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Songs for Humberside

The song "Humber Bridge" was written by Christopher Rowe and recorded by Christopher Rowe and Ian Clarke. It is a protest song about the lack of a Humber Bridge, but is included here as it's the only song I know with "Goole" in the lyrics.

In our early history Julius Caesar crossed the sea
To this island off the Northern coast of France.
Then some other Romans came to treat us just the same
And they stayed a little longer just by chance.
They came, they saw, they conquered everything that they could see
'Til they reached the River Humber, that noble estuary.
But they burnt their boats behind them not thinking it could be
That the ancient Britons hadn't built a bridge.


Will they ever bridge the Humber? Will they ever span it or
Is it always an exception to the rule?
Is it such a privilege not to have a Humber Bridge
And to have to keep on going round by Goole?

In a thousand years or more there arrived on England's shore
A noble duke who came from Normandy.
Duke William was his name and conqueror he became
For he conquered all the land that he could see.
But one day he came up North and there to his surprise
As he reached the River Humber he was made to realise
While Romans could build straighter roads and walls of every size,
They never tried to build a Humber Bridge.

In the English civil war when they fought on Marston Moor
And the Royalists were scattered far and wide.
They disturbed the peaceful slumber of the quiet River Humber
But they knew that Hull was not a place to hide.
For the city favoured Cromwell and there they could not stay
They headed for the river to cross without delay.
But on reaching Hessle foreshore they found to their dismay
No one had ever built a Humber Bridge.

The year of 1966 found Harold Wilson in a fix
With his overall majority down to two.
He just couldn't face rejection at the Hull North by-election
Barbara Castle came to see what she could do.
There is one thing I can promise, she assured us on that day,
You'll get your Humber Bridge and there won't be much delay.
But she forgot to mention that a squeeze was on the way
And still we're waiting for a Humber Bridge.

Now they've built across the Severn, they've built across the Tay
And they've even spanned the mighty Firth of Forth.
But an increase on this number with a bridge across the Humber
Appears to be more trouble than it's worth.
Gas may flow in from the ocean, oil may spurt out from the sea
We could join the Common Market or something else maybe
Then in Whitehall and in Westminster perhaps they'll start to see
That at last we really need a Humber Bridge.


In 1981 when at last the bridge was done
It was opened by Her Majesty the Queen
It was suspended by steel/cables spun by spinning wheel
The longest that the world had ever seen
But it was financed by a debt and so we had to pay
At first it was a pound to go across each way each day
But now it's two pounds seventy with increases on the way
And we can't afford to cross the Humber Bridge.
Will they ever pay the loan off? Will it ever be free?
Is it always an exception to the rule?
Is it such a privilege just to drive across a bridge
Not to have to keep on going round by Goole?

The Humber Bridge Song on YouTube

Visitor Comments

Posted by Niki on 02/10/2005

At long last I've heard it again and remembered nearly all the words! The rest of the album ("Songs for Humberside") is worth a listen to as well (if only I still had it). My mum bought it when it came out, but it went the way of many records, the charity shop. Has anyone got a copy that they don't want? There's a good home ready and waiting!

Posted by Carol on 24/06/2005

The Humber Bridge song! I can't tell you how much it meant to me to hear it again! I remember Dr Clarke's son singing it on stage at the Grammar School, and although I've only heard it that one time, it has stuck in my memory, and I've often found myself singing the chorus to myself! I have told my kids about it, but they thought I was a little crazy, as they believe the Humber Bridge has been there for ever! Thank you for putting it on the site!

Posted by Ian Clark on 31/07/2006

I was intrigued to see the emails about the Humber Bridge Song on your site and delighted to know that your correspondents liked it.

It is now 38 years since Christopher Rowe and I first recorded the "Songs for Humberside" EP collection - to be followed by the rather predictably titled "More Songs for Humberside" and then by the Decca LP. I know there are some copies still around which haven't been turned into plant pots and a number of people have contacted me about digital copies of individual songs now that turntables are almost as scarce as the records.

I'm very sad to say that Christopher died some five years ago - a great loss to all his family, friends and fans. I'm sure he would be delighted to know that there are still those around who sing about "going round by Goole" and remember the songs with affection. The Haltemprice level crossings, Victoria Square and the William Wilberforce statue all bring back very happy memories of our time in Hull.

Living across in Merseyside and making regular trips back along the M62, I frequently give vent to a verse or two as we pass the bridge. I think I'll have to start singing earlier - as we pass Goole!

Best wishes to all your surfers!

Posted by Janice on 27/04/2008

In the late-1960s I shared Christopher Rowe's address! He lived in the flat adjoining mine in Park Avenue. Our electricity meters were run by shilling coins and he was always running out and coming to me for them! I was sorry to read Ian Clark's note that Christopher had died.

Posted by John on 10/04/2008

I was delighted to see this posting of the lyrics for the Humber Bridge Song. I first heard it and captured it on cassette at The Gate Folk Club in Coventry in the early-1970s, but the guys who sang it got the verses confused and sang twice about "Duke William was his name", so for the last 30 years I have been missing the bit about what happened after Julius Caesar arrived, and although I've found many references to the song, I've never been able to get the lyrics.

Thank you so much for this - once I've learned it, I'm looking forward to singing it in Lostwithiel later this summer. If anyone has an mp3 of any of the other material, I'd be more than happy to contribute some beer tokens for a copy!

Posted by Joe on 10/10/2008

Thank you for letting me download this. I'm doing a dissertation on the cultural impacts of the Humber Bridge, and this song is very useful to me.

Posted by Patrick on 12/12/2008

This is a wonderful find. I have been looking for ages to find anything about these two guys and their wonderful songs. Very saddened to read about the loss of Christopher.

Now if I could just find a copy of the "Whitby to Scarborough Line", I would be in seventieth heaven, let alone seventh.

Posted by Bodo on 16/12/2008

I remember with great emotion my very first visit to England in October 1972. After being married for one year in our early 20s we went to see the friends of my wife in Bridlington and they had this song which impressed me so much. Tonight I decided to search for it and found it. Our love with England is still going strong and we are looking forward to our next visit to Filey in 2009.

Posted by Vikki on 19/12/2008

I visited Hull last weekend and I remembered my dad having the tape in car when I was a child.

Posted by Len on 06/01/2009

This site brings back memories of my home town, Hull - I now live on the South Coast. I was fortunate to meet Ian and Chris when they published a poem and songbook called "By the Tide of Humber" back in the early-1970s. The book featured one of my own short poems and I am proud to say that it appeared alongside the likes of Philip Larkin, Alan Plater and my old work colleague Howard Clarke.

I remember being out for a few drinks with friends and somehow finished the evening at Chris Rowe's house, can't remember how or why, but Chris and Ian entertained us with a few songs right there in the living room.

I still have a couple of copies of the book stored away in my "memory box" and over Christmas was having a nostalgic read. Sad to see Chris is no longer with us.

Posted by Ian Clark on 17/02/2009

Great to see some interest in the songs Chris Rowe and I put together.

Posted by Helen on 18/02/2009

Hello Ian (Sir!) - I have been in touch with Geoff G. recently and we were discussing Songs from Humberside and how brilliant those songs were. Chris took me once to the Look North studios and I was absolutely amazed by it all. He was such a lovely gentle soul who wouldn't hurt a fly - a gem of a guy. He and Pat were inseparable.

Posted by Joan on 14/01/2010

We had your "Songs of Humberside" for years but when my husband died last September the family couldn't find it. I'd love another copy. I want to thank you Ian for the wonderful memories I have of our family singing the choruses and having a laugh over the words, they were so witty.

My husband was delighted when he found that one of you (and I think it was you) was his English teacher when he went back into Adult Education for a course in English, Accounts and Office Practice, years ago.

My son passed this site onto me, thank you again.

Posted by Michael on 11/03/2009

I wrote the below poem on the day of the 25th Anniversary of the Humber Bridge opening


What cause we have to celebrate this day
For twenty-five years now we've had to pay
To cross this bridge that they have built.
But should not our Government bear the guilt?
For we pay tax to fuel and drive our cars
So is not this tax to cross a tax too far?

A bridge to nowhere from God's own land
Will for the rest of time always stand
As a symbol of our Government's greed
And how they always take no heed
Of those who keep them in such splendid state
So take up your diaries and note well this date.

Michael A. Hellyer

Posted by Sue on 15/12/2009

So pleased to have found this website. I also would love a CD of the "Songs for Humberside" album. Does anyone know if such a thing is available anywhere? Thanks.

Posted by Terry on 18/01/2010

Oh what would I give for a "digital" version of the entire LP?

Just woke from a dream, trying to remember the name of the post war planner who re-designed Hull, and of course, it's mentioned in one of the songs, as the "Abercrombie Plan" where the guys sing about Carr Lane et al. Memory fading now, but remember listening to this back in the 1970s. C'mon, digitise it and re-launch it for us Oldies!

Posted by Blair on 03/02/2010

I'm also interested in tracking down a copy of "Songs from Humberside", "More songs from Humberside", and also "Folk Train".

Posted by Molly on 03/03/2010

Please can we have all your songs on CD or download! I grew up with them and I can still remember all the words. Even my grown up sons know about the man who operates the railway crossing! I was in Hull last weekend for the first time in 20 years and the songs were going through my head all the time. So Ian, if you're out there, make us all happy!!

Posted by Kevin on 13/04/2010

I first heard this song sung by a young woman at Lowestoft folk club in the mid-1980s (the only time I ever heard it) and it's often been in my head since - especially these last two months when I have been to Hull twice for the first time and finally seen the fantastic Humber Bridge. How wonderful to track the song down tonight on this website and hear it again. Very sad to learn of the composer's death; at least he lives on in this and his other songs. I really like Hull by the way, despite the fact my ex-wife lives there!

Posted by Gill on 22/04/2010

I heard this in my early teens and I also can remember the songs "Jaffa Juice Billy" and Victoria who overlooks the toilet! No one in my family believes that this exists and thinks I'm nuts!

Posted by Lindsay on 26/08/2010

So pleased with the YouTube link as I've been trying to find a CD copy of the "Songs for Humberside" to give my parents. Chris Rowe was my second cousin and my parents have always been very proud of his songs. Thanks for the link, it brought back such memories!

Just played the clip down the phone to my mum and dad, Trevor and Frances Rowe and they were thrilled! It doesn't take much to bring a smile to people and the clip has certainly done that today! Thank you!

Posted by Stuart on 14/07/2010

I grew up in Beverley (born 1965) and saw Chris and Ian several times. I recently found their LP and as I still have a turntable gave it a spin. I remembered all the tracks and it really took me back to my childhood. I left Beverley in 1977 but went back a few years ago, via the Humber Bridge. I sang the song to myself as I went over.

Posted by Ian Clark on 29/08/2010

Just revisited the site for the first time for quite a while and I'm delighted to see that there is still interest in our songs. Good to hear the song being used on Radio 4's "In Living Memory" the other day. That reminded me that in 1970, even after the song had been recorded and sung, for about three years we still weren't sure there was going to be a bridge - even four years after Barbara's famous promise! I remember saying I'd believe it only after I'd driven over it. Such a cynic!

Anyway - all the best to you. Happy listening.

Posted by Mezzo on 27/04/2011

I just found your site. It brings back happy memories of my student days. My best friend at uni was an American who had taken her international baccalaureate in England and was going out with a bloke who came from "up north". She brought back a tape with "Songs for Humberside" and I - being German and not very familiar with the regional characteristics of Humberside - tried to figure out what it was all about. I can assure you, I learned a lot. There was a time when I knew all the songs by heart. Great stuff.

Posted by Linda K on 28/04/2011

I am said friend of the former poster. Slight correction, although my then boyfriend was from Hull, I actually taped the album (via microphone - that was high tech in those days) while visiting "Our Chalet", a Guide International Center in Switzerland. The songs were a great hit with all my friends, but the story doesn't end there. When I played it for one of my English friends, she said it had been written and performed by her tutors! I did buy the LP quite a number of years ago and am still waiting for my brother-in-law to transfer it to CD for me! In fact we discussed this just last Sunday. So "Songs for Humberside" live on!

Posted by Hartmut on 19/06/2011

Thank God there are still people who remember Christopher Rowe's and Ian Clark's wonderful songs. They are sure Hull's answer to Flanders and Swann. I got a copy of "Songs for Humberside" so many years ago, and I still enjoy listening to the marvellous stuff. Which betrays my age, I guess…

Posted by Elizabeth on 11/07/2011

Great to find others who love these songs! Got them on vinyl but would love to be able to download them digitally. Wonderful songs I still play very loudly when the family is out! Thank you.

Posted by Ian Clark on 30/12/2011

Decided to pay a last visit to the site this year and saw a number of people looking for digital versions of various songs. I'll do my best to help. In the meantime all the best for 2012. Keep singing!!

Posted by Andrew on 10/01/2012

Can I join the clamour for a digital release for "Songs for Humberside", a nice CD with notes perhaps? Brought up in Hull in the 1960s and 1970s. I now live in Glasgow. It's a long way from there to here. Goole gene pool is great by the way.

Posted by Jill on 03/02/2012

My parents had the "Songs for Humberside" LP when I was a child and we learnt the songs when we were little. I now have a baby who I entertain by singing the songs to her, so in addition to learning nursery rhymes, she's learning about the wonderful city of Hull - Queen Victoria's toilets are guaranteed to raise a giggle from her!

Posted by Claire on 22/03/2012

I spent some very formative years of my youth in Hull. I have all three of the LPs and still play them regularly, they bind me to Hull and are lovely songs in their own right.

Posted by Bob on 21/09/2012

Saw the article on the Humber Bridge in the Guardian and the letter today on Chris and Ian's song. Just played it on YouTube. Many happy memories of Chris with whom I sang in my college days in Manchester.

The Bridge is still the most iconic in the world and there will never be another Chris Rowe.

Posted by Robert on 23/09/2012

Letter in The Guardian yesterday (22/09/2012) points out that there is another song with Goole in the lyrics - Slow Train by Flanders and Swann.

No one departs, no one arrives,
From Selby to Goole,
From St. Erth to St. Ives,
They all passed out of our lives,
On the slow train

That makes Hartmut's comment doubly appropriate (above 19/6/2011).

Posted by Andrew on 26/01/2013

Was discussing Ian and Chris on the Kelvin Hall Facebook group and found this site. If any ex-Kelvin pupils or teachers (Ian!) want to join contact Geoff Gooding on Facebook. Off to the loft now to get the LP down.

Posted by Christopher on 05/03/2013

What an amazing find! By far one of my favourite albums that I still have and play today. Apart from "The Humber Bridge" (obviously) my other favourite song is "The Man Who Put the Halt in Haltemprice" and I still sing that in the car driving around the villages in Malaga!

Thanks for providing the sheet music, chords and lyrics - guess what I'll be playing when I get back home tonight!

Posted by Rob on 11/08/2014

I don't know why I got round to "Googling" this song today after so many years. I am now 57 and when fourteen or fifteen had an RE. Teacher at my school (Henbury Comprehensive in Bristol) by the name of Don Rowe - was he any relation? Anyway, he played guitar and sang us this song, and I have remembered the lyrics of the first verse and chorus with me ever since. Interested to hear the song again - I've downloaded it and will have a listen just now.

Posted by Allan on 11/07/2017

All very interesting… and yes don't we all love the bridge. What I can't find is a recording (or even much reference to) the music commissioned for the opening ceremony of the bridge. It was by Anthony Hedges and was I think entitled "Cantata: Bridge for the Living".

Any info anyone? Thanks.

Posted by Richard on 30/08/2017

As far as I remember the penultimate line of the last verse reads "We could join the Common Market if the French would just say Oui". It was some years before De Gaulle changed his mind and let us in. Nevertheless, I still have my vinyl copy of "Songs for Humberside" and its successor "Out along the East Coast". Happy memories of Hull in the early-1970s.

Posted by Steve on 06/04/2018

I am after the music to The Whitby to Scarborough Line as I now live in Robin Hood's Bay but used to be Vicar of Gilberdyke. I sang the Humber Bridge Song at Bay Folkclub in the 1960s. I was often on the same bill as Rowe and Clarke in the East Riding Folk Clubs.

Posted by Judima on 28/05/2018

I come from Hull and loved these songs, but the LP somehow went astray. I was so pleased to find this site and so many of the songs on YouTube, but am not sure I have them all. How many songs were on both the original LP(s)?

My brother and I amazed our spouses (neither from Hull) by bursting into the chorus of the Humber Bridge song - after nearly 40 years! The song still gives me goose pimples and the bridge is in IMHO the loveliest bridge in the world.

Posted by Bill on 05/06/2018

I agree it is a fabulous bridge. When I'm heading north on two wheels I often take a large detour just so I can ride over it.

Posted by Martin on 21/02/2021

I first heard of this song from my late mother who spent many happy years living in Hull during the 1970s. After getting married she moved to Leicester where I was born and grew up. I have many fond childhood memories of car journeys up to Hull to visit relatives and the feeling of excitement as the spectacular Humber Bridge came into view.

The "Songs for Humberside" are not just a pleasure to listen to but a part of local history that should not be forgotten.

Posted by Robert on 10/06/2021

As author of the "1981" postscript, sent to Stuart many years ago, it's time for an update. Here is my offering:

In two thousand and four, dissent rose up once more,
Motor cyclists said for them it should be free,
They caused such frustrations paying in large denominations,
The queues stretched out as far as one could see,
And so to solve the riddle, they came up with a fiddle,
They reduced the debt, and bikers now go free,
For us it's one pound fifty and ever more will be,
And Goole can disappear under the sea.

Posted by Bill on 10/06/2021

Robert, that's fabulous. Especially for me, as in other posts I have proclaimed my joy at riding my English made motorcycle over this English made bridge!

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