Silver and Gold

Copyright Notice

John Gates was a miner in South Wales, near Bridgend, before he was made redundant at the age of 50 when the pit in his local town closed down. There was virtually no chance of getting a job in the area and so he turned to a hobby which he had for years - embroidery. He is now a successful teacher and lectures on the subject all over the place.

I first heard his story on Woman's Hour, whilst travelling back from Bridgnorth Folk festival. Immediately I arrived home I started to write the song. After I had written it I managed to trace John and sent him a recording of the song to make sure he was happy about my performing it. Thankfully he was, and what's more he sent me some photographs of the wedding dress which features in the song and also an embroidered badge, which I treasure. If you click on the image (top right) you can see this fine example of his detailed work in, of course, silver and gold.

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My name is John Gates and I worked down the pit
Til they closed it a few years ago
It was all that I knew, it was all I could do
I was broken apart by the blow
And most of my pals, they were in the same boat
When they closed that colliery down
And at fifty years old I knew I was through
There was no work for me in the town

Oh, give me the silver and gold
Oh, give me the silver and gold
My hands must be clean as I'm picking the seam
Not black with the dust from the coal
Oh give me the silver and gold

We still met at the club but it wasn't the same
The comradeship somehow had gone
I remembered the time on that cold picket line
When our union bond made us strong
And I never thought I would see grown men cry
They were hard men, proud and true
Their eyes filled with tears as they sipped at their beer
And I shared their despairing too

Now all I had left was thoughts of the thread
The thread of the silver and gold
An interest for years, it now held back the tears
I gave it my whole heart and soul
Then an advert for a dressmaking class caught my eye
I enrolled as the only man there
And as my skill grew, I finally knew
I had something precious to share

I laboured for months on my girl's wedding dress
Stitching dreams in the silk with the thread
Intricate patterns of silver and gold
All thoughts of that colliery lay dead
And as we walked arm in arm down the aisle
She smiled as I caught her eye
But that moment of love - it was too much to bear
As once more I started to cry