The Salvage Saga

by J.F.A. Brown


Way, way back in days of yore,
They formed The Glasgow Salvage Corps,
To cut down damage at flood and fire,
To help keep firms going that might expire.

The first two men, thank God no more,
Came from the London Salvage Corps,
Goodchild and Postdown were their names,
Up from The City of London they came.

They opened a Station in Nicholas street,
With uniform and horses neat,
The best dressed outfit in the town,
Just working and waiting for the bells to go down.

On that first day, oh what a sight,
Prancing horses harness bright,
Off to a fire their first shout,
The Salvage we can’t live without.

The crew of men were very willing ,
Work all week for thirty shilling,
No days off but dry your tears,
A suit could last you seven years.

Then a move to Albion Street,
Into a Station oh so neat,
With a house to be enjoyed,
Just as long as you were employed.

The big baths for when you tire,
Hot water when you stoked the fire,
Not in the house I must report,
But in the bathroom off the common court.

There in the passage you could wait,
Till the families finished about half past eight,
Chatting up the gaffer’s daughter,
When your time came there was no hot water.

We had our heroes in days gone away,
Auld Weir, Donnachie and Wild McCrae,
The Budgie, Sparrow to name a few,
Altogether a fearless crew.

Then there was Tosh when you needed a sleep,
Come on lads, a final sweep,
Two hours later and home you’d go,
Then out part-time to earn some dough.

McLellan, Ritchie, Bevan and Murray,
At six o’clock all in a hurry,
Down to the hall they all did go,
To form a school and play solo.

The younger men when they were able,
Played poker at another table,
Then to keep the night alive,
Up to the bothy to play at fives.

Twenty-fours hours on, twenty-four hours off,
We’d all soon have a smoker’s cough,
Get in there and don’t delay,
It’s not smokey, you don’t need B.A.

In there underneath the fire,
Keep on working never tire,
Lungs are straining, feel the pain,
Water pouring just like rain.

Covers all slung and sawdust spread,
Back in the machine, mind your head,
Come on you lot cut the crap,
Who’s first night-man? Get your cap!

Back to the Station off at eight,
Look at your body what a state,
Soaked to the skin, oh me oh my,
What’s that blue stuff? That’s the dye!

There to stand to the break of day,
Till a senior man lets you away,
A lot of the jobs they were far-flung,
And the day man always got the bung!

McLaren, Dick and R. McTear,
You waited for them to appear,
The job they’d finish without fluster,
The Insurance Company’s Loss Adjuster.

The junior men on a Staurday morn,
Cursed the day that they were born,
By twelve o’clock their knees were sair,
Washing down the bloody stair!

Usually on Thursdays at half past four,
A lorry arrived outside the Corps,
Then you wished you were on the dole,
The bloody thing was loaded with coal!

Down to the basement off we went,
Working hard your back was bent,
Shifting it from one end to the other,
You thought you were a miner’s brother.

On other days to pass the time,
We painted all the walls with lime,
Then to stop us playing tricks,
They had us chopping up the sticks.

Up to the drying room we’d retire,
Watch out Ritchie, your bum’s on fire,
Sewing tarps and patching covers,
Look in the graveyard, smirked at lovers.

Then came a night that left us forlorn,
Five never saw the new day dawn born,
A big explosion, then a fire,
A night of flames and muck and mire.

Two Jimmies, Willie, Gordon, Eddie,
God must have known that they were ready,
He called them home now they’re at rest,
God called them home for he knows best.

We moved to a Station nice and neat,
Right at the top of Maitland Street,
With plenty of glass and walls of tile,
We got new machines, we were right in style.

On a glorious day, the ninth of June,
We know now we moved in too soon,
After eleven years and here’s the proof,
We’re still trying to fix the roof.

We had moved in quick, don’t know what for,
Was somebody looking for a Sir?
The place was opened, it wasn’t a myth,
By the Under Secretary Buchanan-Smith.

The years have passed, alas, alack,
I’d like to turn the clock right back,
Back to the old days good and abundant,
Alas the Corps is now redundant.

So Evans, Smith, McDonald, Brown,
Guys who walked all over the town,
Hang up your helmets sit in front of the fire,
You’ve all done well you can now retire.

So on our merry way we go,
Looking high, looking low,
Fearing that life could become a bore,
Since they closed the Glasgow Salvage Corps.