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This song has been going through my head for the last week or two, but I only knew the chorus and first verse. I first heard it at Ad Astra the other year, when Charles DeLint sang it at the lovely concert he gave.

In days gone by when the world was much younger,
Men harnessed the wind to work for Mankind.
Seamen built tall ships to sail o'er the oceans.
Landsmen built windmills the corn for to grind.

And around and around and around went the big sails,
Turning the shafts and the great wooden wheel.
Creaking and groaning, the millstones kept turning,
Grinding to flour the good corn of the field.

Through Flanders and Spain and the lowlands of Holland,
Through the Kingdoms of England and Scotland and Wales,
Windmills grew up all along the wild coastline
Ships of the land with their high canvas sails.


In Lancashire lads worked hard with the good earth,
Plowing and sowing as the seasons declared,
Hoping to reap of the rich golden harvest,
While the miller he idled his mill to repair.


Windmills of old wood blackened by weather,
Windmills of stone blaring white in the sun,
Windmills like giants ready for tilting,
Windmills that have died in the gails and are gone.


I copied the lyrics from this website, but edited it for spelling errors for punctuation.

Based on more website scavenging, it seems that the McCalmans have sung and recorded it (Wonderful group!) Most of the sites give Alan Bell credit for the lyrics. The first site however, believes it's at least from the 1750s. Not knowing any better, I'll reserve judgement. My father, however, quite rightly points out that between the sentimentality and the Don Quixote references, odds are good that this is a twentieth-century composition. From that evidence, it looks as if Alan Bell should indeed receive credit for this song's composition.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 20th, 2004 12:54 pm (UTC)
Hey, there found this blog on a web search for this song, so I thought I'd contribute a little more info....

I just got back from St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada where I heard this song performed by a great Irish/Traditional band called the Irish Descendants. The song was fantastic, and after speaking with the band found out that they had gotten it from a recording by Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem called "Bread and Fishes", circa 1970ish. I managed to jot down the guitar chords they were using and grabbed the lyrics from here. Fabulous song!


Dray Prescot
Nov. 11th, 2006 04:16 am (UTC)
Re: Windmills
Do you still have the chords for this tune, and can you pass them along please?
Thanks, and cheers!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )