Saturday, May 7, 2022

SONG SPOT: BELFAST MILL

(Dedicated to Byter and regular contributor Tim B, who hails from Georgia, USA. The dedication will become clearer later in this post).

Background:

A few weeks ago I posted some links to the The Fureys and other artists singing The Reason I Left Mullingar.

I made the point that the lyrics, which I posted, were poignant and contained a lot of meaning.

That is also the case with another Fureys’ song, Belfast Mill, the message still resonating today.

Life in medieval England revolved around local villages under the protection of the feudal barons and their armies. There was no mass transport, no news transfer except by word of mouth, no social interaction beyond the village. Indeed the wedding expression “best man” has its origins in the intended bridegroom selecting a capable wingman, ie bodyguard, whilst the groom kidnapped his future bride from her family and often from another village. Once kidnapped, the wedding happened immediately.

The economic wellbeing of the villages came to rely on the local mills, whether of grains, paper or textiles. The serfs and producers brought their products to the mills which broke the product down and converted it into what was wanted. Other business grew up around the mills. If the local mill shut down, it was disastrous for the village and the larger surrounding countryside.

That continues today, one only has to look at the effect on Chicago of the car manufacturing industries having shut down. The same applies in Australia with the closure of car plants, the cessation of steel making and the withdrawal of major retailers from towns and cities, often as a result of loss of business to overseas online retailers.

Look also at the effects on business of the lockdowns and quarantines. Each business that has closed has a ripple effect on employees, their families and the business community as a whole.

Belfast Mill

The song Belfast Mill contains the lines:

The mill has shut down, 'twas the only life I know,
Tell me where will I go, tell me where will I go.

I'm too old to work and I'm too young to die,
Tell me where will I go now, my family and I.

So sad.

Here is the full set of lyrics:

At the east end of town, at the foot of the hill,
There's a chimney so tall, it says Belfast mill,
But there's no smoke at all, coming out of the stack,
For the mill has shut down, and its never coming back

[Chorus]
And the only tune I hear is the sound of the wind,
As she blows through the town weave and spin,
weave and spin.

There's no children playing in the dark narrow streets,
For the loom has shut down it's so quiet, I cant sleep.

And the only tune I hear is the sound of the wind,
As she blows through the town weave and spin,
weave and spin.

The mill has shut down, 'twas the only life I know,
Tell me where will I go, tell me where will I go.

And the only tune I hear is the sound of the wind,
As she blows through the town weave and spin,
weave and spin.

I'm too old to work and I'm too young to die,
Tell me where will I go now, my family and I.

And the only tune I hear is the sound of the wind,
As she blows through the town weave and spin,
weave and spin.

At the east end of town, at the foot of the hill,
There's a chimney so tall, it says Belfast mill,
But there's no smoke at all, coming out of the stack,
For the mill has shut down, and its never coming back

And the only tune I hear is the sound of the wind,
As she blows through the town weave and spin,
weave and spin

And the only tune I hear is the sound of the wind,
As she blows through the town weave and spin,
weave and spin
As she blows through the town weave and spin,
weave and spin

Hear The Fureys and Davey Arthur sing Belfast Mill by clicking on:


Aragon Mill

‘Belfast Mill‘ was adapted from ‘Aragon Mill‘, written by Si Kahn, an activist and celebrated musician in bluegrass and folk music circles.  His song laments the loss of mill village culture in the small Georgia town.

The song was recorded and retitled “Belfast Mill” by The Fureys.

Si Kahn wrote about the connection to the Fureys' song:
. . . this great version of my song “Aragon Mill” by Davey Arthur and the Fureys. I wrote it in 1970 after spending several days in the town of Aragon, Georgia, right after the company closed the mill and threw 700 hard working people out of their jobs, some never to work for pay again. 

I was working with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), the coal miners’ union, at the time, and asked to go there by the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA) to see if anything might be done about the mill closing, since I was on that day the closest labor/labour organizer to Aragon. 

I recorded the song in 1974 for my first album “New Wood,” which was released on New Year’s Day 1974, 40 years ago. 

Check out also other great versions of this song by Andy Irvine & Planxty; the original Red Clay Ramblers; Hazel Dickens; Otto Groote (in Plattdeutsch); 4 Yn Y Bar (in Welsh); Renaud (in French); Dolores Keene; the Dublin City Ramblers; and Peggy Seeger. 

Last year I worked with Aragon’s Mayor Ken Suffridge to start the first Aragon Mill JamFest, in the hopes of bringing some attention and maybe even a few jobs to this town that was hit so hard by corporate greed, as are so many places all over the world today. 

Thanks to all of you who fight back! 

In solidarity, Si
Lyrics to Aragon Mill by Si Kahn:

Chorus: And the only tune I hear,
Is the sound of the wind,
As it blows through the town,
Weave and spin, weave and spin

At the east end of town, at the foot of the hill
Stands a chimney so tall that says "Aragon Mill."
But there's no smoke at all coming out of the stack.
The mill has shut down and it ain't a-coming back.

Well, I'm too old to work, and I'm too young to die.
Tell me, where shall we go, My old gal and I?
There's no children at all in the narrow empty street.
The mill has closed down; it's so quiet I can't sleep.

Yes, the mill has shut down; it's the only life I know
Tell me, where will I go, Tell me, where will I go?
And the only tune I hear, is the sound of the wind
As it blows through the town,
Weave and spin, weave and spin.

See and hear Si Kahn sing Aragon Mill by clicking on:


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Here is a version by the Dublin City Ramblers:

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Gallery:


The Fureys and Davey Arthur


Si Kahn


Aragon Mill


Another view of Aragon Mill

By the way, after the plant shut down in 1970, it was bought in 1972 by Integrated Products, which operated it until 1989. In 1990 Diamond Rug and Carpet purchased the plant and operated it until 1994. The plant remained empty until 1998 when brothers Brian and Kirk Spears purchased the mill and used it in the production of pillows and wooden pallets until 2002, when fire destroyed the complex.



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