Bay tragedy is set in song

A MOVING song about the Morecambe Bay cockling tragedy features on a new album from some of Lancashire's finest folk musicians.

On Morecambe Bay by Kevin Littlewood is the stand out track on the first ever CD by members of the Bothy Folk Club in Southport.

Kevin, a professional writer and historian, and a regular performer at the club which dates back to the early Sixties, was moved to write about the tragedy when at least 21 Chinese cockle pickers lost their lives in the Bay in 2004.

He said: "When I heard about the tragedy, it struck a personal chord. It was something that was drilled in to me from a very early age. My mother was always telling me that there was 'the devil of a tide' there.

"The fact that they used their mobile phones to phone home as they were cut off by the tide also shows how close we have all become in our world.

"I wrote the song in solidarity with all those who live and work along this coast."

Kevin said he had a positive reaction whenever he performed the song and it was clear that so many people had been touched by the tragedy.

The Bothy Folk Song Club CD, Residents' Lounge, is on sale at just 5. Order online at

Here are the lyrics in full.

On Morecambe Bay

OUT beyond the street lamp's empire

And the calliope's road,

Beyond the thrift, the wrack, the samphire,

Where the sea betrays the shore,

I have seen them in the tide's wake,

As the rain cuts through the spray,

Figures on the edge of daybreak,

Walking out on Morecambe Bay.


For the tide's the very devil,

It can run you out of breath,

It can race you on the level,

It can chase you to your death.

Yes the tide's the very devil,

And the devil has his day,

On the weary cockle grounds of

Morecambe Bay.

Here's the very life to die for,

Here's a life not as it seems,

Sleeping on a foreign floor,

Five to a room no space for dreams.

Tempted by the urge to travel,

Strangers in a stranger land,

Now they dig in sand and gravel,

Plastic bags gripped in their hands.


Letters home with money orders,

See how much we earned today,

Tales of crossing Europe's borders,

So we came to Morecambe Bay.

This is where the cockles sleep,

In their beds so soft and sound,

This is where our watch we keep,

On these weary cockle grounds.


I have met them in the markets,

Brushed their arms in grocery queues,

I should have pulled them by the jacket,

Should have told them what I knew.

Told them what my mother told me,

As we paddled in the waves,

Never try and race the tide

Across the sands of Morecambe Bay.


Now I see them in the distance,

Laid out in the dawn's hard light,

Helpless in the sea's persistence,

Twenty-three drowned in one night.

Up above the skies so clear,

Their phone calls half the world had crossed,

"Between the Rivers Kent and Keer,

We have raced the tide and lost".


In Fujian, Xelang, Baihu,

Where they mourn their kith and kin,

Where the men with snake tattoos,

Rack up the debts and call them in;

Parents stand, their arms flung wide,

As their children walk away,

Heading out to race the tide,

Across some foreign bay.

Copyright Kevin Littlewood.