John Harrison's Hands

Words : Brian McNeill / Music : Dick Gaughan

Cold falls the night,
Cold rolls the ocean
And colder blows the breath of fate
That sends the roaring gale.
The stars give their light
For duty or devotion,
But a sailor's heart needs more than prayer
When eye and compass fail
And more than hope to guide his lonely sail.

By sea and land John Harrison's hands
Made sure for ever more
That sailors could find longitude
To bring them safe ashore.

Your work was long,
Your days were driven.
You knew that you could build a clock
To marry space and time.
But your one great wrong
Was never forgiven -
For to be better than your betters
Was worse than any crime,
And their envy was a hill you would not climb.

By sea and land John Harrison's hands
Made sure for ever more
That sailors could find longitude
To bring them safe ashore.

And the prize of thirty thousand pounds
Was more than just a prize.
It was dignity and justice
Over bitterness and lies -
And the longer they denied you,
Attacked you and decried you,
The more you saw the weakness in their eyes.

How many lives,
How many talents,
Were tainted by the poisoned well
Of power from which they drank?
But the wind that drives
The bold topgallants
Was harnessed by a man with
Neither privilege nor rank,
And the sailor lads, they knew and gave their thanks.


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