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Salt Tell

As a student,  in ’62, I worked for British Waterways repairing canal banks and I started right outside The Lion […..] The workmen were stripped to the waist raking the iron bath as the brine was boiled. I was 16 at the time, never seen anything like it, another and distant world (Dante’s Inferno).

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The son of the owners of The Lion Salt Works, Ingram Thompsons, took over the management so just to let all his workers know he bought himself a brand new leather briefcase and had his initials printed on it. The workers were much amused as his name was…. Samuel Henry Ingram Thompson.

Salt Tell

Five in the morning and fresh from me bed,
Six is me shift at old Thompson’s shed
The flashes are frozen, the road’s getting hard,
Over the lime-beds to the salt house yard.
Marston looks miserable, Wincham is wet,
But the foreman will soon have me working a sweat
The wheel on the pump house goes round and round,
Wild brine comes rushing up out of the ground.

Down through the pipes to the red iron pan,
Bass the fire Johnny as quick as you can.
Rake out the clinker, give the fire a blast,
Stoke on the coal so the brine boils up fast.
The heat’s like a jungle, the steam’s like a fog,
And I’m stripped to the waist in me flannel and clogs,
The wheel on the pump house goes round and round,
Wild brine comes rushing up out of the ground.

The water’s boiled off and the salt’s left behind,
Old Charlie comes in, the best waller you’ll find,
The salt’s on his tongue, and his mind’s on the pub,
As he skims the wet salt from the pan to the tubs.
Load up the barrow and cart them away,
They’ll dry in the flue room by the end of the day.
The wheel on the pump house goes round and round,
Wild brine comes rushing up out of the ground.

Lumps of white marble, standing in line,
Or piled up in sacks, if the salt’s good and fine,
Fill up the barges, load after load;
Salt for the table, salt for the road,
Salt for the farmer, for factory and town
The wheel on the pump house goes round and round,
The wheel on the pump house goes round and round,
Wild brine comes rushing up out of the ground.


Written: Pete Coe
Published: Backshift Music PRS MCPS
From the CD “The Man in The Red Van”
BACKSHIFT MUSIC BASH CD63  © 2017

Salt Tell was performed by Cheshire folk band The Time Bandits at 'The Great Salt'.