Leather And Last

(Mike Sparks)

I'd always planned to work with my hands
With indentures my life's lot was cast
And to Holborn I went where it was my intent
To learn of the leather and last
So for most of each day for next to no pay
I worked 'til my fingers were aching
But I did my best, I passed the test
And my futures to be with shoemaking

But after that war there were cobblers galore
Giving ex-Tommies a trade
With a family planned and no money in hand
I just couldn't get underway
So I worked in a foundry and served in a shop
Then I went driving a tram
But in my kitchen at night under mantled gaslight
I practised my trade as I planned

But injury came and I was left lame
I had to give up my day job
And as fate had decreed I'd a family to feed
I took my front room as a shop
But my wages were halved and we damn nearly starved
But my missus scrubbed floors to buy leather
And with each new repair folk found I'd been fair
And we started to put things together

For young men in sharp suits I made soft leather boots
I shod clogs for girls from the brewery
And when children were hard on their boots in the yard
I'd fix them so dad didn't see
When poverty struck and folk went down on their luck
They forget what they'd left for repairing
And they'd leave them with me and I'd want for my fee
'Til they'd worn out the ones they were wearing

Fixing uppers and welts you don't know how I felt
Working the trade I'd been taught
So me soles looked alright, stitched neat, shining bright
We'd scrape down the leather we'd bought
And for a finish real fine I'd wax my own twine
Or sometimes I'd use a pigs bristle
And as part of the deal I'd blackball each heel
For a finish as clean as a whistle

Despite all my fears for thirty more years
I bent on the last in my shop
And with regular trade, repairs or hand made
I thank God that the work didn't stop
But now my eyesight has gone so I can't carry on
But what's stayed with me down from the past
With that sweet leather smell is a pride when I tell you
My trade was with leather and last

1992 Mike Sparks

This song appears on the CD 'Going Round Again'