THE STEAM-ROLLER MAN'S STORY
Harry J. Rowland & George Hay (1914)
G' morning - 'blige with a match, sir?
Thanks'. Mind if I take a few more?
It's always a bit of a job, sir,
To get this 'ere bacca to draw.
I can tell by the smell of your pipe, sir,
As you knows the right sort to smoke.
Thank y', sir, - I should smoke this myself sir,
If I wasn't so 'orrible broke.
Engineering jobs ain't what they was, sir,
In the days - but I ain't goin' to brag,
When in front of me roller I'd always
A man, sir, to carry a flag.
One day the task was entrusted
To a flag-man, the name o' Jeff.
Careless bloke, sir, but 'ard working,
And all right except 'e was deaf.
One day we wos working as usual,
When I 'eard, sir, a sort of a grunt.
Then we jolted a bit and I looks, sir,
But I couldn't see old Jeff in front.
Then I thought of his being deaf, sir,
And I trembled just like a leaf,
For I guessed, sir, 'e'd been extra careless
And somehow 'ad got under-neaf.
He lay in the road - I thought dead, sir,
But 'e moved, - I was thankful for that.
But bless you, sir, I was a-staggered
When I see as I'd rolled him out flat.
Yes, sir, flattened him out like a pan-cake,
All thin like, you understand
As broad as a dozen like you sir,
But only as thick as your hand.
At first, sir, 'e seemed a bit stunned like,
And 'e laid in the road there and grinned,
So I helped him up, then started home, sir,
Lor'! I did 'ave a job with the wind.
For the breeze kept a-catching him broad-side,
And taking him up like a kite,
And I 'ad to 'old on like grim death, sir,
To stop him from taking flight.
His family at 'ome they was knocked, sir,
And you should 'ave 'eard his wife,
Said she'd sooner go 'ome to her mother
Than live with a freak all her life.
But they took him, sir, into the parlour
And propped 'im against the wall,
An' they wanted to put 'im to bed, sir,
But they couldn't think how to at all.
Then I thought of folding him up, sir,
I 'ad to think everything out,
And next morning we got a hot iron, sir,
And ironed his creases out.
And we watched him get thinner for months, sir,
As each evening around him we sat.
You see, sir, 'e lived on flat fish sir,
And even his voice was flat.
Well, I worried myself wot to do, sir,
But it wasn't no good to talk,
At last, sir, an idea it struck me
And next day I takes Jeff for a walk.
And we walks down the road to the yard, sir,
Where the roller had always stood,
And Jeff props himself up on his thin end, sir,
And stays like it as well as 'e could.
We knew it was kill or cure, sir,
So I shakes 'ands, sir, and says good-bye,
And as I climbed on to the engine
I wiped, sir, a tear from my eye.
Then I starts her right over Jeff, sir,
And the very next thing I see
Was the roller 'ad rolled out Jeff, sir,
To the shape as 'e used to be.
Pleased? I should just think 'e wos, sir,
Tho' some of our blokes was annoyed.
Jeff sir? 'E's carryin' a flag, sir.
Along o' the unemployed.
He got the sack when they stopped our flags,
But 'e's well as 'e's ever bin,
You can take my word that it's true, sir,
The word, sir, of Truthful Jim.