Author: Ewan McColl
The good ship Granma lies at anchor in the harbour
Waiting for the evening tide to rise and bring high water.
Bound for Cuba she must go across the Gulf of
Mexico and The Caribbean Ocean
She’s carrying a human cargo 83 good companeros
Each one burning with determination to be free
Against Batista, The Fidelistas, courage was their armour As they fought at Fidel’s side with Che Guevara.
Five days out from Mexico these Companeros
Landed on the Cuban beach Los Colarados
Fidel said this year will see our country and our people free Or else we will be martyrs
We’ve only guns enough for 20 the enemy has arms a plenty
Meet him and defeat him and he’ll keep us well supplied
Five weeks later in the Canyon De La Rio
Fidels army was reduced to 18 Companeros
Hungry, weak and unafraid, learning revolutions trade in the high Sierra Maestre
Where the mountain winds did blow bearing seeds to sprout and sow
New crops in Cuban soil that marked the death of slavery
Companeros, tu valaderos (Please correct if wrong – cm)
Courage was their armour as they fought at Fidel’s side with Che Guevara
They made their way across the peak of El Torquino
Joined by bands of volunteers and the men from Santiago
They faced Batista’s tanks and trains,drove them back across the plains,from the high Sierra Maestre
They drove the gangsters from Los Vios straight across the Cordileros
Santa Barbra fell to Che Guevara and was free.
The fire lit on that Cuban beach by Fidel Castro
Still shines all the way to Terra del Fuego
Sparks are blown upon the breeze, people rise from off their knees when they see the night is burning.
It blazes up in Venezuela, Bolivia and Guatamala
Lights the road that we must go in order to be free…..
In 1967 I travelled with the late Bob Cooney to Lincolnshire. Bob was a Brigidista from Aberdeen. We stayed in the home of Tom and June Fahy in the village of Healing. Whilst there we visited the Folk Club in Grimsby where McColl and Seeger were doing a turn. That night I heard this song for the first time. The title was “The Good Ship Granma”. When I came to sing it 35 years later I changed the title and the opening line. I decided to start the song with the line
“Fidel and Che Guevara lay on a ship at anchor in the harbour”
the original line
“The Good Ship Granma lies at anchor in the harbour”
McColl sang this song to an audience who would have known exactly to what his first line referred, I decided to open the song with a more precise reference. A fierce liberty no doubt – but no complaints yet.
I use spellings for place names in this song that must be inaccurate and, in some cases, utterly wrong. I would appreciate any corrections you can offer.
To return to Bob Cooney, he used to sing a song he wrote called “Windy Edinburgh Town” which was about James Connolly being born there. I would love to have it. Bob was a good friend and used to sing regularly at Michael Hipkiss’s club in Birmingham which ran on Sunday nights in a pub called “The Old Contemptible”