Big River: The Tyne – Then and Now

Who remembers the song ‘Big River’ by Jimmy Nail?

A great song about the river Tyne that was released in 1995. The song was sung by Jimmy Nail and some of the guitar work was provided by Mark Knopfler.

We recently came across this video on YouTube which has some great old footage related to Newcastle and the river Tyne together with the song ‘Big River’ playing over it.

Wikipedia describes ‘Big River’ as ‘an elegy to the days when shipbuilding and industry in general were at their height in Newcastle and laments the later decline of the industry and therefore the decline of the importance and activity of the Tyne itself. However, in the last chorus, the song takes a more hopeful turn, declaring that, “the river will rise again”.’

It’s a very powerful song and we think the footage shown in the video goes together with it very well.



Take a look and check out the lyrics below the video…

If you would like to learn more about the history of the river Tyne, we recommend the following book:

‘Big River’ by Jimmy Nail lyrics –

Walking on cobbled stones
Little bits of skin and bone
Jumping on a tram car for a ride

I can remember then
‘Cause I was a just a boy of ten
Hanging around the old Quayside

Now all the capstans and the cargo boats
And Stevedores are gone
To where all the old ships go
But memories, just like the sea live on

‘Cause that was when coal was King
The river was a living thing
And I was just a boy but it was mine
The coal Tyne

For this was a big river
I want you all to know
That I was proud

This was a big river
But that was long ago
That’s not now
That’s not now

My father was a working man
He earned our living with his hands
He had to cross the river every day

He picked up a Union card
Out of the Neptune yard
Mouths to feed and bills to pay

There came a time for him to sail
Across the sea and far away
And finally when that war was won
You brought him home and home he stayed

And when his days were done
Under a golden sun
You took him back to where he longed to be
Back to the sea

For this was a big river
I want you all to know
That I was proud

This was a big river
But that was long ago
That’s not now
That’s not now

That’s not now

The Neptune was the last to go
I heard it on my radio
And then they played
The latest number one

But what do they do all day
And what are they supposed to say
What does a father tell his son?

If you believe that there’s a bond
Between our future and our past
Try to hold on to what we have
We build them strong, we built to last

‘Cause this is a mighty town
Build upon a solid ground
And everything they’ve tried so hard to kill
We will rebuild

For this is a big river
I want you all to know
I’m so very proud

This is a big river
But that was long ago
That’s not now

And this is a big, big river
And in my heart I know
It will rise again
The river will rise again



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