The Old Man (1)

Ian Campbell

At the turning of the century
I was a boy of five
My father went to fight the Boers
And never came back alive
My mother was left to bring us up
No charity she’s seek
So she washed and scrubbed and scraped along
For seven and six a week

When I was twelve I left the school
And went to find a job
With growing kids me Ma was glad
Of the extra couple of bob
I’m sure that longer schooling
Would have stood me in good stead
But you can’t afford refinements
When you’re struggling for your bread

And when the great war came along
I didn’t hesitate
I took the royal shilling
And went off to do me bit
We fought in mud and tears and blood
Three years or there about
The I copped some gas in Flanders
And was invalided out

And when the war was over
And we’s finished with the guns
We got into civvies
Cause we thought the fightings done
We’d won the right to live in peace
But we didn’t have such luck
For soon we found we had to fight
For the right to go to work

In ’26 the general strike
Saw me out on the street
For I’d a wife and kids by then
And their needs I had to meet
For the Brave New World was coming
And the brotherhood of man
But when the strike was over
We were back were we began

I struggled through the thirties
At work now and again
I saw the black shirts marching
And the things they did in Spain
I brought me kids up decent
And I taught them wrong from right
But Hitler was the lad that came
And taught them how to fight

Me daughter was a landgirl
She got married to a Yank
They gave me son a medal
For stopping one of Rommel’s tanks
He was wounded just before the end
And he convalesced in Rome
Then he married an Italian nurse
And never bothered to come home

Me daughter writes me once a month
A cheerful little note
About their colour telly
And the other things they’ve got
They’ve got a son a likely lad
He’s nearly twenty one
But they tell me now they’ve called him up
To fight in Vietnam

We’re living on a pension now
It doesn’t reach too far
Not much to show for a life that seems
Like one long bloody war
When you think of all the wasted lives
It makes you want to cry
I’m not sure how to change things
But by Christ we’ll have to try

For another song with the same name see The Old Man (2).