It always comes to my mind this time of year with the onset of winter and the harder times for so many with no place to go. This song from the last of Ewan MacColl's radio ballads, 'The Travelling People', a programme that dealt with the culture and the living conditions of Britain's gypsies, didikais and tinkers, the ordinary people's ignorance of their ways and the shameful intolerance that is shown them.
I like to settle in the wintertime Away from the weather in a country town,
But come the spring I’d get itchy feet, Then goodbye town and smoky street
I’d want to be moving some place else, So move along get along move along get along
Go! Move! Shift!
There’s nothing beats the lovely heather and the moors and the birds whistling and the clear burn and you’ve nae coo nae care as the Scotchman says.
Well it ain’t a bad life in the summer, but I think about the winter, not the summer – I think about the winter. That’s the Terror Time. No place to go nor doesn’t know where to go. Doesn’t know any place to go and sit. It doesn’t matter whether it is snowing or blowing, you’ve got to go.
The heather will fade and the bracken will die Stream will run cold and clear.
And the small birds will be going, And it’s then you will be knowing
That the Terror Time is near.
Whaur will ye turn noo, whaur will ye bide Now that the wark’s a’ done?
For the fairmer doesna need ye And the Council winna heed ye, And the Terror Time has come.
And there was about three foot of snow, and would you believe that I had to pull down that tent among that snow. And when I come fornent the police office in Auchterarder, the horse fell. The horse fell down, and the two policemen come out with their fingers in their tunics like that, and commenced to sneer and laugh. ‘My word’, I says, ‘Youse better men have something to laugh at.’ ‘Get that up’, he says, ‘And get the blazes out of here.’
The woods give no shelter, the trees they are bare Snow falling all around.
And the children they are crying And the bed in which they’re lying Is frozen to the ground.
The snow winna lift and the stove winna draw, There’s ice in the water churn, In the mud and snaw you’re sloshing Trying to dae your bit o’ washing And the kindling winna burn.
Where would you rather be tonight, sitting in a comfortable house, nice and clean, your children nice and clean? What’s this life here? What’s this life for children?
Needing the warming of your own human kind, You move near a town, but then
Well, the sight of you’s offending, And the police they soon are sending…And you’re on the road again.