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Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
17 February 2022, 13:04

Listen to a new radio doc on the origins of Andrew Weatherall’s “Fail we may, sail we must”

Paul McDermott's programme explores the mythology of the icon's mantra

Listen to a new radio doc on the origins of Andrew Weatherall’s “Fail we may, sail we must”

A new radio documentary has been released, which dives into the story behind Andrew Weatherall's famous "Fail we may, sail we must" motto and tattoos.

Paul McDermott's programme, which arrives on the second anniversary of Weatherall's death, explores how a chance meeting en route to a gig in County Cork, Ireland, with fisherman Gerard Sheehy, led the late-electronic music icon to adopt the phrase — an adaptation of “Sail she may but go she must”, which Sheehy himself used for a tattoo.  

"He wanted to know about the glamourous world of DJing, to which I said: 'It’s bollocks, it’s discos'. Tell me about tales of the sea,” Weatherall famously said of the encounter.

“He told me about being 18 in a force nine gale, his father, the captain, broke his leg so he had to captain the ship,” he continued. “I was thinking, I couldn’t even look after myself at that age let alone a trawler boat in a force nine gale. I asked him: 'Are there times when you get up in the morning and you can’t be arsed?' And he said: 'Fail we may, sail we must'." 

The encounter was 2008, and year later Weatherall used the phrase as a track title on his 2009 solo album, 'A Pox on the Pioneers'. It then formed the basis for a pair of tattoos on each arm of his arms, enshrining the message in the conscious of fans and peers everywhere. 

The documentary, 'Fail We May, Sail We Must - A Tribute to Andrew Weatherall', begins with one of the DJ, artist, musician and producer's most recognisable works, or at least the opening sample from Primal Scream's 'Loaded', before diving into the legacy of Weatherall, his music, and, of course, those famous words.