Row bullies row.. to New York

Leggi in italiano

“Liverpool Judies” (aka”Row, bullies, row”)  is a popular sea shanty  used as reported by Stan Hugill as Capstan shanty (but also as an forebitter) it is grouped into two main versions: one in which our sailor lands in San Francisco, the other in New York.
Both versions, however, always end up with the drunken or drugged boy who wakes up again on a ship where he has been boarded by a small group of crimps
Fraudulent conscription takes the name of “shanghaiinge“, especially in the north-west of the United States.


Dirty deals in the harbor docks, drunken sailors and complacent “judies”.. but also a warning song to alert the young sailors who get drunk, because they risk ending up kidnapped and forced on board. Song best known as “Row, bullies, row”.
Stan Hugill tells us that the song must be sung with an Irish rhythm. The text is taken from “Shanties and Sailors Songs”, Hugill, Stan, (1969) (see)

Ian Campbell Group from Farewell Nancy, 1964 

The Foo Foo Band from The Foo Foo Band, 2000

When I wuz a youngster
I sailed wid de rest,
On a Liverpool packet
bound out to the West.
We anchored one day
in de harbour of Cork,
Then we put out to sea
for the port of New York.
And it’s roll, row bullies roll (1),
Them Liverpool Judies (2)
have got us in tow (3).

For forty-two days
we wuz hungry an’ sore,
Oh, the winds wuz agin us,
the gales they did roar;
Off Battery Point (4)
we did anchor at last,
Wid our jib boom (5) hove in
an’ the canvas all fast.
De boardin’-house masters (6)
wuz off in a trice,
A-shoutin’ an’ promisin’
all that wuz nice;
An’ one fast ol’ crimp
he got cotton’d (7)  to me,
Sez he, “Yer a fool lad (foolish),
ter follow the sea.”
Sez he, “There’s a job
is a waitin’ fer you,
Wid lashin’s o’ liqour
an’ begger-all (nothing) to do.
What d’yer say, lad,
will ye jump ‘er (8), too?”
Sez I, “Ye ol’ bastard,
I’m damned if I do.”
But de best ov intentions
dey niver gits far,
After forty-two days
at the door of a bar,
I tossed off me liquor
an’ what d’yer think?
Why the lousy ol’ bastard
‘ad drugs in me drink.
Now, the next I remembers
I woke in de morn,
On a three-skys’l yarder
bound south round Cape Horn;
Wid an’ ol’ suit of oilskins
an’ three (two) pairs o’ sox,
An’ a bloomin’ big head
an’ a dose of the pox.
Now all ye young sailors
take a warnin’ by me,
Keep a watch (an eye) on yer drinks
when the liquor is free,
An’ pay no attintion
to runner (9) or whore,
Or yer head’ll be thick
an’ yer fid (10) ‘ll be sore.

1)  in this context roll and row are taken as a synonym
2) The word judy is a dialectal expression of Liverpool to indicate a generic girl (not necessarily a prostitute)
3) the term has become in the seafaring jargon synonymous with favorable winds that drive home (a ship that runs fast).
In this regard Italo Ottonello argues:
the mate stood in the gangway, rubbing his hands, and talking aloud to the ship, “Hurrah, old bucket! the Boston girls have got hold of the tow-rope!” and the like (from: Dana “Two years before the mast”)
At each change of the watch, those coming on deck asked those going below, “How does she go along?” and got, for answer, the rate, and the customary addition, “Aye! and the Boston girls have had hold of the tow-rope all the watch.”(from: Dana “Two years before the mast”)
4) New York, the island of Manhattan
5) Jibboom: it’s a bouncer, that is, an auction (boom) that protrudes from another auction.  Bowsprit or jib-boom extends the bowsprit and is in turn extended by the flying-jibboom
6) a boarding agent who, with more or less legal means, procured sailors to ships
7) “cottoned” =”attached” ,”caught on” (british slang); or says “likin ‘to me” or even “fancying”
8) crimp is offering the boy to help him in his craft and then tells him to leave the engagement on the ship from which he has landed to be part of his team of recruiters and make shangaiing
9)  derogatory term
10) a less cleaned version uses the term “yer knob’ll be sore” which means head of .. (an other head that is a little lower)

Liverpool judies (Row bullies row)
New York
from Robin Hood (Alan Doyle)


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