaque whites, blues, browns and greens
I’m glad you’ve accompanied me.

I’ll be back to work on Tuesday
Away from home, count the days, all three
But when I’m home I’ll walk beside you
Because I know that you love me.

For more information about John Andrews check out:

Sean and Heard …..



Heading South

River beach, Teignmouth

River beach, Teignmouth

Coming soon – the connection between TS Eliot, Ezra Pound and Teignmouth!

Meanwhile, returning to why people come to Teignmouth, for many it’s just a delightful seaside resort in Devon.  Here’s a piece written on the motorway by a Scottish lady who apparently came down for the day!

Heading South
(Judie Gelling)

Three lanes of traffic, all heading south
Cars, bikes and lorries, in the same direction,
Are they going to the seaside, at Teignmouth?
And taking their kids for their summer vacation

Maybe they’re going to Exeter or Torbay
Or to the races at Newton Abbot like us
We’re only going for the day
Long distance travel, to us, it’s no fuss

In the slow lane, a Morris minor driven by an old chap,
Looking at his face he don’t look very amused
I think he’s lost, the wife’s reading the map
Wonder how much petrol that old car has used

Who’s going where, for how long and why?
On our journey, this guessing game we like to play
It’s more fun for teens then playing, I Spy,
And motorway travel’s less tedious this way.

SourceJudie Gelling

Night Ride to Teignmouth with Keats

Graham Burchell reciting his poem outside the New Quay Inn

Graham Burchell reciting his poem outside the New Quay Inn

I’ve changed the order of the poems about Keats because we did a poetry walk around Teignmouth on Wednesday this week and this was one of the poems recited.

The author, Graham Burchell, read it to us outside the New Quay Inn where the verses from one of Keats’ pieces of ‘doggerel’ is writ on the outside wall.


(Graham Burchell, 2012)

On top of the coach, wedged between the fabrics
of others and packages in wicker, leather and wood,
there is room only for breath, rain and the wind
that draws discomfort like a purse string.

I touch his arm, smell the damp in his greatcoat
through my fingertips. He’ll never know. I am ghost.
I’ve clawed back time to see his skin in the night –
smooth and cold – stones in a streambed.

I hear the harsh compression of his lungs,
sense melancholy behind eyes that flicker.
His and all the other heads are bowed.
Those seats could be pews in a roofless church.

Inside, in the dry, a corpulent man smokes, reeks
of powder and porter. He rubs against a woman
clutching a bible that she’ll not open,
even when the white sky of morning comes.

Opposite, a Wesleyan priest with a fixed scowl,
journeys with a younger man whose nose needs dabbing,
who may be a relative. They do not converse
but sometimes growl, like coach wheels riding stones.

All complain when those same wheels drop into ruts.
A wife across from the poet, sleepy in the rain,
tightens the grip on her child. Her husband
digs deeper into the scruff of a fresh dead hare.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Poetry Walk …..

A Turrabul ride bee Rayl

Time to leave behind Shaldon and the estuary, for a while at least. My next main series of poems will be about Keats but first a break for a two or three slightly more quirky pieces of verse.

Henry Baird (from "Letters & Poems tu es brither Jan in the Devonshire Dialect by Nathan Hogg")

Henry Baird (from “Letters & Poems tu es brither Jan in the Devonshire Dialect by Nathan Hogg”)

I’m going to start with the first poem in this collection written in a foreign language – at least it may seem foreign to some but is part of a collection of poems in the Devonshire Dialect. This collection was first published in 1866 and was written by Henry Baird under the pseudonym Nathan Hogg. The collection is also interesting in having a dedication to Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte who, in pursuit of his interest in dialects, met with Henry Baird and even commissioned some work from him.

Born in Starcross in 1829 Henry Baird worked for much of his life in Exeter as a lawyer’s clerk. He often travelled the line between Starcross and Exeter and this particular poem is the story of a train journey from Teignmouth to Exeter – called ‘A Turrabul ride bee Rayl’.

If you can decipher the dialect see if you can spot the reference to Captain Peacock’s ‘Swan of the Exe’ sailing up the Estuary beside the railway.  More information about this and Henry Baird in the links at the end of the poem.

A Turrabul ride bee Rayl
(Henry Baird, aka Nathan Hogg)

Yu’ve yer’d a Janny Gulpin’s ride
Vrim Linnin pin a hauss,
An yu’ve a yer’d, I spoze, beside,
Ez hat an wig ha lauss:
Uv cus ha raud moast mort’l quick,
Bit arter aul yu’ll vine,
Howiver vast ha went, thit thic
Thare ride wiz nort ta mine.

Wan day tu Tinmith I’d a bin,
An in tha arternun
Went tu tha Stashin way a rin,
Nat veeling auverzun;
An zo et pruv’d, vur pin me wurd,
Wen jist inside I got,
Tha wissel aw tha trayn I yer’d,
An auff tha bagger zot.

Nat tu be dud, I urn’d acrass
That other zide tha line,
Ha wadd’n gwayn nat auver vast,
Zo up I jump’d behine.
Tha dang’d ole boyler puff’d an blaw’d,
Tha porters aul aw’m skritch’d,
Tha moar they cal’d, I virmer raud,
An legs an vingers clitch’d.

Tha trayn urn’d up beside tha zay,
(A purty zite et waz;)
Agane I yerd tha whissel play,
“Yer com’th tha haul(1) – Im daz!
Iss! Laur a macy! Macy mee!
Yer tis, now uny hark,
Howiver kin a vuller zee
Ta hole aun in tha dark?

Ess shet in dru thic haul, – aw, law! –
Zich noys wiz niver yer’d,
Et zim’d like trav’lin down belaw, –
Iss, did, a pin me wurd!
Tha vapper rish’d up dru ma naws,
An down ma draut, za thick
Thit ef I hadd’n clinch’d ma jaws
I zun shud ha bin zick.

Wul, then tha groun zim’d aul a vi-er –
I tuk’d a virmer hold,
Ez zim’d ez ef thit ess wiz ni-er
Thick pleace thit I’ve a told:
An then ess thort ess zmul’d a zmul,
An zeed a zartin veace –
Tha neame awmin I need’n tul,
Nur vurder steate tha pleace.

Bang arter Bang wiz yer’d around,
I thort thit, iv’y lurch,
Tha imps wiz vi-erin (be tha zoun)
Ta hat ma auf ma purch;
Bit ef thay did zhet wul urn at,
Ef did’n zun com lite,
I veel’d thit, (ef I wadd’n hat,)
I muss val auf way vrite.

Wul owt ess com’d, an in ess went,
An owt agane, an in, –
A winder thit ess did’n vent
Vur want a hare an zin:
“Thank gudniss yer ess be ta lass”
Zeth I “yer’s Dalish close; –
Eet still ha go’th most mort’l vass; –
Thay’m putting aun more foce.!!”

An zo thay waz, vur be tha pleace
Ess jist like litnin rish’d,
Wile pin tha platvorm iv’ry veace
Zim’d like a veace a wish’d.
In vack tha miny things ess pass’d
(Ta think awt now I zheake,)
Zim’d, iv’ry stap ess went za vast,
Ta graw into a strake.

Aun, aun ess went, laur jayly cry!
Till Starcrass pleace ess vetch’d,
Ess did’n stap, ess zim’d ta vly –
Eet zartin wurds ess ketch’d;
I thort a Porter veller cride,
“Look thare that’s Nathan Hogg!”
“Iss tiz, yu blackguard,” I rayplied,
“Twiz yu thit lauss tha dog” (2)

Wul, then ess luk’d owt pin tha zay,
(Zich thing wiz niver yer’d,)
Vur bigger thin a rick a hay
Thare zwim’d a wackin burd; (3)
An, ez ess raud, ha turn’d ez bayk,
Thort I “now hang aun varm,
Vu ref ha com’th an vind’th thur wayk,
Ha’ll ayt thur like a warm,”

Bit zun ess zeed min owt a zite,
An mort’l glad ess veel’d,
Nat carin ta be gobbl’d quite,
Like giants ait’th a cheeld;
A purty mayl thort I, – iss, vay! –
(Vur thicky burd jist pass)
Mee bastid an a zar’d up way
Zom Starcrass mucks vur sass.

Wul aun ess rish’d pass Powderim,
Zeth I “tant vury vur,
I kin hole vast me hole, I zim,
Za var ez Exmistur!”
Bit wen ess com’d ta thicky pleace,
My ivers! Ess zhet vore
Ez ef way zich a dredvul peace
Ess shud’n stap no moar.

Now vaster, iss! An vaster still,
Tha varmint zim’d ta vly
Be hud an wotter; “now I shil
Val auf I veel an die!”
I cud’n spayk, thort I “yer go’th – “
I veel’d thit aul wiz gwayn,
Mee hans an legs wiz lus’nd bothe
An then ——– thay stap’d tha trayn.

I had’n scarcely tich’d tha groun
In vancy ez I val’d,
Wen zidd’nly I yer’d a zoun,
An pin mee veet I scral’d;
“Zin Tommis’s!” I yer’d min zay,
t strik’d mur uv a hayp
Ta vine thit nearly aul tha way
I’d uny bin ta zlayp.

Thic draym, tho’, meade mer in a zwet,
An veelin mortal quare,
I went an got a drap a wet
An zot down in a chare;
I wadd’n wul long arter that,
An veel, in a thicky ride,
That tho’ in boddy I wiz nat,
Ma spurrit raud owtzide.

Mow brither Cowper waz a man,
Like mee, uv girt raynown,
An wen ha’d ort tal in ez haid
Ha tuk’d an vraut et down;
Tha diffirns between hee an mee
I scarcely need ta tul, –
Hee draym’d abowt old Janny G. –
I draym’d about mezul.

(1) The tunnel
(2) Nathan a short time before had lost a favourite dog through the neglect of the stupid Porter who bungles the wires at this great station.
(3) Nathan must have see Capt. Peacock’s beautiful boat in the shape of a bird, – “The swan of the Exe.”

Want to know more?  Check out:

Henry Baird …..
Swan of the Exe …..


Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Brunel by the chains of the Great Eastern

Brunel by the chains of the Great Eastern

Back to the railway today.  There have already been a couple of posts on this theme – ‘All Aboard The Engine‘ and ‘The Great Western Railway Record Run‘.

Today is another song, a round in four parts written by David Haines – one of the repertoire of the South Devon Singers. This is in celebration of the renowned engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. His life is littered with achievements but he is remembered locally of course for the construction of the railway between Exeter and Newton Abbot.

Ahead of his time he designed this originally as an “atmospheric railway”, essentially powered by vacuum, but like many visionary ideas this was thwarted by the inability of technology to keep up. Sadly the atmospheric railway failed but the legacy was the current stretch of track often described as one of the ‘great railway journeys of the world’.

His other connection with Teignmouth is a ‘magical’ one – follow the link at the end to find out.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel
(David Haines, May 2010)

Isambard, it ain’t hard
to see why he’s the leading engineer of his generation
Railways, ships, bridges, weapons, trains
Even designed Paddington Station.

Great Western, Great Britain, Great Eastern
Each the greatest ship of its day
Royal Albert, Clifton Suspension, Maidenhead Railway
Each bridge unique in its way

Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Atmospheric Railway
Driven by a vacuum from Exeter to Newton Abbot by the sea
Prefabricated Hospitals for soldiers, many lives saved.
Florence Nightingale was pleased

(Note: A round to be sung in four parts, in ‘Swung Rhythm’)

Want to know more?  Check out:

Isambard Kingdom Brunel …..
South Devon Singers …..