Scotlands Songs

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Winter Sun

吀爀愀挀欀 ㄀㈀
(唀渀欀渀漀眀渀 愀氀戀甀洀 ⠀㈀㌀开 ㄀开㈀ ㄀  ㄀ 开㄀)
-4:08

A song by Gill Bowman about a woman coal miner in the days before 1840. The tune is ‘Leaving Stoer’ by Ivan Drever.


Chorus

Girlhood days are done

Now she'll never feel the summer rain ‘til it's running underground

Never see a winter sun

And never question that the likes of her are bound


Bound before her birth, faither paid tae tie his family

Worked them half tae death, aff the day level mine

And she cairried coals and climbed, up the stair and doon the ladder

Shifting mair than fifteen ton afore she was nine


Darker than the night were the days that she endured

She never learned tae write, but she kent aa her psalms

And the oors were lang and drear, breathing in the foul carbolic

Wishing for a lad to come and take her in his arms


Mairried for her strength, mair than for her passing beauty,

Wrought wi him the length o the dark, dusty seams

For a man must hae a wife tae cairry creels and redd the coals

And raise the bonnie bairnies that will haunt her dreams


Since her man was taen, still she's had tae work her seam

And leave the youngest bairn by the dark stoop side

And she gies the bairn the breast, cauld stoved tatties tae the rest

Starts her auldest lassie working by her side


Hear this song performed by MacAlias, Gill Bowman and Karine Polwart, vocal and guitars. 


The sleeve notes for MacAlias’ album Highwired say, “In the early days of coal-mining in Lochgelly, Fife, women and children worked underground from an early age. Paired up with the men who hewed the coal, the women carried it to the surface in large baskets on their backs. Gill’s song was inspired by an account written by Archibald Cook (born 1837) which tells the story of his grandmother.

“She was left a widow with five children and had no other way of supporting them than by taking them down the pit and digging the coal herself. Working where no light would burn, she relied instead upon the phosphorescent glow of fish heads.”

Gill found this account when researching for New Makars workshops in Lochgelly in 1998/9. Up until the year 1840 women and children worked underground in dreadful conditions. Until 1799 they and their men had been collared slaves, bound for life to work in the pits by the mine owners.

Both Gill Bowman and Karine Polwart are songwriters with a special interest in Scottish songs and ballads.