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Get Up, Jack! John, Sit Down

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Entitled “Jolly Roving Tar” but more frequently “Get Up, Jack! John, Sit Down” here is a forebitter song that ironizes on the idle occupations of a sailor when he is ashore.
For my money’s gone,” says the sailor who is well liked and fondled by the ladies when his pockets are full, but immediately put aside for another sailor when the money ends!

A similar song (we do not know if original or a traditional version rewriting) was written in New York in 1885 by Ed Harrigan & David Braham for the music hall entitled ‘Old Lavender‘ (text and score here); a version published by John and Alan Lomax in “American Ballads & Folk Songs” was attributed to John Thomas, a Welsh sailor who was on “the Philadelphian” in 1896. (text here), but the main source of the best known variant comes from “Grammy” Fish .


Mrs. Lena Bourne Fish (1873-1945) spent the first 24 years of her life in Black Brook, NY, not far from the Canadian border. Lena’s main source of songs was her own family, the Bourne; his ancestors were the first settlers of Cape Cod and a lot of songs (with many English and Irish traditional tunes) had passed to the family generations since emigration . As a lumber trader, her father  collected many songs from the people he met in the New England woods in his travels.
Once married, Lena moved to Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Two collectors of traditional songs (Helen Harkness Flanders and Marguerite Olney) interviewed her in 1940 and recorded about 175 songs; the following year Anne and Frank Warner collected a hundred songs in four recording sessions half of which completly new ones.
“Grammy” Fish had taken her role as a witness of the past to heart so as to transcribe the “old songs” in many notebooks to leave them to the new generations.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue, Sea Shanty Edition

Bootstrappers live

Ships may come and ships may go
as long as the seas do roll
But a sailor lad just like his dad
he loves the flowing bowl
a woman ashore he does adore
a girl who’s plump and round
when your money’s all gone,
it’s the same old song
“Get up, Jack! John, sit down!”
Come along, come along,
me jolly brave boys,
There’s plenty more grog(1) in the jar
We’ll plough the briny ocean line
like a jolly roving tar
When Jack’s ashore, he’ll make his way
To some old boarding house(2)
He’s welcomed in with rum and gin,
likewise with pork and scouse
He’ll spend and spend and never offend
Till he lies drunk on the ground
When his money’s all gone…
Then Jack will slip(3) on board
some ship bound for India or Japan
and in Asia there, the ladies fair
all love a sailor man
He’ll go ashore and he’ll not scorn
to buy some girl her gown
when his money’s all gone…
When Jack is worn and weatherbeat
too old to cruise about
they’ll let him stop in some rum shop
Till eight bells(4) calls him out
Then he’ll raise hands high
and loud he’ll cry “Thank Christ, I’m homeward bound!”
when his money’s all gone…

1) grog= drink
2) Boarding houses are pensions for sailors, present in every large sea port. “They are held by boarding masters, of dubious reputation, which the sailors define as” recruiters “, who provide” indifferently lodging and boarding “. They often welcome sailors “on credit”. On the advance received by boarders at the time of enrollment, they recover for food and accommodation, and with the rest they provide them with poor quality clothing and equipment “. (Italo Ottonello)
3)  or “He then will sail aboard some ship
4)”When it’s the end” his watch on board is finished as well as his life. On the old vessels the ringing sound of a bell regulated the time, every 4-hour guard duty was signaled by 8 bell strokes. (the eight bells were ringed at 4, at 8, at 12, at 16, at 20 and at midnight). An hourglass was used to calculate the time.

Great Big Sea from Play 1997. Traditional American Folk Songs from the Anne & Frank Warner Collection, #71.

Ships may come and ships may go
As long as the sea does roll.
Each sailor lad just like his dad,
He loves the flowing bowl.
A trip on shore he does adore
With a girl who’s nice and round.
When the money’s gone
It’s the same old song,
“Get up Jack! John, sit down!
Come along, come along,
You jolly brave boys,
There’s lots of grog(1) in the jar.
We’ll plough the briny ocean
With the jolly roving tar.
When Jack comes in, it’s then he’ll steer
To some old boarding house(2).
They’ll welcome him with rum and gin,
And feed him on pork scouse.
He’ll lend, spend and he’ll not offend (3) Till he’s lyin’ drunk on the ground
When the money’s gone
It’s the same old song,
“Get up Jack! John, sit down!
Jack, he then, oh then he’ll sail
Bound down for Newfoundland.
All the ladies fair in Placentia(4) there
They love that sailor man
He’ll go to shore out on a tear
And he’ll buy some girl a gown.
When the money’s gone
It’s the same old song,
“Get up Jack! John, sit down!
When Jack gets old and weather beat,
Too old to roam about,
They’ll let him stop in some rum shop
Till eight bells(5) calls him out.
Then he’ll raise his eyes up to the skies,
Sayin’ “Boys, we’re homeward bound.”
When the money’s gone
It’s the same old song,
“Get up Jack! John, sit down!

3) meaning that he will not offend the innkeeper with a refusal
4) Placentia is a small Canadian city formed by the union of the villages of Jerseyside, Townside, Freshwater, Dunville and Argentia .
5)”When it’s the end” his watch on board is finished as well as his life. On the old vessels the ringing sound of a bell regulated the time, every 4-hour guard duty was signaled by 8 bell strokes.


In the nineteenth century there was a completely different version in which poor Susan was distraught because the fine William was still far from the sea, she decided to follow him as a sailor. The version is still popular in Newfoundland. As much as I searched the web at the moment I did not find a video to listen to.
It was in the town of Liverpool, all in the month of May,
I overheard a damsel, alone as she did stray,
She did appear like Venus or some sweet, lovely star,
As she walked toward the beach, lamenting for her jolly, roving Tar.

Jolly Roving Tar by “Irish Rovers”

The text was written by George Millar the founder of the “Irish Rovers” and although a different song borrows some phrases from “Get Up, Jack! John, Sit Down” other equally famous sea songs on sailors.
The Irish Rover from Another Round 2005: various dances taken from fantasy films and animations

Well here we are, we’re back again
Safe upon the shore
In Belfast town we’d like to stay
And go to sea no more
We’ll go into a public house
And drink till we’re content
For the lassies they will love us
Till our money is all spent
So pass the flowin’ bowl
Boys there’s whiskey in the jar
And we’ll drink to all the lassies
And the jolly roving tar
Oh Johnny did you miss me
When the nights were long and cold
Or did you find another love
In your arms to hold
Says he I thought of only you
While on the sea afar
So come up the stairs and cuddle
With your jolly roving tar
Well in each other’s arms they rolled
Till the break of day
When the sailor rose
and said farewell
I must be on me way
Ah don’t you leave me Johnny lad
I thought you’d marry my
Says he I can’t be married
For I’m married to the sea
Well come all you bonnie lasses
And a warning take by me
And never trust an Irishman
An inch above your knee
He’ll tease you and he’ll squeeze you
And when he’s had his fun
He’ll leave you in the morning
With a daughter or a son


Pubblicato da Cattia Salto

folklorista delle Terre Celtiche

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