Off to the pit with a whistle and a grin,
Five in the morning, I ain’t slept in,
This is me life, me only thing,
With me half ounce of bacca and me old snap tin.
Black twist, brown twist, pigtail’ll do,
It’s the thing for me, lad, if not for you,
Ain’t no job in this black hole I can’t do,
When Ah nick in me marth a nice big chew.
Step off the cage with me new trainee,
"Wanna learn the ropes, lad, stick wi’ me,
To be a filler ont’ face, like me you’ve gorra do,
But first you’ve gorra cut off a nice big chew."
"Nivver ’ed none before, Jim," says he.
"With it what to do tha’ll ’ev to show me."
"Steady, lad, don’t worry. Here’s what you do,
First you spit one out and then swallow two."
"Spit one, swallow two makes me stomach queer,
Think I’m gonna be bad like I do wi’ too much beer,
Me ’ead starts spinning, Jim, on thee Ah’ll ’ev to lean."
"Chew it that way, me lad, tha’ll allus end up green!"
After ’alf an hour the lad’s alreight;
It’s on to the face from out of the gate,
Soon I’ve shown all tricks a collier will do,
Then with a smile he’s asking for a chew.
This is a contemporary song about Yorkshire.
This song was written by Brian Firth who sang at the Fox and Hounds Folk Club, Shafton Two Gates, near Cudworth in the early 1970s. Ken Hudson, a teacher originally from Sunderland, started the folk club where Dave Oldroyd, latterly associated with Kiveton Park Folk Club, was also a regular performer. It was Dave who helped me to learn this one and I believe it is still in his repertoire.
Brian’s song is upbeat and typifies the colliers’ camaraderie and humour when first encountering the ‘coal getting’ at the pit face, a hostile environment. Chewing-tobacco in its different forms such as pigtail, aromatic and twist is still obtainable in Barnsley c.2009. Miners’ tobacco chewing was a common habit which assisted breathing in the dusty conditions at the coal face.