Saturday, 11 May 2013

Shep Woolley - Roll on my Time

Our ANZAC day has passed for another year.  There's a tradition I have with a few of my shipmates in the local area – we meet up at the local returned services club – Swansea RSL, and we drink a few beers and relive memories and tell the same old yarns.  Funny thing is we don’t see each other the rest of the year, but we all know we’re there for each other if needed.  That’s how it is, once in the brotherhood of the Service.  I’ve made it a personal challenge that I will have a poem ready for the next ‘do’ – something appropriate, Navy or nautical of course.  I could be wrong, but I think the boys like their poetry with rhythm and beat, preferably something that rhymes and has wry humour, and even better if it’s a bit earthy and risqué.  We all have fond memories of times in ports overseas, in dingy bars, got a few beers in, singing, no, roaring – belting out all those folk songs and nursery rhymes been bastardized by the British Navy before us.  For some songs, the words were what captured the soul of our existence – that is poetry.  One of the folk singers of the time who had served in the Royal Navy, so knew enough about sailors, was Shep Woolley.  Shep Woolley songs touched a nerve, and everybody knew the words when there was a good old sing-along.  In this post I include one of my Shep favourites, It’s Roll on my Time Boys.  I’ve seen the lyrics to this song on web sites and I can’t believe how much more bastardized it’s becoming since Shep first sang it.  I can assure you these are the true words to the song (taken from his CD, Shep Woolley Chips Off The Old Block).  Shep Woolley still entertains in the UK with stage shows, private and corporate events …. I would love to attend one of his shows.

It’s Roll on my Time Boys
(Shep Woolley 1940? - )

and it’s roll on me time boys…..roll on me time,
this is my last trip…..on the Grey Funnel Line,
so I'll say farewell to…..the wind and the brine,
and sing you a song called…..roll on me time.
well first we have Stokers…..that work down below,
they give us fresh water…..and make the ship go,
well the ship’s broken down boys…..don’t that sound fine,
but in the cold tap there's diesel…..and in the hot one brown slime.
and next we have RP's…..with hands on their hips,
with chinagraph pencils…..and puckered-up lips,
well they'll get us there boys…..whatever the cost,
well where are we pilot…..we’re bloody well lost.
and there stands the G.I……so tall and so proud,
his voice never made sense…..but God was it loud,
and now the old G.I……is all dead and gone
they’ve give him his brains back…..and christened him POM.
and next we have Tiffies…..a cool bunch are these,
if you want to be one… need G.C.E.'s,
and to be G.C.E.'s boys… need a brain in your head
it's amazing how much work…..can be done from a bed
well then there is Vernon…..I’ve heard the bell ring,
they do demolition…..and listen for pings,
but the Sonar men too boys…..are wearing a frown,
cos what can they ping now…..the Criterion’s down.
well me time it is rolled boys… I’m not glad,
sometimes they’ve been happy…..sometimes they’ve been sad,
so I’ll raise me glass boys…..drink your health with me wine,
and hope that you’ll join me…..with roll on me time.

I would like to have added an image of Shep Woolley, but something's gone wrong with the computer and I can't figure it out.  My link for the post is the Navy poem I prepared for the boys this ANZAC day.  It’s called Bombora (ballad of a greenie).  If you haven’t figured out why it’s called that by the end of reading, then ask me for an explanation.

2012.  Electricians in the Navy are called ‘greenies’ on account of the green colour signifying the electrical engineering branch and worn on officer’s shoulder boards.  Healthy rivalry exists between all the branches, though many love to pay out on the ‘greenies’ - perhaps because of their being more intelligent - well, not always all, as the branch will attest.
                                        Bombora (ballad of a greenie)
He was big and both slow and it seemed he must go,
Having failed every branch in the Navy,
But a psychologist said, I’ve examined his head,
And I think he would make a good greenie.
So E.M. he was made, finished half of his trade,
And was posted to sea from Nirimba,
Now it’s not a surprise when the lads saw his size,
That they went and named him ‘Bombora’.
But they didn’t explain why they gave him the name,
So he’s loud and he’s proud when ashore-a,
Bombora’s the name, green steam is me game,
And I eat roots and leaves like a whore-a.
Back on board they all fear, he’s no engineer
He’ll work on a circuit alive,
If a problem won’t focus he’ll polish with crocus,
And raise a T.S.M One Forty-five.
But he knows a bit more about Faraday’s law,
Enough to bluff his superiors,
So they leave him alone with freedom to roam,
All day on the decks of the uppers.
Neither stokers below with pumps running slow,
Nor cooks without power for scran,
Or even the skipper, broken down in the cutter,
Will interfere with the work on his tan.
A green canvas bag and a greasy old rag,
Is all that remains of his tool kit,
One key combination, rubber tube insulation,
And a mirror he might use like a dentist.
He can bounce a red-dick from up off the deck
Catch and twirl it about in his fingers,
While scratching like mad at his nuts and his butt,
Through a hole in his overall pockets.
And what he cannot do, with a roll of twin-flex or two,
Well you wouldn’t even be trying,
From telephone line to seizing and twine,
But the best was his magazine wiring.
With the test lamp he uses and eighty amp fuses,
He could black out the ship in a minute,
Then run like the hell so no one could tell,
He’d been anywhere near the burnt limit.
Bombora! they yell, why can’t you ever tell,
Ohms from the Amps on an AVO,
And what was your thought, when you meggered for short,
On the arse of the Deputy MEO?
But enough was enough, and the sea was up rough,
On the day they called out for Bombara,
Come in and sit here coaxed the ship’s engineer,
While I mark up your P.P One Alpha.
You’re too valuable lad, and it makes me look bad,
If I held you back here as a greenie,
So my recommendation is a change in your station,
And to hell with the naval psychology.
In a matter of time, having signed on the line,
The crew is down one in it’s number,
Though for reasons not given, efficiency’s risen,
And a blackout’s a thing to remember.
Now some nights in G.I. beneath still summer skies,
When the Ensign’s been put away dreamy,
And the rattle and din of the dockyard’s packed in,
Hark, the ghost of a big and wet greenie.
Bombora’s the name, green steam was my game,
But now I’m a docky-yard copper,
If you greenies are late getting out of the gate,
It’s because I searches your bags good and proper!
                                                                                                                        J. O. White

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