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“Fire Down Below” the last shanty

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“Fire Down Below” in addition to being the title of a film and a rock song is above all a sea shanty) according to Stan Hugill “the laswt shanty”. Given the theme it was often used as pump chanty but also as capstan chanty.

I start with the song by Hanging Johnny a large group from Playmouth, (Devon and East Cornwall), which after a twenty-year career disbanded in 2010.
They give three versions of the shanty “Fire Down Below” : the first on the parson’s daughter, then on the fire that broke out on the ship, and finally a shake of complaints from the sailor for the harsh travel and work conditions. And to follow Brian of Holcombe’s video for the series “SEA SHANTY SEASON”

JOHN SHORT VERSION

The authors of the project “Short Sharps Shanties” write: There was a broadside called Fire! Fire! Fire! – printed by the Glasgow Poet’s Box on the 23rd Nov. 1867.  Versions were also printed by Fortey of London and Sanderson of Edinburgh at about the same time. The chorus is obviously related to, if not the origin of, the shanty:Fire! fire! fire!, Now I’s bound to go;
Can’t you give us a bucket of water,
Dere’s a fire down below.
The text is in a faux-Negro patois and describes Aunt Sally nearly dying in a house-fire.  There was also a parody, printed by Such of London at about the same time, where the text is concerned with a country boy’s encounter with a city girl and the more familiar ‘fire down below’ caused by venereal disease.
Fire! fire! fire!, Fire down below;
Let us hope that we shall never see,
A fire down below.
Perhaps surprisingly, neither theme seems to recur in any of the collected versions of the shanty although plenty of contemporary shanty-singers adopt a nudge-nudge-wink-wink view of the chorus. Tozer and Sharp give it as a pumping shanty, Hugill cites it as a favourite for the purpose, and Colcord says that “Almost any of the capstan shanties could be used on the pump-brakes, but a few were kept [as this one is], by the force of convention, for no other use.”
Hugill comments that, of his five versions, Short’s version has “a not so musical pattern. This form has become popular with radio shanty-singers.”  All verses except the last come from Short although, inexplicably, he only gave Sharp the ‘fire in the galley’ verse on the day and subsequently sent him, by post, the other four verses. (tratto da qui)

Jackie Oates from Short Sharp Shanties : Sea songs of a Watchet sailor Vol 1 (su Spotify)

Chorus
Fire, fire, fire down below,
It’s Fetch a bucket of water girls
There’s fire down below.
I
Fire in the galley, fire down below.
It’s fetch a bucket of water girls,
There’s fire down below.
fire, fire..
II
Fire in the bottom fire in the main
It’s fetch a bucket of water girls,
And put it out again.
fire, fire..
III
As I walked out one morning
all in the month of June
I overheard an irish girl
sing this old song
fire, fire..
IV
Fire in the lifeboat,
fire in the gig(6),
Fire in the pig-stye roasting of the pig.
fire, fire..
V
Fire up aloft boy  and fire down below,
It’s fetch a bucket of water girls,
There’s fire down below.


Shanty Gruppe Breitling
from Haul the Bowline 2013 


Fire in the galley, fire in the house,
Fire in the beef kid(1), scorching the scouse(2).
Fire, fire, fire down below,
Fetch a bucket of water boys
Fire down below.
Fire in the forepeak(3) fire in the main(4)
fire in the windlass(5) fire in the chain.
Fire in the lifeboat, fire in the gig(6),
Fire in the pig-stye roasting the pig.
Fire on the orlop(7) (cabine) fire in the hold.
Fire in the strong room melting the gold.
Fire round the capstan(5), fire on the mast,
Fire on the main deck, burning it fast.
Fire on .. 

NOTES
1) Beefkid = small wooden tub in which beef salt is served.
2) It is a traditional dish of Liverpool, that is a meat stew with potatoes, onions, carrots. It is a popular dish of poor cooking. Scouse is also the typical accent of Liverpool (of the popular classes) with clear Celtic influences, the origin of the accent is derived most likely from the English pronunciation by Irish immigrants arrived in Liverpool to look for work. In the 1841 census a quarter of the inhabitants of Liverpool were born in Ireland and again from the census at the beginning of the twenty-first century it was found that 60% of Liverpudlians originated in Ireland.
3) forepeak= the interior part of a vessel that is furthest forward; the part of a ship’s interior in the angle of the bow
4) main= ocean
5) windlass and capstan they are two different “machines” which, however, perform the same function, that of lifting weights by the use of a rope or chain.
6) gig= A light rowboat, powerboat or sailboat, often used as a fast launch for the captain or for a lighthouse keeper. The gig was always designed for speed, and was not used as a working boat.
7) orlop = the name of a lower deck.

CARIBBEAN VERSION

This version comes from the Caribbean fishermen from the Isle of Nevis (reported by Roger Abrahams in “Deep the Water, Shallow the Shore”)
Hulton Clint

FOLK VERSION

A decadent version that with the “fire in the lower parts” alludes to the disruptive sexuality of a young girl!

Nick Cave from Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys  ANTI 2006.

She was the parson’s daughter
With her red and rosy cheeks
(Way, hey, hee, hi, ho!)
She went to church on Sunday
And sang the anthem sweet
(‘Cause there’s fire down below)
The parson was a misery
So scraggy and so thin
“Look here, you motherfuckers
If you lead a life of sin.
He took his text from Malachi(1)
And pulled a weary face
Well, I fucked off for Africa
And there, I feel(2) from grace.
The parson’s little daughter
Was as sweet as sugar-candy
I said to her, “us sailors
Would make lovers neat and handy”.
She says to me, “you sailors
Are a bunch of fucking liars
And all of you are bound to hell
To feed the fucking fires”.
Well, there’s fire down below, my lad
So we must do what we oughta
‘Cause the fire is not half as hot
As the parson’s little daughter.
Yes, there’s fire (fire)
Down (down)
Below (below)

NOTES
1) Malachi was an Old Testament Prophet who lived in the fifth century a. C.
2) found written both as a feel and as a fell

LINK
http://www.bethsnotesplus.com/2015/01/fire-down-below.html
http://www.joe-offer.com/folkinfo/songs/783.html
http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/19/fire.htm
http://mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=2020
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=35083
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or32B_IZWKs
https://ismaels.wordpress.com/2008/11/01/rogue%E2%80%99s-gallery-the-art-of-the-siren-4/

Pubblicato da Cattia Salto

folklorista delle Terre Celtiche

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