Lincoln Castle Bill Meek
The men who shuffle papers, the men who make the plans,
The men who move the pieces with white and well-paid hands;
See the steel bands bind the river, watch the concrete towers grow,
And they tell us Lincoln Castle you must go.
Chorus: So it’s farewell to you Lincoln Castle,
Farewell to the wind across your bow;
No more you’ll feel the brown muddy water flowing down,
On the river that you knew and loved when yesterday was now.
Oh, you helped to mould our memories as you rumbled through the years,
In dreams we see your paddles toss their spray of silver tears;
We watch your smokestack leave a scar across the falling sun;
Lincoln Castle, now they say your day is done.
You never crossed an ocean, never saw exotic lands,
Just a battered paddle-wheeler dodging Humber’s shifting sands,
On your constant treadmill journey from shore to muddy shore;
Now they tell you, Lincoln Castle, sail no more.
Is your future with the breakers, where the tuneless hammers ring,
And the shrill demented choirs of screeching cutters sing?
In the symphony of progress, should we hear your passing bell,
We’ll remember Lincoln Castle, fare ye well.
Keels and sloops were still a regular sight in large numbers in the docks and on the Humber waterways right up to the 1950s when road transport and the need for faster transportation made many redundant. The few wooden keels left were abandoned to rot like the three on the foreshore outside Victoria Dock Yorkist I, II and III, and many of the steel-hulled ones were sent for scrap or were converted into houseboats. Thankfully The Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society saved the Sheffield-sized keel Comrade and the sloop Amy Howson which still ply the Humber today in full sail. This song in a wider sense is a lament for the Humber keel but more specifically Southcliffe, another Sheffield-sized keel restored to sail by Chris Sherburn.
The Cliffes, all steel-built keels, were built for Hull transporters Bleasdales in the 1920s. Some were built at Beverley and others at Thorne, about 20 in all. Before World War II their masts and rigging were removed and Lister JP21 diesel engines were fitted. When they were no longer needed on the Humber many were bought by Waddingtons of Swinton and kept moored up for many years until demand for houseboats started to pick up. Most of the keels that were saved from the scrapyard were put to use in that way and in fact in recent years several Cliffes have gone down to London to be converted.
My in-laws, John and Vicky Appleyard, bought Southcliffe from Waddingtons and proceeded to convert her into a houseboat. Unlike many of the rest of her ilk she still had the original aftercabin more or less intact. When Chris bought her from them he had other ideas. An engineer and fitter, he proceeded to take her back to sail, and after renovating the JP21 with John’s help, he started to install all of the steel fittings needed to add a mast and rigging. With the family helping it took about five years to restore her to sail and fit out the hold with accommodation. Before Chris eventually sold her we had two or three years of glorious sailing on the Humber, the Ouse and the Aire and Calder Navigation. She’s now berthed at Goole Marina but is seldom seen on the river which is a great shame. So this song is a heart-felt lament for what we had. If you want to experience this take a trip on Comrade or Amy out on the Humber in full sail with the engine switched off. Magic!