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A fierce song for halyard: Bully in the Alley

Leggi in italiano

“Bully in the Alley” is a halyard shanty with origins referable to the black slaves involved in loading and unloading cotton bales in the ports (cotton screwing).
The bully here is a boozing sailor left in an alley by his still “sober” companions, who will move on to pick him up when returning to the ship.

Shinbone Alley is an alley in New York but also in Bermuda, but metaphorically speaking it is found in every “sailor town”. More generally it is an exotic indication for the Caribbean, the alley of a legendary “pirates den” , where every occasion is good for a fist fight! (first meaning for bully). Or it is the alley of an equally generic port city of the continent full of pubs and cheerful ladies, where if you get drunk, you end up waking up “enlisted” on a warship or a merchant ship (second meaning for bully). So our victim in love with Sally instead of marrying her, he goes to sea!
And finally a last interpretation: a “very good”, or “first rate” sailor (the rooster of the henhouse!)
According to Stan Hugill “Bully in the Alley” has become a seafaring expression to indicate a “stubborn” ship that wants to go in its direction in spite of the helmsman’s intention
This song is nowadays among the most popular “pirate songs”!
Take a look to these bully boys!

Assassin’s creed IV black flag

Chorus
Help me, Bob(1),
I’m bully in the alley,
Way, hey, bully in the alley!
Help me, Bob, I’m bully in the alley, Bully down in “shinbone al“!
I
Sally(2) is the girl that I love dearly,
Way, hey, bully in the alley!
Sally is the girl that I spliced dearly(3),
Bully down in “shinbone al
 II
For seven long years I courted little Sally,
But all she did was dilly and dally(4).
III
I ever get back, I’ll marry little Sally,
Have six kids and live in Shin-bone Alley.

NOTES
1)  God
2) Sally (or Sal) is the generic name of the girls of the Caribbean seas and of South America
3) also written as “Spliced nearly” means “almost married”, and yet the meaning lends itself to sexual allusions
4) to wastetime, especially by being slow, or by not being able to make a decision

Morrigan: Text version identical to the previous one but with an additional stanza before the last closing that says:
“I’ll leave Sal and I’ll become a sailor,
I’ll leave Sal and ship aboard a whaler.”

Three Pruned Men from Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys  ANTI 2006.

Text version identical to the previous one but with a closing stanza that says:


Sally got down and dirty last night,
Sally got down and she spliced (5),
The sailors left last night,
The sailors got a ball of wax (6),
NOTES
5) in slang to splice it means having sex (uniting parts of the body in sexual activity) but also uniting with marriage
6) It is an idiom that means the totality of something; a hypothesis on the origin of the term: This is a form of initiation of freemasons. The freemasons took it from the scarab beetle, which is said to roll a ball of earth, which is a microcosm of the universe. I believe it is thought to spring from the ancient mysteries of Egypt. There was much amateur Egyptology during the 19th and early 20th century. The ball of wax has transcendental meaning. It represents a mystery of human godlike creativity which a person aspiring to the mystery of masonic lore carries with him. In the initiation, the person was given a small ball of earwax or some such, which would represent the cosmos. Reference to this ball of wax was a secret symbol of brotherhood. (from here)

Paddy and the Rats

Short Sharp version

The curators of the project write: “It feels as though this version is far closer to a cotton-screwing chant than the Hugill version. (Carpenter makes a note beside the version from Edward Robinson that it also was for ‘cotton screwing’).  There is only one complete verse and a couple of phrases from Short to Sharp, so the additional words are from Hugill’s version but ignoring location aspects and reworked to fit Short’s significantly different structure” (from here)

Tom Brown in Short Sharp Shanties : Sea songs of a Watchet sailor vol 3 ♪ 

I=V
So help me, Bob ,
I’m bully in the alley,
Way, hey, bully in the alley!
Bully down in an alley
Chorus
So help me, Bob, 
I’m bully in the alley,
Way, hey, bully in the alley!
(solo) Bully in Teapot alley
Way, hey, bully in the alley!
II
Sally is the girl down in our alley,
Way, hey, bully in the alley!
Sally is the girl down in our alley,
Way, hey, bully in the alley!
Have you seen on Sally?
Chorus
(solo) I could love her cheerly
Way, hey, bully in the alley!
III
Sally is the girl that I love dearly
Sally is the girl that I love dearly
She is the girl in the alley
Chorus
Oh I’ll spliced to nearly
Way, hey, bully in the alley
IV
I’ll leave my Sally go a sailin’
I’ll leave my Sally go a wailin’
One day I’ll wed Sally
Chorus
Wedding bed my Sally
Way, hey, bully in the alley

LINK
https://terreceltiche.altervista.org/sally-brown/
http://mainlynorfolk.info/watersons/songs/bullyinthealley.html http://www.shanty.org.uk/archive_songs/bully-in-the-alley.html http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=31335
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=43912
http://www.umbermusic.co.uk/SSSnotes.htm#bully%20alley

Pubblicato da Cattia Salto

Amministratore e folklorista di Terre Celtiche Blog

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