South Australia sea shanty

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Under the heading Codefish shanty we have two versions, one of Cape Cod and the other of South Australia: the titles are “Cape Cod girls” and “Rolling King” or “Bound for South Australia” (or simply “South Australia”).
Which of the two versions was born before is not certain, we can only detect a great variety of texts and also the combination with different melodies. At the beginning probably a “going-away song”, one of those songs that the sailors sang only for special occasions ie when they were on the route of the return journey.


“As an original worksong it was sung in a variety of trades, including being used by the wool and later the wheat traders who worked the clipper ships between Australian ports and London. In adapted form, it is now a very popular song among folk music performers that is recorded by many artists and is present in many of today’s song books.In the days of sail, South Australia was a familiar going-away song, sung as the men trudged round the capstan to heave up the heavy anchor. Some say the song originated on wool-clippers, others say it was first heard on the emigrant ships. There is no special evidence to support either belief; it was sung just as readily aboard Western Ocean ships as in those of the Australian run. Laura Smith, a remarkable Victorian Lady, obtained a 14-stanza version of South Australia from a coloured seaman in the Sailors’ Home at Newcastle-on-Tyne, in the early 1880’s. The song’s first appearance in print was in Miss Smith’s Music of the Waters. Later, it was often used as a forebitter, sung off-watch, merely for fun, with any instrumentalist joining in. It is recorded in this latter-day form. The present version was learnt from an old sailing-ship sailor, Ted Howard of Barry, in South Wales. Ted told how he and a number of shellbacks were gathered round the bed of a former shipmate. The dying man remarked: “Blimey, I think I’m slipping my cable. Strike up South Australia, lads, and let me go happy.” (A.L. Lloyd in Across the Western Plains from here)

This kind of songs were a mixture of improvised verses and a series of typical verses, but generally the refrain of the chorus was standardized and univocal (even for the obvious reason that it had to be sung by sailors coming from all the countries).
The length of the song depended on the type of work to be done and could reach several strophes. The song then took on its own life as a popular song in the folk repertoire.
The first appearance in collections on sea shanties dates back to 1881.

The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem 1962 the version that has been the model in the folk environment

Let’s see them in a pirate version in the TV adaptation of the “Treasure Island”

Johnny Collins, from “Shanties & Songs of the Sea” 1996

The Pogues

Gaelic Storm from Herding Cats (1999) they recall the version of the Pogues. It is interesting to compare the same group that has also tried with the arrangement of  Cape Code Girls.

In South Australia(1) I was born!
Heave away! Haul away!
South Australia round Cape Horn(2)!
We’re bound for South Australia!
Heave away, you rolling king(3),
Heave away! Haul away!
All the way you’ll hear me sing
We’re bound for South Australia!

As I walked out one morning fair,
It’s there I met Miss Nancy Blair.
I shook her up, I shook her down,
I shook her round and round the town.
There ain’t but one thing grieves my mind,
It’s to leave Miss Nancy Blair behind.
And as you wallop round Cape Horn,
You’ll wish to God you’d never been born!
I wish I was on Australia’s strand
With a bottle of whiskey in my hand

1) Land of gentlemen and not deportees, the state is considered a “province” of Great Britain
2) the ships at the time of sailing followed the oceanic routes, that is those of winds and currents: so to go to Australia starting from America it was necessary to dub Africa, but what a trip!!

3) Another reasonable explanation  fromMudcat “The chanteyman seems to be calling the sailors rolling kings rather that refering to any piece of equipment. And given that “rolling” seems to be a common metaphor for “sailing” (cf. Rolling down to old Maui, Roll the woodpile down, Roll the old chariot along, etc.) I would guess that he is calling them “sailing kings” i.e. great sailors. There are a number of chanteys which have lines expressing the idea of “What a great crew we are.” and I think this falls into that category.” (here)
Moreover every sailor fantasized about the meaning of the word, for example Russel Slye writes ” When I was in Perth (about 1970) I met an old sailor in a bar. I found he had sailed on the Moshulu (4 masted barque moored in Philly now) during the grain trade. I asked him about Rolling Kings. His reply (abridged): “We went ashore in India and other places, and heard about a wheel-rolling-king who was a big boss of everything. Well, when the crew was working hauling, those who wasn’t pulling too hard were called rolling kings because they was acting high and mighty.” So, it is a derogatory term for slackers. (from here).
And yet without going to bother ghostly Kings (in the wake of the medieval myth of King John and the fountain of eternal youth) the word could very well be a corruption of “rollikins” an old English term for “drunk”.
Among the many hilarious hypotheses this (for mockery) of Charley Noble: it could be a reference to Elvis Prisley!

There is also a MORRIS DANCE version confirming the popularity of the song

Codefish Cape Cod Girls


Cape Cod Girls

Leggi in italiano

Under the heading Codefish shanty we have two versions, one of Cape Cod and the other of South Australia: the titles are “Cape Cod girls” and “Rolling King” or “Bound for South Australia” (or simply “South Australia”).
Which of the two versions was born before is not certain, we can only detect a great variety of texts and also the combination with different melodies.

At the beginning probably a “going-away song”, one of those songs that the sailors sang only for special occasions ie when they were on the route of the return journey.


cape-cod-girlThe most demented version and therefore by “pirate song” that goes for the most in the Renaissance Fairs is that which comes from the peninsula of Cape Cod (State of Massachusetts).
Cape Cod was the first landing of the Mayflower – the first ship that carried the English “pilgrims” on the land overseas, the “New England”.
The activity was based on fishing for fish (especially cod) and whaling.

The climate is mild thanks to the Atlantic currents: there it is summer (warm-cool) or winter (cold-mild) and summer lasts until early December, it is the so-called Indian Summer, always due in the presence of the Atlantic Ocean, which slowly spreads the heat forfeited during the summer.

Yarmouth Shantymen

The Crew of the Mimi 1984

Baby Gramps in “Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys“, ANTI- 2006. The particular voice as Popeye is  a vocal style: “The style is called “vocal fry”.  It has been variously employed for effect by heavy metal artists among others.  The techniques used to achieve it are akin to those used by Central Asian throat-singers and Tibetan monks, though of a lesser order.  Its appropriateness for the singing of pirate songs will be a subject for lively debate” (Tipi Dan)

Gaelic Storm from The Boathouse, 2013

Cape Cod(1) girls
ain’t got no combs,
Heave away, haul away!
They comb their hair
with a codfish bone(2),
And we’re bound away for Australia(3)!
So heave her up, me bully bully boys,
Heave away, haul away!
Heave her up,
why don’t you make some noise?

And we’re bound away for Australia!

Cape Cod boys
ain’t got no sleds,
They ride down hills
on a codfish head.
Cape Cod mothers
don’t bake no pies,
They feed their children
codfish eyes.
Cape Cod cats
ain’t got no tails,
They got blown off
in northeast gales.

Other lines variously combined in which the cod are mentioned in all the sauces !!

Cape Cod girls
don’t wear no frills
They’re plain and skinny
like a codfish gills.
Cape Cod doctors
ain’t got no pills,
They give their patients
codfish gills.
Cape Cod folks
don’t have no ills
Them Cape Cod doctors
feed them codfish pills
Cape Cod dogs
ain’t got no bite,
They lost it barking
at the Cape Cod light.
Yankee girls
don’t sleep on beds,
They go to sleep on codfish heads.
Cape Cod girls
have got big feet,
Codfish roes is nice an’ sweet.
Cape Cod girls
they are so fine,
They know how to bait a codfish line.

1) the port par excellence of Cape Cod and of the fishermen of Massachusetts is the port of Provincetown
2) think about the sirens who are notoriously on the beach or a rock to comb their long hair while singing
3) the ships at the time of sailing followed the oceanic routes, that is those of winds and currents: so to go to Australia starting from America it was necessary to dub Africa, but what a trip!!


“South Australia” version


Hanging Johnny : hang, boys, hang

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“Hanging Johnny” is an halyard shanty in which we talk about the hangman who hangs all those who bother him! Immediately, the scholars wanted to find a historical figure who incarnated this executioner in Jack Ketch notorious executioner in the seventeenth century London.

But for the sailors the phrase “hanging Johnny” has a whole other meaning.


In order to hoist the heavier sails, they followed a strange procedure : the younger and nimble sailors (and less paid as they were apprentices) climbed up on the masthead and, after grabbing a halyard, jumped in the air, hanging like so many hangers. As they descended, they were helped by the efforts of the remaining sailors to slowly reach the deck.
Joys explained that “hanging Johnny” did not refer to a sheriff’s hangman, but instead to nimble young sailors who, when a topsail was to be hoisted, would climb to the masthead and “swing out” on the proper halyard. They would then ride to the deck as the men at the foot of the mast brought them down by their successive pulls. Joys recalled one chanteyman who would always tell the boys when to swing out by shouting up to them, “Hang, you bastards, hang!” Then, while the boys were hanging on the halyard fifty feet or more above the deck, he’d start his song and the crew would make two pulls on each chorus. When the boys hit the deck, they would tail on behind the other men and pull with them until the work was finished.
Joys added that the word “hang” was “the best goddamn pullin’ word in the language, especially on a down haul.” Ashley said the tune was “a bit mournful, but a good one for hoisting light canvas,” noting that the words enabled the sailors to find fault, good-naturedly, with all their real and fancied enemies, “if the work lasted long enough.”
 (from “Windjammers: Songs of the Great Lakes Sailors” by Ivan H. Walton and Joe Grimm, 2002 here)

So on Mudcats a heated debate has opened up: “The words “Hang, boys, hang,” are used in a topsail-halliard hoist, when sweating up the yard “two blocks” where, in swaying off, the whole weight of the body is used. The sing-out, from some old shellback, usually being words such as “Hang, heavy! Hang, buttocks! Hang you sons of ——-, Hang.” After setting the topsails, we gave her the main-topgallant sail, which was all she could carry in a heavy head-sea. The decks were awash all day. “…. the chantey was sung with a jerk and a swing as only chanteys in 6/8 time can be sung. While the words were of Negro extraction, yet it was a great favorite with us and sung nearly every time the topsails were hoisted.” (from Frederick Pease Harlow, 1928, The Making of a Sailor, Dover reprint of Publication Number 17 of the Marine Research Society, Salem, MA here)

Definitely a perfect “pirate song”! I found this piece of film about the golden age of the great vessels in which the song is sung.

Oh they call me hanging Johnny.
Away, boys, away.
They says I hangs for money.
Oh hang, boys, hang.
And first I hanged my Sally
and then I hanged my granny.


Sharp publishes a set of words in which the shantyman does not himself hang people and indeed sings, I never hung nobody. Hugill is adamant (as is Terry) that no shantyman ever claimed that anyone other than himself was the hangman, and that “Sentimental verses like some collectors give were never sung – Sailor John hanged any person or thing he would think about without a qualm.” Checking these ‘some collectors’, one finds several who elect only to hang the bad guys – liars, murderers, etc. – are these the verses Hugill means by ‘sentimental’ or is he having a go at Sharp for the shantyman not being the hangman himself? Sharp’s notebooks show that he recorded from Short the same as he published. It could be that Short is self-censoring but it seems unlikely given that Short seems happy, in various other shanties, to sing text that might not be regarded as genteel (e.g. Nancy, Lucy Long, Shanadore). Short was, however, a deeply religious man and, if this is not simply an early and less developed form of the shanty, then he may have deliberately avoided casting himself as hangman – we will never know! Notwithstanding, and contrary to Hugill’s assertion, there was at least one shantyman who actually sang I never hung nobody.

Collectors’/publishers’ reactions to the shanty are curiously mixed: Bullen merely notes that “shanties whose choruses were adapted for taking two pulls in them… were exceedingly useful”, Fox-Smith that it had an “almost macabre irony which is not found in any other shanty”, and Maitland that “This is about as doleful a song as I ever heard” but, in an almost poetic description points out that “there’s a time when it comes in. For instance after a heavy blow, getting more sail on the ship. The decks are full of water and the men cannot keep their feet. The wind has gone down, but the seas are running heavy. A big comber comes over the rail; the men are washed away from the rope. If it wasn’t for the man at the end of the rope gathering in the slack as the men pull, all the work would have to be done over again.” – Horses for courses! (from here)

Tom Brown from Short Sharp Shanties : Sea songs of a Watchet sailor vol 1

They called me hanging Johnny,
urrhay-i-, urrhay-i-,
They called me hanging Johnny
so hang, boys, hang
They hanged me poor old father
They hanged me poor old mother
Yes they hanged me mother
Me sister and me brother
They hanged me sister Sally
They strung her up so canny
They said I handeg for money
But I never hanged nobody
Oh boys we’ll haul and hang the ship
oh haul her ropes so neat
We’ll hang him forever,
We’ll hang for better weather,
A rope, a beam, a ladder,
I’ll hang ye all together


Stan Ridgway from  Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, ANTI 2006. Masterful interpretation that transforms the shanty into a melancholy folk song

The Salts live in a jaunty version

 Stan Ridgway lyrics
They call me hanging Johnny,
yay (away )-hay-i-o
I never hanged nobody
hang, boys, hang
Well first I hanged your mother
Me sister and me brother
I’d hang to make things jolly
I’d hang all wrong and folly
A rope, a beam, a ladder,
I’ll hang ye all together
Well next I hanged me granny
I’d hang the wholly family
They call me hanging Johnny,
I never hanged nobody
Come hang, come haul together,
Come hang for finer weather,
Hang on from the yardarm
Hang the sea and buy a big farm
They call me hanging Johnny,
I never hanged nobody
I’d hang the mates and skippers,
I’d hang ‘em by their flippers
I’d hang the highway robber,
I’d hang the burglar jobber;
I’d hang a noted liar,
I’d hang a bloated friar;
They say I hung a copper,
I gave him the long dropper


Blow the man down sea shanty

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“Blow  the man down”, that is to knock a man down or strike with a fist, belaying pin or capstan bar, is a popular sea shanty.

There are a great variety of texts of this halyard shanty, with the same melody, and after the version for the cartoon character “Popeye” it has also become a song for children!

Billy Costello the voice of the first Popeye

According to Stan Hugill “the shanty was an old Negro song Knock A Man Down. This song, a not so musical version of the later Blow The Man Down, was taken and used by the hoosiers of Mobile Bay, and at a later date carried by white seamen of the Packet Ships.

Knock a man down

The original version probably comes from African-American workers, but ended up in the repertoire of liners along the transatlantic route. In his video Ranzo combines the melody of Stan Hugill with that of John Short: in the first text the shantyman would prefer to be on the ground, to enjoy themselves with drinks and girls.
Hulton Clint

There are three main themes.

FIRST VERSION: prime seamen onboard a Black Ball

The oldest version is the one in which the novice sailors are soon aware of the harsh and violent climate on the Black Baller.

In addition to the flag the Black Ball of the Black Ball Line was drawn on the fore-topsail

As Hugill says ” Chief Mates in Western Ocean ships were known as “blowers”, second mates as “strikers”, and third mates as “greasers.”
Packets and Blowers
A Packet ship was one which had a contract to carry packets (formerly “paquettes”) of mail. The earliest and most famous transatlantic packet route was the Liverpool service, started in 1816 by the Black Ball Line, with regular departures from New York on the 1st and 16th of every month without fail, regardless of weather or other inconveniences. These early ships of 300 to 500 tons averaged 23 days for the eastward voyage and 40 days to return westward. Cabin passengers were usually gentlefolk of good breeding, who expected to find courtesy and politeness in the captains with whom they sailed. Packet captains were remarkable men, hearty, bluff, and jovial, but never coarse, always a gentleman.
The mates, on the other hand, had no social duties to distract their attention, and devoted their time and energies to extracting the very maximum of performance from both their vessel and its crew, so it is no surprise that it was on board the Black Ball liners that “belaying pin soup” and “handspike hash” first became familiar items of the shipboard regime. A hard breed of sailor was required to maintain the strict schedules whatever the weather, and it took an even harder breed of mate to keep this rough and ready bunch in some sort of order. If all else failed then then Rule of the Fist applied: to “blow a man down” was to knock him down with any means available – fist, belaying pin, or capstan bar being the weapons most often preferred. (from here)

“Capstan Bars” di David Bone 1932
oh! Blow the man down, bullies.
Blow the man down W-ay! hey?
Blow the man down!
Blow the man down bullies.
Blow him right down, give us the time and we’ll blow the man down!
Come all ye young fellers that follows the sea.
W-ay! hey? Blow the man down!
I’ll sing ye a song if ye’ll listen t’ me.
Give us the time an’ we’ll blow the man down!
‘Twas in a Black Baller I first served my time.
and in a Black Baller I wasted my prime.
‘Tis when a Black Baller’s preparin’ for sea.
Th’sights in th’ fo’ cas’le(1) is funny t’ see
Wi’ sodgers (2) an’ tailors an’ dutchmen an’ all,
As ships for prime seamen(3) aboard th’ Black Ball.
But when th’ Black Baller gets o’ th’ land
it’s then as ye’ll hear th’ sharp word o’ command.
oh! it’s muster ye sodgers an’ tailors an’ sich.
an’ hear ye’re name called by a son of a bitch.
it’s “fore-topsail halyards”(4), th’ Mate(5) he will roar.
“oh, lay along smartly you son of a whore”.
oh, lay along smartly each lousy recroot.
Wor it’s lifted ye’ll be wi’ th’ toe of a boot.

1 )the forward part of a ship below the deck, traditionally used as the crew’s living quarters.
2) sodger vvariant of soldier is used as an insult in the sense of ambush, slacker, one who always tries to escape from work, that when there is work, goes away or retires
3) the inexperienced and the novices are good only for the easy maneuvers
4) fore-topsail halyards= In sailing, a halyard or halliard is a line (rope) that is used to hoist a ladder, sail, flag or yard; fore-topsai  the sail above the foresail set on the fore-topmast
5) Mate= first officer

The Seekers

Come all ye young fellows that follow the sea
To me weigh hey blow the man down
And pray pay attention and listen to me
Give me some time to blow the man down
I’m a deep water sailor just in from Hong Kong
If you’ll give me some rum I’ll sing you a song-
T’was on a Black Baller I first spent my time
And on that Black Baller I wasted my prime
T’is when a Black Baller’s preparing for sea
You’d split your sides laughing at the sights that you see
With the tinkers and tailors and soldiers and all
That ship for prime seamen onboard a Black Ball
T’is when a Black Baller is clear of the land
Our boatswain then gives us the word of command
“Lay aft” is the cry “to the break of the poop
Or I’ll help you along with the toe of my boot”
T’is larboard and starboard on the deck you will sprawl
For Kicking Jack Williams commands the Black Ball
Aye first it’s a fist and then it’s a pall
When you ship as a sailor aboard the Black Ball

SECOND  VERSION: I’m a `Flying Fish’ sailor

The second version tells the story of a “flying-fish sailor” just landed in Liverpool from Hong Kong, swapped by a policeman for a “blackballer”. The sailor reacts by throwing the policeman on the ground with a sting and obviously ends up in jail for a few months.

Stan Hugill& Pusser’s Rum from Sailing Songs  (1990)

I’ll sing you a song if you give some gin
To me wey-hey, blow the man down
?? down to the pin
Gimme some time to blow the man down
As I was rolling down Paradise street(1)
a big irish scuffer boy (2) I chanced for to meet,
Says he, “You’re a Blackballer from the cut of your hair(3);
you’re a Blackballer by the clothes that you wear.
“You’ve sailed in a packet that flies the Black Ball,
You’ve robbed some poor Dutchman of boots, clothes and all.”
“O policeman, policeman, you do me great wrong;
I’m a `Flying Fish’ sailor(4) just home from Hongkong!”
So I stove in his face and I smashed in his jaw.
Says he, “Oh young feller, you’re breaking the law!”
They gave me six months in Liverpool town
For bootin’ and a-kickin’ and a-blowing him down.
We’re a Liverpool ship with a Liverpool crew
A Liverpool mate(5) and a Scouse(6) skipper too
We’re Liverpool born and we’re Liverpool bred
Thick in the arm, boys, and thick in the head
Blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down
With a crew of hard cases(7) from Liverpool town

1) once the fun way for sailors, the 19th century Paradise street left today the place for Liverpool One,
2 sassy policeman or big Irish copper: scuffer is a typical nineteenth-century term for policeman
3) all the Black Baller line sailors wore their hair cut short
4) According to Hugill a flying-fish sailor is a sailor ” who preferred the lands of the East and the warmth of the Trade Winds to the cold and misery of the Western Ocean
5) first mate
6) scouse is a term used by the people of Liverpool which is also the name given to the local dialect. Originally born from the habits of the sailors of Liverpool to eat the stew of lamb and vegetables probably derived from the Norwegian “skause”. It refers to the English spoken language typical of Irish immigrants
7) hard cases: a tough or intractable person, a person who is hard to get along with.

JOHN SHORT VERSION: Knock a man down

The shantyman John Short sings a very personal version compared to the “Blow the man down” reported in the shanties archives, in the arrangement for the Short Sharp Shanties the authors write ” ” Fox-Smith, Colcord and Doeflinger all comment on the number of different texts which the shanty carried.  Hugill gives six different sets of words and Short’s words are not really related to any of them – so we have added ‘general’ verses from other versions.  Specifically, we’ve added the ‘Market Street’, ‘spat in his face’ and ‘rags are all gone’ verses – the rest are Short’s.”
Sam Lee from Short Sharp Shanties : Sea songs of a Watchet sailor vol 2 

As I was a-walking down Market street
way ay knock a man down, 
a bully old watchman I chanced for to meet
O give me some time to knock a man down.

Knock a man down, kick a man down ;
way ay knock a man down,
knock a man down
right down to the ground,
O give me some time to knock a man down.

The watchman’s dog stood ten feet high (1),
The watchman’s dog stood ten feet high.
So I spat in his face by gave him good jaw
and says he “me young  you’re breaking the law!”
I wish I was in London Town.
It’s there we’d make them girls fly round.
She is a lively ship and a lively crew.
O we are the boys to put her through
The rags are all gone and (?the chains they are jam?)
and the skipper he says  (? “If the weather be high”?)

A transcription still incomplete because I can not understand the pronunciation of the final verses
1) it was not unusual that the watchmen since the Middle Ages were accompanied with a dog, as can be seen from many vintage illustrations

THIRD VERSION: Beware of the drink whenever it’s free

The most widespread version is about an unfortunate meeting in Paradise street with a young “damself” sometimes compared to a ship in which, metaphorically, the sailor would want to embark.
The awakening is bitter, because he was shanghaiing on a Yankee ship. (see more)

the Haunted Saloon

I’ll sing you a song, a good song of the sea
Way – hey, blow the man down.
I trust that you’ll join in the chorus with me; Give me some time to blow the man down.
Blow the man down, bully, blow the man down; Way – hey, blow the man down.
Blow the man down, boys, from Liverpool town; 
Give me some time to blow the man down.

As I was a-walking down Paradise street
A handsome young damsel I happened to meet
At the pub down on Lime street I then went astray
I drank enough stout for to fill Galway Bay
The next I remember I woke in the dawn
On a tall Yankee clipper that was bound round Cape Horn.
Come all ye young fellows who follow the sea
Beware of the drink whenever it’s free

Woody Guthrie from Songs of American Sailormen, 1988 version collected by Joanna Colcord

As I was out walkin’ down Paradise street(1),
To me way, hey, blow the man down!
A pretty young damsel I chanced for to meet,
Give me some time to blow the man down!

She was round in the counter and bluff in the bow,
So I took in all sail and cried “way enough now”(2)
I hailed her in English, she answered me clear
“I’m from the Black Arrow bound to the Shakespeare”
So I tailed her my flipper(3) and took her in tow
And yard-arm to yard-arm(4), away we did go
But as we were a-going she said unto me
“There’s a spankin’ full rigger(5) just ready for sea”
That spankin’ full rigger to New York was bound
She was very well mannered and very well found
But as soon as that packet was clear of the bar(6)
The mate knocked me down with the end of a spar
As soon as that packet was out on the sea
‘Twas devilish hard treatment of every degree
So I give you fair warning before we belay
Don’t never take heed of what pretty girls say.

1) once the fun way for sailors, the 19th century Paradise street left today the place for Liverpool One,
2) way enough now from Weigh enough – Take the stroke, put the blades on the water and relax. “Weigh enough” (or “Wain…’nuff”, or “Way enough”) (USA) The command to stop what ever the rower is doing, whether it be walking with the boat overhead or rowing.
3) flipper= hand
4) yard-arm to yard-arm= Very close to each other.
5) rigger=packet
6) The bar of Mersey river.

Allen Robertson for the cartoon version of Jack Sparrow from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Swashbuckling Sea Songs 2007

Oh, blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down
Way aye blow the man down
Oh, blow the man down, bullies, blow him away
Give me some time to blow the man down!
As I was a walking down Paradise Street
A pretty young damsel I chanced for to meet.
So I tailed her my flipper and took her in tow
And yardarm to yardarm away we did go.
But as we were going she said unto me
There’s a spanking full-rigger just ready for sea.
So just as that lass I reached not to far
The mate knocked me down with the end of a spar.
It’s starboard and larboard on deck you will sprawl
For Captain Jack Sparrow commands the Black Pearl
So I was shangaiing aboard this old ship
she took off me money and gave me to sleep
So I give you fair warning before we belay,
Don’t ever take head of what pretty girls say.


Two variants from the Nevis and Carriacou islands so Ranzo writes in the notes: “The variation from Nevis, with its repeated phrase “in the hold below”, suggests the song was once associated with stevedores loading cargo. This is fascinating, because it is consistent with (my reading of the) evidence that “Blow the Man Down” was initially a stevedore song, in which the act of blowing “the man down” was perhaps a metaphor for stowing each piece of cargo. Also, the many variations, “hit,” “knock,” “kick,” “blow” are consistent with other historical data that “knock a man down” was an/the early form. The variation was sung by Roy Gumbs and party of Nevis in 1962. Lomax recorded it, and Abrahams transcribed it in his 1974 book. The second variation is from Carriacou. It refers to a vessel named _Cariso_. It was sung by Daniel Aikens and chorus in 1962.”


Paddy Lay Back: take a turn around the capstan

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Paddy Lay Back 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).

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)
Stan Hugill

Nils BrownAssassin’s Creed Rogue   (I, II, III, V, VI)

‘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,
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)! 

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)
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.
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.
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!’
‘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.
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’.
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.
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

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)

FOLK VERSION: Valparaiso Round the Horn

For his title the song 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” and “Valparaiso Round the Horn”. Among the favorite pirate song of course!

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

‘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,
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! 

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)
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
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
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

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


Row, bullies, row Liverpool Judies to Frisco


Leggi in italiano

Here is a sea shanty that ended up in the repertoire of pirate songs, and also in the movie “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves” by Ridley Scott (2010) (see film version). The title with which it is best known rather than “Liverpool Judies” is anyway “Row, bullies, row”.

An extremely popular maritime song used as reported by Stan Hugill as Capstan shanty (but also as an forebitter) it is grouped into two main versions (with two different but interchangeable melodies): 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.


Probably the most popular version, at least on the web, A. L. Lloyd comments :”The song of the Liverpool seaman who sailed to San Francisco with the intention of staying there, but who got himself shanghaied back to Merseyside again, was a favourite rousing forebitter, sometimes used at capstan work when the spokes were spinning easy.”

The Spinners 1966

Ewan MacColl & A.L. Lloyd

Sean Lennon & Charlotte Kemp Muhl from Son Of Rogues Gallery ‘Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys ANTI 2013 CD1

Assassin’s Creed Rogue (Sea Shanty Edition)

From Liverpool to ‘Frisco
a-rovin’ I went,
For to stay in that country
was my good intent.
But drinkin’ strong whiskey
like other damn fools,
Oh, I was very soon shanghaied(1) to Liverpool
singin’ Roll, roll, roll bullies, roll(2)!

Them Liverpool judies (3)
have got us in tow
I shipped in near Lasker
lying out(4) in the Bay,
we was waiting for a fair wind
to get under way.
The sailors on board
they was all sick and sore,
they’d drunk all their whiskey
and couldn’t get no more.
One night off Cape Horn
I willl never forget,
and It’s oh but a sigh(5)
when I think of it yet.
We was going bows
under the sail’s was all wet(6),
She was runnin’ (doin’) twelve knots wid her mainsky sunset (7).
Well along comes the mate
in his jacket o’ blue(8)
He’s lookin’ for work for them outlaws(9) to do.
Oh, it’s “Up tops and higher!(10)”
he loudly does roar,
“And it’s lay aloft Paddy (11),
ye son of a-whore!”
And now we are sailing
down onto the Line,
when I think of it now,
oh we’ve had a hard (good) time.
The sailors box-haulin'(12)
them yards all around
to catch(beat) that flash clipper  (13)(packet) the Thatcher MacGowan.
And now we’ve arrived
in the Bramleymoor Dock(14),
and all them flash judies
on the pierhead do flock.
Our barrel’s run dry
and me six quid advance,
I think (guess) it’s high time
for to get up and dance.
Here’s a health to our Captain wherever he may be,
he’s a devil (bucko) on land
and a bucko (bully) at sea,
for as for the first mate,
that lousy (dirty) old brute,
We hope when he dies
straight to hell he’ll skyhoot.

1) The verb “shanghaiinge” was coined in the mid-1800s to indicate the practice of violent or fraudulent conscription of sailors on english and american ships (it was declared illegal by the Seamen’s Act only in 1915!). The shanghaiing was widespread especially in the north-west of the United States. The men who ran this trade were called “crimps”.
The term implies the forced transport on board of the unfortunate on duty, sedated with a blow on the head or completely drunk. Upon awakening the poor man discovers that he has been hired as a sailor on the ship and he can not do anything but keep the commitment. Also written “I soon got transported back to Liverpool
2) or row (rowe is the Scottish word that stands for roll). The chorus wants to recall perhaps the use as rowing song by the whalers
3) The word “judy” is a dialectal expression of Liverpool to indicate a generic girl (not necessarily a prostitute); flash judies is a girlfriends. In the maritime language it became synonymous with favorable wind. AL Lloyd explains “When the ship was sailing at a fast speed, the sailors would say:” The girls have got hold of the tow-rope today. ”
4) other versions say “I shipped on the Alaska” or “A smart Yankee packet lies out”
5) ‘Tis oft-times I sighs
6) or: She was divin’ bows under with her sailors all wet
7) mainsky sunset is a way to give meaning to another misunderstood word: main skys’l set: or main skysail set- skysail = A set sail very high, above the royals.
8)  a hell of a stew
9) us sailors
10) “Fore tops’l halyards
11) most of the crews on the packet ship were Irish
12) box-Haulinga method of veering or jibing a square rigged ship, without progressing to leeward appreciably. It is performed by heading bow to windward until most speed is lost, but steerage way is still barely maintained. The bow is then turned back downwind to the side it came from, aftermost sails are brailed up to spill the wind and to keep them from counteracting the turning force of the foresails, and the ship allowed to pivot quickly downwind without advancing. They are, however, extended as soon as the ship, in veering, brings the wind on the opposite quarter, as their effort then contributes to assist her motion or turning. Box-hauling is generally performed when the ship is too near the shore to have room for veering in the usual way. (Falconer- 1779) from here
13 )the clippers were always competing with each other to obtain the shortest crossing time
14) Bramley-Moore Dock is a port basin on the Marsey River (Liverpool): it was inaugurated in 1848

To listen to the second melody with which the song is matched
Jimmy Driftwood from Driftwood at Sea 1962


Clancy Brothers version for  “Treasure Island” tv serie

On the Hispaniola (1)
lying out in the bay,
A-waitin’ for a fair wind
to get under way.
The sailors all drunk
and their backs is all sore,
Their rum is all gone
and they can’t get no more.
Row, Row, bullies, row!
Them Liverpool girls
they have got us in tow. (2)
One night at Cape Horn
we was crossing the line
When I think on it
now we sure had a good time
She was divin’ bows under,
her sailors all wet,
She was doin’ twelve knots
with her mainskys’l set.
Here’s a health to the Captain where ‘er he may be,
He’s a friend to the sailor
on land and at sea,
But as for our chief mate,
the dirty ol’ brute
I hope when he dies straight
to hell he’ll sky hoot

1) Hispaniola is the schooner purchased by Mr. Trelawney to go in search of the Treasure Island
2) the term has become in the seafaring jargon synonymous with favorable winds that drive home (a fast spinning ship)

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


Little Billee sea shanty

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A sea song with caustic humorism also entitled “Three Sailors from Bristol City” or “Little Boy Billee”, which deals with a disturbing subject for our civilization, but always around the corner: cannibalism!
The sea is a place of pitfalls and jokes of fate, a storm can take you off course, on a boat or raft, without food and water, it’s a subject also treated in great painting (Theodore Gericault, The raft of the Medusa see): human life poised between hope and despair.

The three sailors

The maritime songs can express the biggest fears with a good laugh! This song was born in 1863 with the title “The three sailors” written by William Makepeace Thackeray as a parody of “La Courte Paille” (= short straw) – that later became “Le Petit Navire” (The Little Corvette) as a nursery rhyme.(see first part): cases of cannibalism at sea as an extreme resource for survival were much debated by public opinion and the courts themselves were inclined to commute death sentences in detention.
The murder by necessity (or the sacrifice of one for the good of others) finds a justification in the terrible experience of death by starvation that pushes the human mind to despair and madness, but in 1884 the case of the sinking of Mignonette broke public opinion and the same home secretary Sir William Harcourt had to say “if these men are not condemned for the murder, we are giving carte blanche to the captain of any ship to eat the cabin boy every time the food is scarce “. (translated from here).
The ruling stands as a leading case and puts life as a supreme good by not admitting murder for necessity as self-defense

Little Billee
Bernard Partridge Cartoons

From notes of “Penguin Book” (1959):
The Portugese Ballad  A Nau Caterineta  and the French ballad  La Courte Paille  tell much the same story.  The ship has been long at sea, and food has given out.  Lots are drawn to see who shall be eaten, and the captain is left with the shortest straw.  The cabin boy offers to be sacrificed in his stead, but begs first to be allowed to keep lookout till the next day.  In the nick of time he sees land (“Je vois la tour de Babylone, Barbarie de l’autre côté”) and the men are saved.  Thackeray burlesqued this song in his  Little Billee.  It is likely that the French ballad gave rise to The Ship in Distress, which appeared on 19th. century broadsides.  George Butterworth obtained four versions in Sussex (FSJ vol.IV [issue 17] pp.320-2) and Sharp printed one from James Bishop of Priddy, Somerset (Folk Songs from Somerset, vol.III, p.64) with “in many respects the grandest air” which he had found in that county.  The text comes partly from Mr. Bishop’s version, and partly from a broadside.”  -R.V.W./A.L.L.

Ralph Steadman from “Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, ANTI- 2006″.

There were three men of Bristol City;
They stole a ship and went to sea.
There was Gorging Jack and Guzzling Jimmy
And also Little Boy Billee.
They stole a tin of captain’s biscuits
And one large bottle of whiskee.
But when they reached the broad Atlantic
They had nothing left but one split pea.
Said Gorging Jack to Guzzling Jimmy,
“We’ve nothing to eat so I’m going to eat thee.”
Said Guzzling Jimmy, “I’m old and toughest,
So let’s eat Little Boy Billee.”
“O Little Boy Billy, we’re going to kill and eat you,
So undo the top button of your little chemie.(1)”

“O may I say my catechism
That my dear mother taught to me?”
He climbed up to the main topgallant(2)
And there he fell upon his knee.
But when he reached the Eleventh(3) Commandment,
He cried “Yo Ho! for land I see.”
“I see Jerusalem and Madagascaar
And North and South Amerikee.”
“I see the British fleet at anchor
And Admiral Nelson, K.C.B. (4)”
They hung Gorging Jack and Guzzling Jimmy
But they made an admiral of Little Boy Billee.

Thackeray lyrics here
1) from french chemise
2) or top fore-gallant
2) his companions did not have to be very attached to the Bible (and probably Billy would have invented new ones to save time!)
4)  “Knight Commander of the Bath”, the chivalrous military order founded by George I in 1725


According to Stan Hugill “Little Billee” was a sea shanty for pump work, a boring and monotonous job that could certainly be “cheered up” by this little song! Hugill only reports the text saying that the melody is like the French “The était a Petit Navire”, so the adaptation of Hulton Clint  has the performance of a lullaby.

There were three sailors of Bristol City;
They stole a boat and went to sea.
But first with beef and hardtack biscuits
And pickled pork they loaded she.
And pickled pork they loaded she
There was gorging Jack and guzzling Jimmy,
And likewise there was little Billee.
but when they got to the Equator
They’d only left but one split pea.
Then gorging Jack to guzzling Jimmy,
“I am confounded hungaree.”
Says guzzling Jimmy to gorging Jacky
“We’ve no wittles (1), so we must eat we.”
Said Gorging Jack to Guzzling Jimmy,
“Oh Guzzling Jim what a fool you be..
There’s little Billy, who’s young and tender,
We’re old and tough, so let’s eat he.”
“Make haste, make haste” then say Guzzling Jimmy
as he drew his snickher snee (2)
“O Billy, we’re going to kill and eat you,
undo the collar of your chemie.”
When William heard this information
he drope down on bended knee
“O let me say my catechism
which my dear mom taught to me”
So up he went to the maintop-gallant
and he drope down on his bended knee
and than he said  all his catechism
which his dear mamy once taught to he
He scarce had said his catechism
when up he jumps “There’s land I see
Jerusalem and Madagascaar
And North and South Amerikee.”
“Jerusalem and Madagascar,
And North and South Amerikee;
There’s the British fleet a-riding at anchor,
With Admiral Napier, K.C.B.”
When they bordered to Admiral’s vessel,
He hanged fat Jack (3) and flogged Jimmee;
as for little Bill they make him
The Captain of a Seventy-three (4).

1)  It’s a mispronunciation of “vittles,” which is a corrupted form of “victuals,” which means “food.”
2) a particularly lethal big knife used as a weapon
3)in some versions the degree of guilt between the two sailors is distinguished, so only one is hanged
4) 73 cannon war vessel

And for corollary here is the French version “Un Petit Navire”


Asshole Rules the Navy

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“Asshole Rules the Navy” is a sea song in a bawdry and very trash style, for a perfect “pirate song”: recorded by Salty Dick for his album “Uncensored Sailor Songs” (2004) it is also titled “Backside rules the Navy” in the Oscar Brand version ( 1958).

Oscar Brand from “Bawdy Sea Chanteys.” 1958: in a “British gentleman” accent for a very fun story (I, II, VI)

Iggy Pop & A Hawk and a Hacksaw from Son Of Rogues Gallery ‘Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys ANTI 2013 ( I, II, VI)

Pyrates! from Uncharted Lands 2014: the dutch “Pyrates!” add some more stanzas

Let us sing a bit of good old Captain Kitt,
Who sat one morning early in the head.
A bee came flying past and it stung him on the ass,
And this is what the gallant captain said.
“Asshole(1) rules the Navy,
asshole rules the sea.
If you want a bit of bum,
better get it from your chum –
You’ll get no ass from me.”
Now we’ll hear some rhymes of Yeoman Second Grimes
Who ran the hook that hoisted up the mail.
One day as he stood watch it caught him in the crotch
And he cried as he went flying o’er the rail/”It doesn’t matter..”
Let us sing at gait (2),
as cook was running late
as the second mate searched below the decks
He caught him dashing past, run him up his mast
and this is what the shipman had to say..

The skipper wore his caps, over good old fashion maps
and for the good ole seaman he did call
they started having fun, as he filled him up with…..rum
and this is what the captain had to say….
Next we’ll sing a while, of a man with bags o’ style
for his shoes were made of Aussie crocodile
as he sat there on the docks,
We showed him all our….rocks
and this is what the bos’n had to say….
And now to end my song I’ll sing of AB Long
Whose member was not like his name at all.
When asked if he would tell how
he got along so well
His answer simply was as I recall,
“It’s very simple…”

1) or Backside
2) our own way


All for me Grog

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Yet another drinking song, “All for me Grog”, in which “Grog” is a drink based on rum, but also a colloquial term used in Ireland as a synonym for “drinking”.
grogThe song opens with the refrain, in which our wandering sailor specifies that it is precisely because of his love for alcohol, tobacco and girls, that he always finds himself penniless and full of trouble. To satisfy his own vices, johnny sells from his boots to his bed. More than a sea shanty it was a forebitter song or a tavern song; and our johnny could very well be enlisted in the Royal Navy, but also been boarded a pirate ship around the West Indies.

Nowadays it is a song that is depopulated in historical reenactments with corollaries of pirate chorus!
Al Lloyd (II, I, III)

The Dubliners from The Dubliners Live,1974

AC4 Black Flag ( II, III, VI)

And it’s all for me grog
me jolly, jolly grog (1)
All for my beer and tobacco
Well, I spent all me tin
with the lassies (2) drinkin’ gin
Far across the Western Ocean
I must wander

I’m sick in the head
and I haven’t been to bed
Since first I came ashore with me plunder
I’ve seen centipedes and snakes and me head is full of aches
And I have to take a path for way out yonder (3)
Where are me boots,
me noggin’ (4), noggin’ boots
They’re all sold (gone) for beer and tobacco
See the soles they were thin
and the uppers were lettin’ in(5)
And the heels were lookin’ out for better weather
Where is me shirt,
me noggin’, noggin’ shirt
It’s all sold for beer and tobacco
You see the sleeves were all worn out and the collar been torn about
And the tail was lookin’ out for better weather
Where is me wife,
me noggin’, noggin’ wife
She’s all sold for beer and tobacco
You see her front it was worn out
and her tail I kicked about
And I’m sure she’s lookin’ out for better weather
Where is me bed,
me  noggin’, noggin’ bed
It’s all sold for beer and tobacco
You see I sold it to the girls until the springs were all in twirls(6)
And the sheets they’re lookin’ out for better weather
Well I’m sick in the head
and I haven’t been to bed
Since I’ve been ashore for me slumber
Well I spent all me dough
On the lassies don’t ye know
Across the western ocean(7)
I will wander.

1) grog: it is a very old term and means “liqueur” or “alcoholic beverage”. The grog is a drink introduced in the Royal Navy in 1740: rum after the British conquest of Jamaica had become the favorite drink of sailors, but to avoid any problems during navigation, the daily ration of rum was diluted with water.
2) lassies: widely used in Scotland, it is the plural of lassie or lassy, diminutive of lass, the archaic form for “lady”
4) nogging: in the standard English noun, the word means “head”, “pumpkin”, in an ironic sense. Being a colloquial expression, it becomes “stubborn” (qualifying adjective)
5) let in = open
6) the use of the mattress is implied not only for sleeping
7) western ocean: it is the term by which the sailors of the time referred to the Atlantic Ocean


1/4 or 1/3 of Jamaican rum
half lemon juice (or orange or grapefruit)
1 or 2 teaspoons of brown sugar.
Fill with water.

Even in the warm winter version: the water must be heated almost to boiling. Add a little spice (cinnamon stick, cloves) and lemon zest.
It is a classic Christmas drink especially in Northern Europe.


( Italo Ottonello)
The grog was a mixture of rum and water, later flavored with lemon juice, as an anti-scorb, and a little sugar. The adoption of the grog is due to Admiral Edward Vernon, to remedy the disciplinary problems created by an excessive ration of alcohol (*) on British warships. On 21 August 1740 he issued for his team an order that established the distribution of rum lengthened with water. The ration was obtained by mixing a quarter of gallon of water (liters 1.13) and a half pint of rum (0.28 liters) – in proportion 4 to 1 – and distributed half at noon and half in the evening. The term grog comes from ‘Old Grog’, the nickname of the Admiral, who used to wear trousers and a cloak of thick grogram fabric at sea. The use of grog, later, became common in Anglo-Saxon marines, and the deprivation of the ration (grog stop), was one of the most feared punishment by sailors. Temperance ships were called those merchant ships whose enlistment contract contained the “no spirits allowed” clause which excluded the distribution of grog or other alcohol to the crew.
 (*) The water, not always good already at the beginning of the journey, became rotten only after a few days of stay in the barrels.
In fact, nobody drank it because beer was available. It was light beer, of poor quality, which ended within a month and, only then, the captains allowed the distribution of wine or liqueurs. A pint of wine (just over half a liter) or half a pint of rum was considered the equivalent of a gallon (4.5 liters) of beer, the daily ration. It seems that the sailors preferred the white wines to the red ones that they called despicably black-strap (molasses). Being destined in the Mediterranean, where wine was embarked, was said to be blackstrapped. In the West Indies, however, rum was abundant.



Un classico delle rievocazioni storiche in tema Bucanieri questa allegra drinking song, risalente alla metà del 1700: il titolo è anche semplicemente “Drunken Maidens” e le fanciulle sono talvolta “Three drunken maidens” ma anche “Four drunken maidens”.
A.L. Lloyd associò una melodia di sua composizione al testo che aveva trovato in “A Pedlar Pack of Ballads and Songs” di W H. Logan’s  (1869) e registrò la canzone, accompagnato da Al Jeffery al banjo,  nel suo album “English Drinking Songs” (1956) , che ebbe un discreto seguito nei circuiti dei folk clubs.
In seguito Lloyd trovò nel “Tune Book” (1770) di John Vickers la melodia originaria che accompagnava la canzone,  ma orami la versione standard era diventata la sua.
La canzone viene associata a Christy Moore e considerata una irish driinking song, ma è stata eseguita anche dai Fairport Convention e gli Steeleye Span.

ASCOLTA A.L. Lloyd in All For Me Grog, 1961

ASCOLTA The Planxty live

ASCOLTA Denis Murray & Napper Tandy live 1997

There were three drunken maidens
Come from the Isle of Wight (1)
They drunk from Monday morning
Nor stopped till Saturday night
When Saturday night would come, me boys
They wouldn’t then go out
Not them three drunken maidens,
they pushed the jug about (2).
Then in comes bouncing Sally
Her cheeks as red as blooms
“Move up me jolly sisters
And give young Sally some room
Then I will be your equal
Before the night is out”
And these four drunken maidens
They pushed the jug about
There’s woodcock and pheasant
There’s partridge and hare
There’s all sorts of dainties
No scarcity was there
There’s forty quarts of beer, me boys
They fairly drunk them out
And these four drunken maidens
They pushed the jug about
And up comes the landlord
He’s asking for his pay
“It is a forty pound bill, me boys
These gobs have got to pay
That’s ten pounds apiece, me boys”
But still they wouldn’t go out
These four drunken maidens
They pushed the jug about
Oh where are your feather hats
Your mantles rich and fine?
They all got swallowed up, me lads
In tankards of good wine
And where are your maidenheads
You maidens frisk and gay?
We left them in the alehouse
We drank them clean away(3)
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
C’erano tre signorine ubriache
che veniva dall’Isola di Wright
bevevano dal lunedì mattino
e non smettevano fino alla notte del sabato.
Quando arrivava sabato notte, ragazzi,
non avrebbero poi voluto uscire
non queste tre fanciulle ubriache
che facevano girare la bottiglia!
Allora entrò la rotondetta Sally
dalle guance come rose fiorite
“Spostatevi, mie allegre sorelle
e fate un po’ di posto alla piccola Sally
allora sarò vostra pari
prima che la notte sia finita”
Così queste quattro fanciulle ubriache
facevano girare la bottiglia
C’erano la beccaccia e il fagiano
c’erano la pernice e la lepre
e di tutte le prelibatezze
non c’era penuria.
C’erano quaranta litri di birra, ragazzi
e li bevvero tutti equamente
e queste quattro fanciulle ubriache
facevano girare la bottiglia
Ed ecco che arriva l’oste
e chiede di essere pagato
“E’ un conto di 40 sterline, ragazzi
dovete pagare questo gruzzolo,
sono dieci sterline a testa, ragazzi”
Eppure non volevano andarsene
queste quattro fanciulle ubriache
facevano girare la bottiglia
Dove sono i vostri cappelli piumati
i mantelli preziosi e belli?
“Sono stati tutti inghiottiti, ragazzi
in boccali di buon vino.”
E dove sono le vostre verginità
voi fanciulle sveglie e allegre?
“Le lasciammo in birreria,
ce le siamo bevute”

1) l’isola di Wight era un deposito per i contrabbandieri di liquori provenienti dalla Francia
2) Non è automatico tradurre in italiano il temine jug: in fiorentino si direbbe boccia, che richiama l’immagine delle bottiglie di vino da 5 litri (una bottiglia piuttosto grande con il collo stretto). Ma può essere anche una caraffa con tanto di manico e collo più svasato che assomiglia a una brocca. Potrebbe anche essere un vaso di vetro per conservare marmellate o ortaggi o il barattolo del miele. Un termine quanto mai generico che a me richiama l’orcio toscano, il recipiente di terracotta, panciuto e di forma allungata con il collo ristretto, spesso a due manici in cui si conservavano o trasportavano i liquidi. In antico era una unità di misura equivalente a circa 38 litri, ma rimpicciolito ecco che l’orcio era usato come una brocca.
jug= boccia, brocca, caraffa, bottiglia.
3) non avendo soldi per pagare l’oste, hanno pagato in natura