McAlpine's Fusiliers

'Twas in the year of 'thirty-nine
When the sky was full of lead
When Hitler was heading for Poland
And Paddy, for Holyhead
Come all you pincher laddies
And you long-distance men
Don't ever work for McAlpine
For Wimpey, or John Laing
You'll stand behind a mixer
And your skin is turned to tan
And they'll say, Good on you, Paddy
With your boat-fare in your hand
The craic was good in Cricklewood
And they wouldn't leave the Crown
With glasses flying and Biddy's crying
'Cause Paddy was going to town
Oh mother dear, I'm over here
And I'm never coming back
What keeps me here is a rake o' beer
The ladies and the craic
I come from county Kerry
The land of eggs and bacon
And if you think I'll eat your fish 'n' chips
Oh dear then you're mistaken.

As down the glen came McAlpine's men
With their shovels slung behind them
'Twas in the pub they drank the sub
And out in the spike you'll find them
They sweated blood and they washed down mud
With pints and quarts of beer
And now we're on the road again
With McAlpine's fusiliers

I stripped to the skin with the Darky Finn
Way down on the Isle of Grain
With the Horseface Toole I knew the rule
No money if you stopped for rain
McAlpine's god is a well-filled hod
Your shoulders cut to bits and seared
And woe to he went to look for tea
With McAlpine's fusiliers.

I remember the day that the Bear O'Shea
Fell into a concrete stairs
What the Horseface said when he saw him dead
It wasn't what the rich call prayers
I'm a navvy short, was the one retort
That reached unto my ears
When the going is rough you must be tough
With McAlpine's fusiliers

I've worked till the sweat it has had me beat
With Russian, Czech, and Pole
On shuttering jams up in the hydro-dams
Or underneath the Thames in a hole
I've grafted hard and I've got my cards
And many a ganger's fist across my ears
If you pride your life don't join, by Christ!
With McAlpine's fusiliers.

(Dominic Behan)

The McAlpine building firm was founded by Robert 'Concrete Bob' McAlpine (1847 - 1934) in 1869 and carried on from father to sons. The family lived and breathed building. Contrary to what the song implies, they knew the names of all their workers and went on holiday with their managers. On Saturdays, they would all go and inspect the building sites, and even in later years, McAlpine would sit down in his study and phone the widows of every deceased McAlpine employee each Sunday. So, although the McAlpines were extremely rich, they were also down-to-earth, horny-handed, and not aristocratic at all.

Yorky worked for the McAlpine family for over 30 years from April 1969 until September 1999