The Manchester Ship Canal Company
Were digging their ditch from city to sea,
With pick and shovel the way was being won
By navvys, and ganger Jim Shackleton.
Jamie-go-deeper, the ganger was known,
Jamie-go-deeper moving earth and stone,
His gang digging the route as it was planned
Till they fetched up against disputed land.
A full field’s width was barring their way
Because seams of coal ran beneath the clay,
Or so said the owner, naming his price,
Making the Company take legal advice.
No agreement found they had to resort
To binding arbitration in court.
The clever landowner’s cunning counsel
Called Jamie-go-deeper, knowing full well,
He crossed that field daily from home to work
And though a Company man he wouldn’t shirk
From telling the truth, whatever the question.
“Your name, sir, is it James Shackleton?”
“So it is,” he replied, “Jim to a pal.”
“And you are a ganger on the canal?”
“That I am and right proud of my gang.”
“You are on oath, so heed consciences’ pang,
When I ask have you ever seen at all,
As you cross that field, men boring for coal?”
Jamie-go-deeper paused, thought, then said, “No!
And it’s true that’s the way most days I go?”
The barrister was surprised, since his youth
Jamie had a reputation for truth.
Once more he asked, “Do you swear by your soul
You’ve never witnessed men boring for coal?”
The court held its breath at this inter-play
Just what would Jamie-go-deeper now say?
“I’ve seen no such thing.” The ganger stated,
Leaving the barrister quite deflated.
“You’ve never seen anyone boring the clay?”
“Oh yes, I’ve seen that, nearly every day.”
The lawyer smiled. “All falsehood must yield,
You’ve seen boring for coal when crossing the field.”
“No!” replied Jim. Counsel seemed he might fall.
“Have you or not seen men boring for coal?”
Jamie knew the truth isn’t for ignoring,
“Not for coal, but I have seen them boring.”
“Then for what purpose,” asked counsel bemused,
“Were those test drillings going to be used?”
Jamie’s pert reply caused a sensation,
“They were only boring for compensation.”
The lawyer caved in, the case could go hang
And Jamie-go-deeper went back to his gang.
Within less than a week of this legal loss
The field had such a deep trench cut across.
So it was because of men such as he,
Jamie saw Manchester through to the sea.


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