‘The Quaire Fellow’ by Silvery (from the album ‘Railway Architecture’, released in 2010 on Blow Up Records)
I thought it necessary to make a little note about what the ‘Quaire Fellow’ is. There seems to be no reference to it with this spelling on line, indeed the only time I’ve seen this name was in ‘A London Compendium’ by Ed Glinert – a great starting point for investigating the capital quirks and burps.
What happened, right, was this. In the 1960s, during construction work on the Victoria Line at Vauxhall (named after the Hall of Falkes de Breauté, the head of King John’s mercenaries), workmen unwittingly dug into one of London’s many lost Plague Pits – vast subterrenean pockets of corpses of the victims of the Black Death. They witnessed much odd phenomena as they cut through the stale human jam, including a visit by an 8 foot tall ghostly spectre, which they named ‘The Quaire Fellow’. Of course, in the Silvery song, the action is not specifically set in the 1960s, rather the ever alluded to murky Victorian smog at the birth of the age of railways. I always figured ‘Quaire’ to be old Irish navvie slang for queer – as in ‘odd’. Some research reveals that the nearest related words to it appear to be ‘quare’, which is Irish slang meaning ‘very’, and ‘quaire wan’, meaning ‘wife’ – both making little sense in this context, although there is Brendan Behan’s unrelated play entitled ‘The Quare Fellow’. The plot thickens! Anyway, with all that in mind, the lyrics should make sense. I know that it’s disappointing when your favourite bands say that one of their really shit songs is their personal favourite of their own work – but I raise my hand for ‘The Quaire Fellow’ being mine.
Well, top 10.
I am proud to say I have a demo recorded by an early line up of the band made in the flats that back onto the railway at Vauxhall. – a wonderful session called ‘From The Albert Embankment’. I like to think you’ll have to wait for the 10th Anniversary ‘Railway Architecture’ 2 CD reissue to hear that one.
Epilogue: Whilst we’re talking about Vauxhall, this is a good place for one of my favorite facts about London. Way back, Vauxhall was the original terminus of the Southern Region before the line was extended into Waterloo. Some representatives from the then fledgling Russian railways came to inspect the line and took the name Vauxhall to literally mean ‘railway station’. Hence the Russian word for railway station is ‘Vokzal’. Wonderful, isn’t it? Needless to say, the times we played in Russia, it’s all I’d talk about.