Ship at dock

The title of a fascinating exhibition in the museum at Whitstable about the history of the local shipbuilding industry, it seemed too good a phrase not to be in a song. It occurred to me that although seafaring might be essential to the life of a community, some might be grateful to escape the dangers and hardships which it entailed.

The wisest choice I ever made
Was to sign on for the shipwright's trade
I work all day by the salt sea strand
But I sleep each night upon dry land

I learned my trade the best I could
I choose the trees, I shape the wood
With a careful eye and a steady hand
For a hull that will the waves withstand

Oak knees and copper nails
To build a boat to bear the sails
To carry a crew of Kent-born men
Safely out and home again

My brother works on an oyster smack
He says the dredging damn' near breaks your back
It's hard enough work for little pay
But he seldom sails beyond the bay

While the colliers ply 'neath skies like lead
To keep the fires of London fed
On the cold North Sea far out from shore
From Tyne to Thames and back once more


And there's not a family along this shore
But knows the danger sailors do endure
And when their loved ones on the seas must roam
They hope for fair winds to bring them home

So as I labour by the water's side
I watch the sky, the waves and tide
And I pray my work it will not fail
To bring men safe through storm and gale