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Maggie May

Cover to Original London Cast Recording A musical in two acts. Music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, book by Alun Owen Adelphi Theatre, London - September 22, 1964 (501 perfs)


This hard-hitting story of life in Liverpool's dock-land centres on Patrick Casey, son of the legendary union-martyr, initially reluctant but finally proud, to assume his father's mantle, and Maggie May Duffy, young and vibrant, who abandons 'the game' for Casey, only to believe she has lost him to his union dreams. Around them is a gallery of strongly-drawn characters: Willie Morgan, the corrupt demagogue, Cogger the 'fixer' and traitor, Old Dooley, remembering past union struggles, Norah the toadying publican, all caught up in a fast-moving drama with a tragic climax, and filled with the strong, earthy songs for which Lionel Bart is renowned.


Act I

The tale of Maggie May is set in Liverpool, that part of Britain where, dirtily and noisily, England meets Ireland alongside the docks that border the Irish sea and the folks speak a dialect that is 'part Irish, part Welsh and part catarrh'. It was in Liverpool that Margaret Mary Duffy was born and grew up and made special friends with little Patrick Casey, and life in the streets and in the docks went on its usual way until the day that Patrick's father was killed.

Joe Casey was a natural born leader. Or a natural born rabble-rouser, depending on which way you want to look at it. He was a professional striker and street orator and he got the death and a bit of the glory he always wanted when he was trampled to death by police horses while haranguing his fellow dockers into violent action against their employers. It was Margaret Mary's birthday that day, but she had no Patrick Casey to share it with her. He was dragged off by his mother to make a show over his father's death, and Margaret Mary was left with only her doll for birthday company.

Twenty years have passed and Mary Margaret Duffy, nowadays better known as Maggie May, is a whore on the Liverpool Docks. She's grown into a fine woman and she's been a whore, and a right popular one, all of her working life. She calls all her customers Casey as she waits for the one real Casey to come back out of the blue yonder. For Patrick Casey didn't follow his father on to the docks. He went and joined the navy and sailed away from Liverpool and from the shadow of his father's life and death. Twenty years after his 'martyrdom' Joe Casey is remembered only by the older men on the docks, but the Union is still an inbred part of the lives of the men who work the shipyards and there are plenty of younger belligerents to carry on nature's war against the employer, whether through genuine conviction or personal ambition.

Old Dooley is one of the straightforward ones. The Union book is the book by which he runs his life and he has no time for the youngsters, like his own son Eric, who take it with a pinch of salt until it suits them. Not all the young people are careless of the Union, however. Cogger Johnson is deeply into Union business, but he is not a Union man of the old school like Dooley: he's in there for his own gain, for his own importance, as much as for the Natural Struggle. He remembers the story of Joe Casey all right, but with different emotions to those that Dooley feels. To Dooley, Joe Casey was indeed a martyr who died for his cause, but this attitude wins largely scorn from the young men of the 1960s to whom the labour struggles of the past mean little or nothing.

It is Cogger Johnson who brings Patrick Casey in to work on the docks. Dismissed from the navy, Casey is back in Liverpool and in need of a job, and what could be more natural than that Joe Casey's son should step in to his father's profession. Down on the docks, he soon runs into his old friend Maggie May. He doesn't seem at all taken aback when she tells him that she's on the game, and they arrange to go out to Norah Mulqueen's pub together that night. Maggie May is truly happy. The man she loves is back; now she has to make him love her as she loves him.

Down on the docks Gang Three is unloading a ship  while Cogger, their chief, is pulling a fix with another gang for a job swap which will give his gang the easy jobs and the others the opportunity to do some practised stealing from the cargo. It's all fair robbery in the Natural Struggle. Cogger, in pursuit of a bit of reflected glory, is also harassing Casey about the Union. He ought to take an active part, like his father. Casey has straightforward feelings, strong ones too, over things like injustice, but he has no intention of being a leader nor, particularly, anything like his father.

It takes an accident to bring him out of his self-appointed silence. A crate is dropped from a crane, crushing a dock worker to death. It is not their mate's death, however, which rouses Casey's anger: it is the contents of the smashed crate. They have been loading guns on a phoney manifest. Guns for South America where, as Casey knows from his navy days, they will be used by the military to put down strikes and shoot down striking workers. He is walking off the job. Cogger is livid with him. This accident is something that the Union can flex its muscles over: if Casey won't do anything he will. He is going to run straight to Willie Morgan, the Union boss, and get him to take some action.

Willie Morgan has just been on an all-expenses-paid trip to Rome in an abortive attempt to see the Pope  and his reaction to the death of Georgie MacDowell is suitably sonorous and cliched as he puts on his chummy I'm-one-of-the-boys act for the benefit of the dockers. Casey has no time for him. He remembers Willie from years back, running along in Joe Casey's shadow picking about for a bit of glory and, before long, it becomes obvious to him that Willie knew all about the guns and the faked manifest. Willie is a practical man: the nature of the cargo isn't his problem as long as there's cargo to load. He can also see that young Casey will be trouble, not to mention a rival for his own nicely feather-bedded position, and he resolves to fix him. When Maggie May comes to join Casey for a drink, Morgan causes a scene with the landlady, accusing her of harbouring prostitutes and threatening to withdraw his classy custom. Casey stands up to Morgan. Maggie May's a better woman by far than the simpering little bit of crumpet clinging to Morgan's arms and she has plenty of friends on the docks and in the pub who are pleased to walk out of Norah Mulqueen's place and leave Morgan and his cronies to themselves.

Casey doesn't want trouble. Too often trouble has found him without his seeking it. He hasn't any admiration for his father and what he did: he knows him as a mug and a loser who achieved nothing but a stupid death. He just wants a quiet life with a clean nose and a pint. He's got good mates and he's got Maggie May who's willing to give up the game for him and who dreams of a happy life. But on the day of Georgie's funeral the news comes that there are fifteen lorry loads of guns lining up to be loaded. All Georgie's Protestant friends are at the funeral: it'll be double time for Gang Three. And Willie Morgan's fixed it so that Casey doesn't have to load; he's been promoted to checker.

Casey will not accept this subterfuge and, triumphantly, the boss ganger orders him to collect his cards for refusing to work. Casey agrees to go, but he is made an unwilling martyr when the rest of the gang, for motives ranging, from misguided friendship to solidarity in the cause of the Natural Struggle, announce that if he goes they will follow him off the job. Cogger immediately stirs up the other gangs. Casey's being sacked for refusing to load a blacked cargo. Joe Casey's son is being victimised and Willie Morgan is letting them bring in the troops to load the ships if the dockers refuse.

Cogger is whipping up a walk-out and he's going to put Casey up as its figurehead. Maggie May tries to stop him, but Cogger crudely puts her down in front of the dockers and forces the situation to a point where Casey is lifted shoulder high and carried off, leaving Maggie May bitterly to rue his weakness and the unlikelihood of their ever finding that 'Land of Promises'.

Act 2

In a -Liverpool club, the folks are 'Carryin' On'. Maggie May is there, a quieter, more soberly dressed Maggie May, with bitter words for Casey's `friends' and a hard rebuff for Willie Morgan who is still at his fixing ways. The strike is on and biting. The milkman  can only sell half-pints as the women's purse strings draw tighter and the men try to rouse up a mass rally.
Maggie May and her friend Maureen have no time for it all. The men have got their priorities wrong. There are more important and more natural things than the Natural Struggle, and as for the Union, 'There's Only One Union' that counts and thats the union between man and woman. Casey gets the message. Maggie May is his friend, it's all probability that she'll be his lover before long, but in the meanwhile he won't listen to her angry pleas that all he is doing is putting himself up to be hurt  as their lives begin to run away from them.

At the march, Casey speaks fluently in defence of his actions and the strike. It is not a case of more money; he and his mates simply will not load a cargo which is going to the other side of the world to oppress men like themselves. But when it is Willie Morgan's turn to speak he takes a practised angle, wooing the men with the money to be earned and mocking Casey's far-away fairy stories, encouraging the impoverished dockers to think of themselves and their families with chauvinistic skill. Before he is finished, much of the spirit has gone from many of the strikers and the glint is gone from the rebellion.

Willie Morgan wants more from Casey than his hide. He wants to complete the man's humiliation by taking Maggie May from him. From anger at Casey, the frustrated girl agrees to go out with the boss to New Brighton where he tries to convince her that 'The World's a Lovely Place' as he gropes her grossly. But Maggie May knows that she cannot go through with this whatever happens, she loves her Casey, she always has and she always will.

Casey is spending the same time drowning his sorrows and trying to drown the memory and the spirit of his father and everything connected with him. He wants nothing more to do with the Union and with Cogger. He doesn't want to be a hero or a figurehead, he just wants to have peace and quiet and a job and Maggie May. Maggie May finds him wandering about in a boozy stupor and takes him home with her  watched by the bitter Cogger.

Cogger blames Casey for fumbling his luck, for ruining Cogger's go for glory with 'his' strike. He hates Casey for having the charisma and confidence which he will never have, and he is jealous of the evident love the man has from Maggie May whom he bitterly qualifies as a 'dirty whore'. The other Gang Three members, without Cogger's personal reasons for jealousy, stick up for Casey. Everyone is different and Casey has a right to live as he wants and not as Cogger and any others might wish him to.

In the morning, Casey wakes up in Maggie May's bed and real love finally gets around to them. Casey is determined that from now on they will just live their ordinary, quiet life together. But no sooner has Casey left Maggie May's side than Cogger is after him again, trying to separate him from Maggie May with scorn, trying to tack on to Casey and wherever he's going, pleading friendship. When Casey knocks him back, the bitter Cogger changes his allegiance. He heads straight for Willie Morgan with a piece of news. Casey has one last deed to do and if Cogger can't share it with him, then Cogger will damn him for doing it.

Casey has gone to the docks. He has broken into a crane and he has begun loading the crates of guns into a cage. Morgan, Cogger and the police they have alerted rush in in time to see the cargo being swung towards the open river. The guns tumble from the crane into the depths of the River Liver and Casey swings the crane back for more But, as he does so, the arm sof the crane becomes entangled with some overhead electric wires. A crane driver rushes forward to shout instructions, but Willie Morgan silences him physically. The crane erupts in a shower of sparks and Casey's body arcs with electricity as the power of the cables pours through the crane cabin. Then, and only then, does Willie Morgan pull the mains switch.

As the dead body of Patrick Casey is carried away, Maggie May delivers her last words to Liverpool, the town and the people who killed her Casey.

Musical Numbers:

  1. Ballad of the Liver Bird - Balladeer, Chorus, Off-stage sopranos
  2. Lullaby - Young Maggie May, off-stage sopranos
  3. I Love A Man - Maggie May
  4. Casey - (Maggie May, Maureen, Chorus
  5. Shine You Swine - Milkman
  6. Dey Don't Do Dat T'Day - T.C., Dockers
  7. I Told You So - Maggie May, Maureen
  8. Right Of Way - Gang 3, Dockers
  9. Stroll On - Casey, Gang 3
  10. Away From Home - Willie Morgan, Company
  11. Maggie, Maggie May - Casey, Company
  12. D'Land of Promises - Maggie May
  13. Carrying On - Beat Group
  14. Union Cha-cha - Maggie May, Maureen, Gang 3
  15. It's Yourself - Casey, Maggie May
  16. The World's A Lovely Place - Willie, Maggie May, Company
  17. I'm Me - Casey
  18. D'Same Size Boots - Eric, T.C., Fred, Gene

Cast of Characters

(In order of appearance) - Principals: 3 female, 8 male, 2 children
The language the majority of the people speak is the dialect of Liverpool. The accent, according to one definition, is part Irish, part Welsh and part catarrh.


Reed 1 (flute, piccolo) Reed II (flute, tenor sax), Reed III (oboe, cor anglais), Reed IV (clarinet, alto sax), Reed V (clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone sax), horn (opt.), 3 trumpets (3rd opt.), 2 trombones, 2 percussion (2nd opt.), keyboard/synthesizer, cello (opt.), bass

Vocal Score, Vocal Book and Libretto available on hire only

Synopsis of Scenes:

Act I



OLC Recording That's Entertainment - TER 1046