In the sea shanties Sally Brown is the stereotype of the cheerful woman of the Caribbean seas, mulatta or creole, with which our sailor tries to have a good time. Probably of Jamaican origin according to Stan Hugill, it was a popular song in the ports of the West Indies in the 1830s.
The textual and melodic variations are many.
SECOND VERSION: I ROLLED ALL NIGHT
In this version the chorus is developed on several lines and the song is classified, also with the title of “Roll and Go”, in the capstan shanty that is the songs performed during the lifting of the anchor.
Planxty live (which not surprisingly chuckle, given the name of the song)
Irish Descendants from Encore: Best of the Irish Descendants
Shipped on board a Liverpool liner,
Way hey roll(1) on board;
Well, I rolled all night
and I rolled all day,
I’m gonna spend my money with (on)
|Miss Sally Brown is a fine young lady,
She’s tall and she’s dark(2) and she’s not too shady
Her mother doesn’t like the tarry(3) sailor,
She wants her to marry the one-legged captain
Sally wouldn’t marry me so I shipped across the water
And now I am courting Sally’s daughter
I shipped off board a Liverpool liner
1) the term is generically used by sailors to say many things, in this context for example could mean “sail”.
2) it could refer to the color of the hair rather than the skin, even if in other versions Sally is identified as creole or mulatto. The term “Creole” can be understood in two exceptions: from the Spanish “crillo”, which originally referred to the first generation born in the “New World”, sons of settlers from Europe (Spain or France) and black slaves. The most common meaning is that which refers to all the black half-bloods of Jamaica from the color of the skin that goes from cream to brown and up to black-blue. In the nineteenth century with this term was also indicated a small elite urban society of light skin in Louisiana (resident mostly in New Orleans) result of crossings between some beautiful black slaves and white landowners who took them as lovers.
3) tarry is a derogatory term to distinguish the typical sailor. More generally Jack Tar is the term commonly used to refer to a sailor of merchant ships or the Royal Navy. Probably the term was coined in 1600, alluding to the tar with which the sailors waterproofed their work clothes.
Teddy Thompson from Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, ANTI 2006 in a more meditative and melancholic version
|Sally Brown she’s a nice young lady,
Way, hay, we roll an’ go.
We roll all night
And we roll all day
Spend my money on Sally Brown.
|Shipped on board off a Liverpool liner
Mother doesn’t like a tarry sailor
She wants her to marry a one legged captain
Sally Brown she’s a bright lady
She drinks stock rum
And she chews tobacco