Real Life Stories: Me Fust Job, by Harry Elwood

This poem was written by my father-in-law just before he died…
He was a true Black country man, born in Dudley, and lived out his life in Sedgley. He had a permanent disability from an early age, yet worked hard in his pipe fitting and welding business. He is survived by one daughter, my ex-wife, now living in Australia. One brother served in the Black Watch, another worked his whole life as a bank runner in Dudley. He met his wife in hospital and married at death’s door, yet he pulled through.

In a way this is a true tribute to the grim life but sharp humour of the Black Country.

Francis Colella

Me Fust Job


Am yo gerrin up, the ode mon cries
As I’m scraipin the sleep from outer me eyes.
I cor ear yer, tho’ode chap said,
So I scraiped the pow from under the bed.
I’de do anything to ly a little bit longer,
The pull of bed is allis stronger.

At six in a morning a chap’s will is weak,
Especially as wen the weather’s bleak.
Yo couldn’t call our ouse the comforts of um,
With the closets outside that freezes yer bum.
Yo day ang about in thee’r fer long,
Else yo breth ud freeze on thend o yer tung.

Then fer a wash yo’de gorra be ard,
A swill under the tap, out in the yard.
Back in th’ouse for porridge and toast,
Looking like a bluddy ghost.
A quick cup o tay, an coom yer air,
An check yer pockets, for the buzz fare.
Cuss them conductors doh think its funny,
If you gerron the buzz without any munny.

Now the buzz ride to werk can be quite ruff,
As they all light up, and start to cuff.
Owd Willy Woodbine’s doin is werk,
Even the conductor’s startin to raik.
With um cuffin an barkin, faerces all red,
It’s a wunder sum on’em doh drap down ed.

We gerroff the buzz smoked up like kippers,
Lookin like sum werk’ouse trippers.
With a bottle o’tay an yer snap in a bag,
Sum on’em lightin the morning’s last fag.
Wen yo’me werkin ther ay time for smokes,
Cuss sum o’em Gaffers am real nasty blokes.
If thay see yer stop, an straiten yer back,
Thay start awlin an bawlin an threaten the sack.

Now my fust job was called runnin off,
An that ay summat yo do fer a loff.
Carryin rain-werter pipes med out’er clay,
Raircin along ‘ot rooms all day.
Runnin like whippets in rooms that wer-ot,
Ther wor any fat kids amongst our little lot.
We carried them pipes until we wos sick,
En all for twenty eight bob a wik.
Still there wos them that wos wuss off than we,
Seven an a tanner wos all thay cud see.
That’s all ower kid got wen he started werk,
Dog licence munny thay called it, wairk for wairks sairk.

Airley ter bed airly ter rise,
Meks a mon helthy, welthy an wise.
Well ar went to bed airley, an here comes the ‘itch,
It never med me helthy, nor very rich.
Then thay ast me at werk if I’d goo a striking,
A mons munny for a mons job.
I jumped at the chance of moor munny,
And sum extra mate on me cob.

So in ar went to the Blacksmith,
an tode im wot I’d cum to do.
“Stoke up that fire for a start me lad,
and send a few sparks up the flue,
Then gerrote o’that big ommer,
en lets see wot yo con do.”

So he got this piece of iron, and med it glowin hot,
An he stuck it on the anvil an I gid it all I’de got.
I ommered an paled it blind, and he waved it about like a wand,
And I finished up like an old wet rag,
With big blisters on aitch ond.

He looked at me to seef I’d won,
A servant to his call,
But he day-no me, to his undoin,
He day-no me at all.
I soon med it known, that I wor no serf,
I weelded mi ommer like Thor.
That old Blacksmith wos ever so sorry.
When is old striker went off to the war.

One day wen we wos werkin, him gerrin the iron all red,
Hed sed, “ Wen I nod my yed, wool yo ‘it it.”
I thort if I do yo’ll be jed.
But we gorron alright at the finish,
And we werked like Blacksmith and striker should.
But there wer days when it wos boilin hot,
I wished I wos werkin with wood.

Yo never sid them Chippies,
With dairt all over th’fairce.
They allis looked liked doctors,
With their nice clane aprons and shairts.

Cum the day wen I atter leave,
The navy wanted me.
Thay’ed eared about me an me ommer,
An wanted me at sea.

But poor owd Tum, the Blacksmith,
The tears un is eyes I cud see.
Sed “Yo’me one o-the best that I’ve ever ad
An now yo’me leavin me.
But afower yo goo, yo cheeky young sod,
Yo leave that ommer behind.
Cuss arl be a wantin that ommer,
For the next cheeky striker arl find.

As so ended my days at the pipewerks,
Ar cor say I enjoyed em at all.
But then agen, it cud of bin wuss,
Cuss the Navy wor much of a ball.

Harry Elwood
In Loving Memory
1 February 1925 – 4 March 2012