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Sleeve Notes for A Day's Work by The cast of A Day's Work

A Day's WorkThe show tells the story of farm workers moved from the country to the front in the first world war and the death of one of their number shot as a concientious objector.

'A Day's Work' was first written  and performed in 1995. That version of the show was recorded, and released as a cassette, by Wildgoose Records in 1996 (WGS272MC) It was published in 1997 by Lyngham House (ISBN: 0 9528225).


Mick Ryan - Described by Living Tradition magazine as an outstanding singer, songsmith and musical playwright , Mick is one of the most popular performers on the folk scene. He has made numerous albums, receiving excellent reviews (‘truly magnificent’, Taplas  magazine). He is well known as the originator and composer of several popular folk operas. His most recent shows, The Navvy's Wife, and The Pauper’s Path  received wide critical and popular acclaim (‘a triumph',  fRoots  magazine). The development evident in this revival of A Day’s Work shows his mastery of words, music and the spoken word. Mick’s Irish grandfather was an Anzac, and fought at Gallipoli.

Maggie Boyle - Through her singing, continues the music and storytelling tradition passed on by her Irish family. She has accrued an impressive catalogue of live and recorded work. This includes film soundtracks, such as the title track for the movie Patriot Games, and international theatre and folk circuit appearances. Maggie has worked with James Horner, The Chieftains, Bert Jansch, Rambert Dance Company, Incantation, Steve Tilston and John Renbourn. Needless to say, then, that she is a very fine singer indeed, and also plays a mean flute and bodhran.

Heather Bradford - Heather has worked with Mick Ryan’s Folk Show productions in The Navvy’s Wife, The Paupers’ Path, and now A Day’s Work. She sang in the harmony group Hen Party and in a duo with Julian Longden. She is currently a member of the Forest Forge Act Your Age workshop group. Her grandfather volunteered for the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1914 and served throughout the First World War in Gallipoli and France.

Paul Downes - Paul is one of the most respected musicians on the acoustic music scene. He prefers to be known as a singer of songs rather than a guitar technician. He is, nevertheless, a truly consummate musician on the guitar and other stringed instruments. He has worked with a huge ranged of great performers, from Phil Beer to Pete Seeger, and appeared on literally hundreds of albums, including three with Mick Ryan. His recent solo album, The Boatman’s Cure received excellent reviews.

Pete Morton - Pete has been performing on the folk scene for nearly 30 years. An energetic performer and highly acclaimed songwriter, who has toured the world with his unique delivery of talking blues and 'frap'. His most famous song, Another Train, is sung by many. Other anthems such as When We Sing Together, and The Shepherd's Song are also performed up and down the land. His song-writing is also to be found on the recent album by The Voice finalist Sally Barker

Matt Quinn - A fine singer and multi-instrumentalist, Matt plays melodeon, concertina, mandolin, fiddle. He is a 2012 graduate from the Newcastle Folk & Traditional Music Degree. From 2009 to 2013, he was a part of Radio 2 Young Folk Award finalist Dogan Mehmet’s band, and The Boombox Karavan. He is much in demand both as a solo performer and as a member of The Dovetail Trio.

Greg Russell – When he was only 19 years old, Greg, together with his musical partner Ciaran Algar, won the Young Folk Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. The following year, Russell and Algar won the Horoizon Award  from the same source. Now just turned 21, he is a very fine singer who shows a maturity of delivery far beyond his years, and sings with great emotional power. Greg and Ciaran have now made two excellent and very well received albums, and clearly have a great great deal of further success to look forward to.

Maggie Boyle  -  A Mother
Matt Quinn  -  Her Son, a farm labourer. Later a recruit
Mick Ryan  -  A Father
Greg Russell  -  His Son, a farm labourer. Later a ‘conchie’
Pete Morton  -  A Poacher and farm labourer. Later a recruit
Heather Bradford  -  An Irish mother. Her son is in the British Army
Paul Downes  -   A Vicar and An Officer

Track Notes

1 It's All In A Day's Work / Flanders Tommy (Part One)
Mick Ryan

Poem - (Speech: Mick, Pete, Paul) In 1843, the old Duke of Wellington, asked for a typical soldier's name to put on the new Army pay form, thought of his first day in action.

ii) (Lead Vocal - Mick) In 1914, the 'tommies' marched off full of hope.

2 Sons of the Land
Mick Ryan

(Vocals: Mick, Greg, Pete, Matt + All) At the outbreak of war, there were still a lot of people working on the land. This song represents the life they left behind to do a day's work in very different fields.

3 The Land I Love
Mick Ryan

(Solo Vocals: Matt, Greg, Pete) Though many men were straightforwardly, patriotically, enthusiastic about the war, significant minorities had more complex attitudes varying from the cynicism of those who waited to be called up to the idealism of the conscientious objector. The final verse is an attempt to show the love of home which these attitudes shared.

4 Summer Is A-Coming In Again
Mick Ryan

(Vocals: Mick, Greg, Pete, Matt) The men in our story are all members of the same mummers' team. Mummers plays always act out the ancient themes of life, death and resurrection. In our tale, Saint George, played by a soon-to-be conchie, is killed and brought back to life by ‘the doctor’, played by an enthusiast for the war. This has emotional repercussions in Part Two.

5 Come And Be A Soldier
Mick Ryan

(Lead vocal - Mick) The song of an old man, carried away by his own enthusiasm, urging young men to enlist by describing the 'glory' of war. The subversive chorus at the end is sung by a conscientious objector.

6 The Soldier's Rest
Words Mick Ryan Music - James Patterson

(Vocals: Maggie, Greg, Paul, Heather) Based on an old photograph I saw on the wall of a pub. It showed what I imagined to be volunteers receiving buttonholes upon enlistment. This is sung by the conchie, and a mother whose son has enlisted. The image of fallen flowers is an old one, but none the worse for that.

7 Another Harvest (Part One)
Words Mick Ryan Music - Sarah Morgan

(Solo Vocal - Maggie) Sung by the recruit's mother. She lives in fear of a different kind of harvest.

8 The Call
Mick Ryan

(Solo Vocal - Paul. Choruses - Greg + All. Speech Paul, and Greg) There was a great deal of debate in the press about the supposedly Christian idea of the just war. The brief dialogue which occurs between the verses is an exchange between the Vicar and the conchie. It very much reflects the much lengthier clerical debates published at the time.

9 Join the Game
Mick Ryan

(Lead Vocal - Heather. Choruses: Pete, Matt) This reflects the intensive pro-war propaganda used to boost enlistment.

10 Peace
Mick Ryan

(Solo Vocal - Greg) The determined song of the conscientious objector in his prison cell.

11 The Long Farewell
Mick Ryan

(Vocals: Mick, Maggie) Sung by the mother of a recruit, and the father of the conscientious objector.

12 Marching
Words - Mick Ryan, Music Steven Faux

(Lead Vocal - Heather. Choruses: Pete, Matt) This, I hope, is self explanatory.

13 Flanders Tommy (Part Two)
Mick Ryan

(Lead vocal - Greg. Chorus - Maggie) Contrasts the reality of the front with the high expectations of part one.

14 The Night
Mick Ryan

(Lead Vocal - Pete. Harmony Vocal - Matt) At the front, the night, when the imagination is terrified by various noises, was the most frightening time of all.

15 What Men Do
Mick Ryan

(Solo Vocal - Heather) Is the urge to fight wars really in our DNA? One would hope not.

16 Gimme A Blighty
Mick Ryan

(Lead Vocal - Matt. Chorus - Pete) A blighty was a wound bad enough to get you sent home, but not so bad that it would cripple you permanently. After a while, many a man prayed for this.

17 The Estaminet
Music - Steven Faux, words Mick Ryan

(Duet Vocal: Pete and Matt) Immediately before going up to the front, men were given their back pay. Officers urged them to send the bulk of it home. However, there was always the inclination to have one last, possibly final, party. The girls who worked the estaminet were always willing to help in this aim.

18 The Lark Above the Downs
Mick Ryan

(Solo Vocal - Greg) No conscientious objectors were shot for their stand. However, should one weaken under the extreme physical and psychological pressure brought to bear by the authorities and, even for a moment, obey a single military order, then he could be treated as a soldier. Thus, any subsequent refusal to fight would be deemed to be cowardice, and dealt with accordingly. This song, then, is sung by such a 'coward' who has regained his moral courage, refused to fight, and been condemned to execution. It is an expression of love of homeland, in this case the downs, and also of hope.

19 Another Harvest (Part Two)
Music – Sarah Morgan, words Mick Ryan

(Duet Vocal - Mick and Maggie) The soldier's mother is joined by the father of the 'conchie' for this. The mother was against the war. The father was for it. They are united in their loss.

20 Home Lads Home
Words - Cecilly Fox-Smith, Music - Sarah Morgan

(Vocals - All) Set by Sarah Morgan, these words have now been slightly adapted to fit our particular tale.

21 Land Fit For Heroes
Mick Ryan

(Solo Vocal - Maggie. Chorus - Greg) That's what was promised.

22 A Day's Work
Mick Ryan

(Vocals - All) When I first wrote this show, back in 1995, I read the Duke of Wellington story, which is a prefix to Lyn Macdonald's book, 'Somme'. It gave me the basis for the title, a title song, and the opening poem.

23 Christmas In Nomansland
Mick Ryan

(Solo Vocal - Mick. Choruses - All) The story of the show takes us from the village, at Christmas 1914, to the first day of The Battle of the Somme, July 1916. So, though the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, when men of all sides met and fraternised in Nomansland, was a tempting tale to tell, it could not be included in the show as such. We therefore offer this free standing song as a sort of emotional coda.