Ode to Wig

Dave Irwin at Rose Cottage Dig 25SEP06
Dave Irwin at
Rose Cottage Dig
25th September 2006

Peter {Snab} MacNab composed this song and performed it at Dave Irwin's 70th birthday celebrations. After Dave had died, it was sung again by Snab and a motley choir at Dave's wake on April 13th 2007, when this recording was made. At the wake, Snab sang an additional verse, which is included in this recording. For those who might be a bit vague about the subtle but obscure references and puns in the Ode, either because of youth or old age or some other such serious affliction, I offer the following titbits of information:-

  • Dave conducted what seemed an interminable survey of St Cuthbert's Swallet, culminating in the publication of the St Cuthbert's Swallet report in 1991, (copies of the report are still available from the BEC).
  • Dave was an ardent collector of postcards. Packed in shoe boxes and carefully indexed they covered the whole of a bedroom wall.
  • The postcard collection was as nothing to his collection of vinyl LPs and somewhat less imposingly, racks of CDs
  • Dave collaborated with Tony Knibbs to produce the first edition of 'Mendip Underground'
  • Finally, Irwin -> Earwig -> Wig.

An ode to Wig. 
To the tune of Brighton Camp, an 18th Century melody,
Commonly known as "The Girl I left behind Me."
Words by Snab.

Some men win fame and great acclaim, like Brunel or Charles Darwin,
And their names grow big, for example Wig was once just plain Dave Irwin
Then he said one day, having lost his way, "I'm off to the cavers' purvey.
I'll get all the gear, my aim is clear, I'll do the Cuthbert's survey."

So with compass, clino and with tape, as far as I remember,
He mapped the underground landscape, from Whitsun to September.
For years and years and years and years, every crack and squeeze and streamway
And potential dig was checked by Wig, while doing the Cuthbert's survey.

Now, for months on end, he would descend, to check, recheck or discard.
Until some friends, driven round the bend, would communicate by postcard.
He made an inventory of them, till he got one from Chris Harvey
Saying "This is Zot, Have you lost the plot? Have you finished the Cuthbert's survey?"

A curse did smite this Belfryite, he just had to list each item,
So locating nibs he began to write Mendip Underground despite 'em.
The postcards then came flooding in, from Mulu, France and Torbay
With queries from the Hunters' Inn, "Have you finished the Cuthbert's survey?"

The contents of his house did grow, he was trapped by books and postcards
But was rescued by the M.R.O. with the help of the Local Coastguards
The same age as the B.E.C, they blamed his failing mem'ry
As they pulled him out, he was heard to shout "I've lost the Cuthbert's survey!"

They searched Wig's house all through that day, round Mendelssohn and Schubert,
While Swildon's just got in the way, there was no sign of St Cuthbert's
Then a smile appeared across Wig's face, and they cheered as he said "Don't worry,
It's down at Tony Jarratt's place. I've finished the Cuthbert's survey!" 

At the Wig-Wake, one final verse was sung solo by Snab

Now his surveying is over
Cavers need not go astray
Beneath the muddy hills of Mendip
Wig will help them find their way


  1. Many thanks to Pete {Snab} MacNab for permission to use his material.
  2. This page should have appeared long ago, but I lost the recording and have only just (Sep 2011) found it.

Created: Thu Sep 8 20:59:38 2011