They had 'er last supper the day of the beaching
She's a dead ship sailin', skeleton crew
The galley is empty, the stove pots are cloolin'
With what's left of the stew?

The time is approachin', the captain moves over
The hangman steps in to do what he's paid for
With the wind and the tide she goes proud ahead, steamin'
And he drives 'er hard into the shore

So far from the Clyde
Together we'd ride, we did ride

As if to a wave from her bows to her rudder
Bravely she rises to meet with the land
Under their feet, they all feel her keel shudder
The shallow sea washes their hands

Later the captain shakes hands with the hangman
He climbs slowly down to the oily wet ground
Goes back to the car that has come here to take him
Through the graveyard and back to the town

So far from the Clyde
Together we'd ride, we did ride

They pull out her cables and hack off her hatches
Too poor to be wasteful with pity or time
They swarm on her carcass with torches and axes
Like a whale on the bloody shoreline

Stripped off her pillars her stays and her stanchions
When there's only her bones on the wet poison land
Steel ropes will drag her with winches and engines
'Til there's only a stain on the sand

So far from the Clyde
Together we'd ride, we did ride
So far from the Clyde
Together we'd ride, we did ride


Lyrics submitted by DogSwede, edited by kennakr, nsorens, gtrman423

So Far From the Clyde song meanings
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18 Comments

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  • +4
    General Comment

    Yes, it is a gorgeous song, but no, as is evident from the lyrics, it isn’t about piracy, but rather economics and recycling. And loss. The overriding theme of “Get Lucky”, itinerancy, doesn’t only apply to people. To quote MK’s liner notes: “Glasgow and Newcastle were shipbuilding towns and world famous for engineering excellence. As a child, I’d lie in bed and listen to the foghorns. A breaking yard in India is a long way for a beautiful Clyde-built ship to go to die."

    60 Minutes did a piece on this dangerous and desperate - as well as polluting - aspect of the world economy; here’s another - youtube.com/watch

    Retrogradeon October 04, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Very beautiful song, and it remembers me of "Brothers in Arms" as a melodic style and guitar effects, the gibson is the same I think in both songs :)

    Great job Mark !

    flaon October 10, 2009   Link
  • +2
    Lyric Correction

    Brilliant song, but there are a lot of mistakes in the lyrics above.

    They had a last supper the day of the beaching, She's a dead ship sailing, skeleton crew. The galley is empty, the stove pots are cooling What's left of the stew.

    The time is approaching - the captain moves over. The hang man steps in to do what he's paid for. With the wind and the tide, she goes proud ahead steaming. And he drives her hard into the shore.

    So far from the Clyde Together we ride... we did ride.

    As if to a wave from her bows to her rudder, Bravely she rises to meet with the land. Under their feet they all feel her keel shudder; The shallow sea washes her (?) hands.

    Later, the captain shakes hands with the hangman And climbs slowly down to the oily wet ground, Goes 'bout to the car that has come here to take him Through the graveyard and back to the town

    So far from the Clyde Together we ride... we did ride.

    They pull out her cables and hack off her hatches. Too poor to be wasteful with pity or time, They swarm on her carcass with torches and axes Like a whale on the bloody shore line. Stripped of her pillars, her stays and her stanchions, When there's only her bones on the wet poison land Steel ropes will drag her with winches and engines Till there's only a stain on the sand.

    So far from the Clyde Together we ride... we did ride. So far from the Clyde Together we ride... we did ride...

    hencinion December 02, 2011   Link
  • +2
    Link(s)

    Some of the phrasing, especially in the first stanza, seems to be derived from this 60 Minutes segment, released three years earlier:

    cbsnews.com/news/the-ship-breakers-of-bangladesh/

    The pots cooling, the "dead ship sailing", "skeleton crew", the captain moves over, the wind and the tide.

    charliehamuon November 11, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I've been trying to understand the story. What does the hangman do? What happens to the crew aboard the ship? Also, does it remind anyone else of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald? (There is the obvious ship theme but also the tone and the melancholy feel.)

    haxorchickon January 10, 2011   Link
  • 0
    Song Meaning

    along the shores of the Indian ocean, near India and Bangladesh, what i suppose you could call 'pirates' will force large ships towards the coast during high tide and they become lodged in the sand "Like a whale on the bloody shoreline" they then murder the crew, and steal the metal of the ship to be sold as scrap.

    Great song...

    "...Too poor to be wasteful with pity or time..."

    kb1ibhon September 30, 2009   Link
  • 0
    Lyric Correction

    Can't edit my post above, but it sounds like "The shallow sea washes her hands" should be definitely be "their". Makes more sense that way, anyway... : )

    hencinion December 02, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation

    I think Knopfler is singing about the larger decline of the Shipbuilding in Clyde, the loss of an old traditional way, through the prism of a single ship as it goes to the ship breakers at a far off shipbreaking yard.

    As the ship rides its last ride, the people aboard reminisce about the life of the ship, born in the shipbuilding yards on the River Clyde (in Glasgow), which is the setting for many songs in this album. They remember the long voyages far from the hometown ('So far from the Clyde, together we did ride'), as the ship seems to bravely walk the long walk as it approaches the shallows (keel shudders as it hits the bottom, sea spray when the draught is low wets the hands of the crew standing on edge of the the deck). Once the ship is beached, the crew leave forever, and the ship is dead, to be broken up by the vultures armed with hacksaws and torches.

    There are three symbolic 'deaths' here - the ship is being broken, the crew is already gone ('She's a dead ship sailing skeleton crew'), and by the middle of the song, the captain is also no longer a seafaring man ('Goes 'bout to the car that has come here to take him... through the graveyard...'), and in a sense, a larger death of the shipbuilding industry (the refrain).

    Comparisons to death abound - graveyard, bones, carcass, and to the 'swarms' of workmen too poor to spare a thought for the dead ship (like vultures stripping a dead carcass), till theres nothing left.

    The hangman I think is the tug boat skipper, who ropes and guides the ship on her last journey to the beach. In a sense, the skipper of the tug drags the ship to her death with a rope, much like a real hangman would.

    Knopfler is one of the greatest story-telling songwriters ever, and this song proves that the magic of 'Telegraph Road', 'Tunnel of Love', 'Love over Gold' and his other masterpieces haven't died.

    This song seems a lyrical companion to 'Brothers in Arms' and 'Telegraph Road', in terms of its melancholy, bemoaning of loss and also musical structure (slow guitar solo, subdued vocals with rich musical overlay and a melancholic guitar solo at the end). There does also seem to be a thematic kinship with 'Industrial Disease'.

    Knopfler builds layers over simple lyrics to create a larger tale - Telegraph Road for instance, telling the story of a larger decline of a city as well as a single persons view of it. Or Brothers in Arms, which told a larger story of the futility of conflict through the eyes of a dying soldier. Knopflers lyrics can be transposed to the larger story.

    In this case, with the celtic instrumental backing, the heavy piano backing, plaintive flutes and the wailing guitar that rises up and down like the waves, the music is as much part of the lyrics as the words are. As are the pauses (Knopfler, like Van Morrison, Harry Chapin, Pink Floyd or Ray Charles is an expert at using pauses and silence to add meaning to the song). The plaintive Celtic tunes seem to mourn the loss of something old and traditional, through the death of a single ship.

    skidprion December 07, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Nobody does a dirge like a Scot except maybe a Jewish Scot! This is one of my favorite of MK's zillions of songs. Always makes me cry. The lyrics as shown above are not accurate, but I notice someone's already addressed that and provided correct lyrics..

    PSKITTYon June 22, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretation

    This song isnt about any ship, well, Im no particular religious but from what I understand the ship in this som is Jesus, and the day of the beeching is the day of the crucifictioning ?? of Jesus. And the song describes the "process" and what is left of Jesus afterwards.

    Hansinon July 13, 2014   Link

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