'Twas sweet Christmas Eve as I stood by the gate
Of a place for which none of us care
The workhouse, and these are the sights I'll relate
Of the people I saw going there
First, the widow, she came with a child in her arms
The wife of a sailor was she
She'd waited for Jack, but he never came back
For his vessel had foundered at sea.

Chorus: And the bells they rang - a merry old Christmas chime
And the choir boys sang - a hymn of the olden time
But the wide, wide world - what a tale it could oft relate
Of those in despair who are passing in there
Through the workhouse gate.

The next one who came was an old, broken man
Who had been a brave lad in his time
He'd fought with his Regiment at famed Inkerman
And stood in the 'Thin Red LIne'
His medals they shone in the stars of the night
As he came to the workhouse for aid
''twere better,' he cried, 'Had I fallen and died
With the boys of my dear old Brigade.'


The next one who came, she was weary and worn
With hair like the white driven snow
Her daughters and sons had deserted and gone
To countries she never would know
When sudden, from out of the dark, sprang a man
'Don't you know me, dear mother?' he cried
'I'm Jack, the black sheep, who has come back to keep
His old mother from going inside.'


The next one who came was a working man pale
With his bundle of tools on his back
For days he had wandered in rain, sleet and hail
On hunger's long, pitiless track
It's labour he asks for, but that he's denied
Now sweaters are robbing his can
For we live in the age when the cheap foreign wage
Is killing our own working man.

Written and composed by Herbert Shelley & Stephen Rowland Philpot - 1904
Performed by Herbert Shelley (1870-1921)
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