Thousands are Sailing – The Pogues #SLS

After several weeks without wifi at home, buying repeated data add-ons so I could work and stay in contact with the outside world (only for the 14YO to burn through the gigabytes on late night Netflix sessions) I’d promised myself that as soon as I got reconnected I was going to get back into #SongLyricSunday.

So it felt like the universe was conspiring against me when Helen’s prompt for this week, “Search” left me completely stumped. Seriously, I’ve been thinking about it all day, flicking through play lists for inspiration, and apart from a naff 80s disco number called Searching (Lookin’ for Love) by, I think, Hazel Dean (google it yourself, I’m not going to inflict it on you), I literally couldn’t think of anything.

Luckily the Pogues came to my rescue at the eleventh hour. This one doesn’t actually mention the word searching, but the theme of mass migration, of people being forced to leave their homes in search of a better life – well, I reckon it fits the bill.

Years ago, I remember listening to this song in the bleakest bedsit I ever lived in. Mould, condensation and scary blokes down the landing. I ended up there because it was £27.50 a week, and I’d just got back from working abroad and was on an emergency tax code so despite working two jobs I was only bringing home about £40 a week.  It was November, and I was working outdoors doing traffic surveys, getting chilblains and surviving on lentils. “When I got back to my empty room I suppose I must have cried” felt like a pretty accurate summary of where my life was.

It feels kind of appropriate listening to it again now, in a half-furnished room with packing boxes piled in a corner on the bare floorboards. Life sometimes forces you to take a direction you wouldn’t have chosen, and it’s new and harsh and uncomfortable for a while. But I’m in a better place than I was all those years ago, and certainly better off than those who feature in the song. The wifi is fixed, and the derelict kitchen and leaking boiler will be soon. As we say in Yorkshire, it’ll be reet. And here’s them lyrics. Have a good week folks.

The island it is silent now
But the ghosts still haunt the waves
And the torch lights up a famished man
Who fortune could not save

Did you work upon the railroad
Did you rid the streets of crime
Were your dollars from the white house
Were they from the five and dime

Did the old songs taunt or cheer you
And did they still make you cry
Did you count the months and years
Or did your teardrops quickly dry

Ah, no, says he, ’twas not to be
On a coffin ship I came here
And I never even got so far
That they could change my name

Thousands are sailing
Across the western ocean
To a land of opportunity
That some of them will never see
Fortune prevailing
Across the western ocean
Their bellies full
Their spirits free
They’ll break the chains of poverty
And they’ll dance

In Manhattan’s desert twilight
In the death of afternoon
We stepped hand in hand on Broadway
Like the first man on the moon

And “The Blackbird” broke the silence
As you whistled it so sweet
And in Brendan Behan’s footsteps
I danced up and down the street

Then we said goodnight to Broadway
Giving it our best regards
Tipped our hats to Mister Cohen
Dear old Times Square’s favorite bard

Then we raised a glass to JFK
And a dozen more besides
When I got back to my empty room
I suppose I must have cried

Thousands are sailing
Again across the ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Postcards we’re mailing
Of sky-blue skies and oceans
From rooms the daylight never sees
Where lights don’t glow on Christmas trees
But we dance to the music
And we dance

Thousands are sailing
Across the western ocean
Where the hand of opportunity
Draws tickets in a lottery
Where e’er we go, we celebrate
The land that makes us refugees
From fear of Priests with empty plates
From guilt and weeping effigies
And we dance

by Philip Chevron, lyrics reproduced from


4 thoughts on “Thousands are Sailing – The Pogues #SLS

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s