Paddy Lay Back: take a turn around the capstan

Paddy Lay Back (“Paddy Get Back,” “Valparaiso Round the Horn,” “Mainsail Haul”) is a kilometer sea shanty, variant wedge, sung by sailors both as a recreational song and as a song to the winch to raise the anchor (capstan shanty).

Paddy Lay Back (“Paddy Get Back,” “Valparaiso Round the Horn,” “Mainsail Haul”) è una sea shanty kilometrica, zeppa di varianti, cantata dai marinai sia come canzone ricreativa che come canzone all’argano per sollevare l’ancora (capstan shanty) .
Leggi in italiano

Our Johnny spent a good night in some tavern in the port and they robbed him so he is looking for a job on a departing ship, and for good measure he drinks all the advance. The next day he wakes up regretting having boarded.

I
‘Twas a cold an’ dreary (frosty) mornin’ in December,
An’ all of me money it was spent
Where it went to Lord (Christ) I can’t remember
So down to the shippin’ office I went,
CHORUS
Paddy, lay back (Paddy, lay back)!
Take in yer slack (take in yer slack)!
Take a turn around the capstan – heave a pawl (1)

– (heave a pawl)
‘Bout ship’s stations, boys,
be handy (be handy)! (2)
For we’re bound for Valaparaiser(3)
‘round the Horn (4)! 

II
That day there wuz a great demand for sailors
For the Colonies and for ‘Frisco(5) and for France
So I shipped aboard a Limey(6) barque (7) “the Hotspur”
An’ got paralytic drunk on my advance (8)
III
Now I joined her on a cold December mornin’,
A-frappin’ o’ me flippers to keep me warm.
With the south cone a-hoisted as a warnin’ (9),
To stand by the comin’ of a storm.
IV
Now some of our fellers had bin drinkin’,
An’ I meself wuz heavy on the booze;
An’ I wuz on me ol’ sea-chest a-thinkin’
I’d turn into me bunk an’ have a snooze.
V
I woke up in the mornin’ sick an’ sore,
An’ knew I wuz outward bound again;
When I heard a voice a-bawlin’ (calling) at the door,
‘Lay aft, men, an’ answer to yer names!’
VI
‘Twas on the quarterdeck where first I saw you,
Such an ugly bunch I’d niver seen afore;
For there wuz a bum an’ stiff from every quarter,
An’ it made me poor ol’ heart feel sick an’ sore.
VII
There wuz Spaniards an’ Dutchmen an’ Rooshians,
An’ Johnny Crapoos jist acrosst from France;
An’ most o’ ‘em couldn’t speak a word o’ English,
But answered to the name of ‘Month’s Advance’.
VIII
I knew that in me box I had a bottle,
By the boardin’-master ‘twas put there;
An’ I wanted something for to wet me throttle,
Somethin’ for to drive away dull care.
IX
So down upon me knees I went like thunder,
Put me hand into the bottom o’ the box,
An’ what wuz me great surprise an’ wonder,
Found only a bottle o’ medicine for the pox

Stan Hugill in his “Shanties from the Seven Seas”, testifies a long version with about twenty stanzas (see), here only those sung by himself for the album ” “Sea Songs: Newport, Rhode Island- Songs from the Age of Sail”, 1980: “It was both a forebitter and a capstan song and a very popular one too, especially in Liverpool ships. […] It is a fairly old song dating back to the Mobile cotton hoosiers and has two normal forms: one with an eight-line verse – this was the forebitter form; and the second with a four-line verse – the usual shanty pattern. Doerflinger gives a two-line verse pattern as the shanty – a rather unusual form, and further on in his book he gives the forebitter with both four- and eight-line verses. He gives the title of the shanty as Paddy, Get Back and both his versions of the forebitter as Mainsail Haul. Shay, Sampson and Bone all suggest that it was a fairly modern sea-song and give no indication that any form was sung as a shanty, but all my sailing-ship acquaintances always referred to it as a shanty, and it was certainly sung in the Liverpool-New York Packets as such – at least the four-line verse form. […] Verses from 11 onwards [of the 19 verses given, incl. v. 3, lines 1-4 above] are fairly modern and nothing to do with the Packet Ship seamen, but with the chorus of ‘For we’re bound for Vallaparaiser round the Horn’ are what were sung by Liverpool seamen engaged in the West Coast Guano Trade.” (Stan Hugill)
(all the strings except III)

NOTES
1) pawl – short bar of metal at the foot of a capstan or close to the barrel of a windlass which engage a serrated base so as to prevent the capstan or windlass ‘walking back’. […] The clanking of the pawls as the anchor cable was hove in was the only musical accompaniment a shanty ever had! (Hugill, Shanties 414)
2)  it is a typical expression in maritime songs
3) Valparaiso – a seaport in central Chile on the Pacific Ocean west-northwest of Santiago.
4) the Horn – Cape Horn – a rocky headland on an island at the extreme Southern tip of South America, belonging to Chile. It is notorious for gales and heavy seas.
5) Frisco – San Francisco
6) limey – The origin of the Yanks calling English sailors ‘Limejuicers’ […] was the daily issuing of limejuice to British crews when they had been a certain number of days at sea, to prevent scurvy, according to the 1894 Merchant Shipping Act (Hugill, Shanties 54)
7) barque – a sailing ship of three or more masts having the foremasts rigged square and the aftermast rigged fore-and-aft; any boat, especially a small sailing vessel
8) the sailor has spent all the advance on high-alcohol drinking
9) A storm-cone is a visual signalling device made of black-painted canvas designed to be hoisted on a mast – if apex upwards, a gale is expected from the North, if from the South, apex downward. The storm cone was devised by Rear Admiral Robert Fitzroy, former commander of HMS Beagle, head of a department of the Board of Trade known today simply as the Met Office, and inventor of weather forecasts.
“In 1860 he devised a system of issuing gale warnings by telegraph to the ports likely to be affected. The message contained of a list of places with the words:
‘North Cone’ or ‘South Cone’ – for northerly or southerly gales respectively
‘Drum’  – for when further gales were expected,
Drum and North/South Cone’ – for particularly heavy gales or storms
. ” (from herei) (see more)

Stan Hugill
The Dreadnoughts
Assassin’s Creed Rogue   (I, II, III, V, VI)
Seán Dagher
Hulton Clint
El Pony Pisador

Seán Dagher variant
I
‘Twas a cold an’ dreary (frosty) mornin’ in December,
An’ all of me money it was spent
Where it went to Lord (Christ) I can’t remember
So down to the shippin’ office I went,
II
There was a Yankee ship alying in the basin.
They told me she was leaving in the morn.
When the pilot left I knew what I was facing.
The captain said we’re going round Cape Horn.
III
The mate and second mate, they came from Boston. And the captain came from Bangor, up the Maine.
And the three of them were rough and tumble fighters. Always fighting with us or among themselves again.
IV
And the crew was just a useless bunch of hoodlums.
We had tailors, we had firemen and cooks.
Not a man among them all could sing a good one.
And they couldn’t sing a shanty without the books.

FOLK VERSION: Valparaiso Round the Horn

Valparaiso Round the Horn has become a traditional Irish song, a popular drinking song, connected to equally popular jigs (eg Irish washer woman)! Also known as “The Liverpool song”. Among the favorite pirate song of course!

I
‘Twas a cold an’ dreary (frosty) mornin’ in December,
An’ all of me money it was spent
Where it went to Lord I can’t remember
So down to the shippin’ office I went,
CHORUS
Paddy, lay back (Paddy, lay back)!
Take in yer slack (take in yer slack)!
Take a turn around the capstan – heave a pawl (1) – (heave a pawl)
About ships for England boys be handy(2)
For we’re bound for Valaparaiser
‘round the Horn! 

II
That day there wuz a great demand for sailors
For the Colonies and for ‘Frisco and for France
So I shipped aboard a Limey barque (3) “the Hotspur”
An’ got paralytic drunk on my advance (4)
III
There were Frenchmen, there were Germans, there were Russians
And there was Jolly Jacques came just across from France
And not one of them could speak a word of English
But they’d answer to the name of Bill or Dan
IV
I woke up in the morning sick and sore (5)
I wished I’d never sailed away again
Then a voice it came thundering thru’ the floor
Get up and pay attention to your name
V
I wish that I was in the Jolly Sailor (6)
With Molly or with Kitty on me knee
Now I see most any men are sailors
And with me flipper I wipe away my tears

NOTES
1) see above
2) or Bout ship’s stations, boys
3) see above
4) see above
5) a euphemism to describe the hangover
6) the name varies at the discretion of the singer

The Wolfe Tones from “Let The People Sing” 1972 make a folk version that has become the standard of a classic irish drinking song (Paddy Lie Back)
The Irish Rovers live
Sons Of Erin

 LINK
http://www.folkways.si.edu/the-focsle-singers/paddy-lay-back/american-folk-celtic/music/track/smithsonian
http://www.jsward.com/shanty/PaddyLayBack/hugill.html
https://maritime.org/chanteys/paddy-lay-back.htm
http://aliverpoolfolksongaweek.blogspot.it/2011/12/36-paddy-lay-back.html
http://mysongbook.de/msb/songs/p/paddylay.html

Pubblicato da Cattia Salto

Amministratore e folklorista di Terre Celtiche Blog. Ha iniziato a divulgare i suoi studi e ricerche sulla musica, le danze e le tradizioni d'Europa nel web, dapprima in maniera sporadica e poi sempre più sistematicamente sul finire del anni 90

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