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The Good Ship Kangaroo

Leggi in italiano
A sea shanty from the music hall composed by Harry Clifton (1824-1872) and published in 1856 as On Board Of The Kangaroo; Stan Hugill in his “Shanties of the Seven Seas” gives two versions and ranks as capstan shanty, one from Stanley Slade of Bristol, and one from Elizabeth Cronin of Macroom, County Cork.


Apparently the song was not so popular in the sea shanty and its diffusion in the folk circuit is part of the revival of the 70s.
Planxty from After the Break 1979 (Elizabeth Cronin version)

Once I was a waitin’ man that lived at home at ease
Now I am a mariner that ploughs the angry seas
I always loved sea-faring life I bid my love adieu
I shipped as steward and cook, my boys, on board the ‘Kangaroo’ (1)
I never thought she would prove false or either prove untrue
As we sailed away through the Milford bay on board the kangaroo

“Think of me oh think of me”,
she mournfully did say
“When you are in a foreign land
and I am far away
And take this lucky threepenny bit
it’ll make you bear in mind
That lovin’ trustin’ faithful heart you left in tears behind”
“Cheer up cheer up my own true love don’t weep so bitterly”
She sobbed she sighed she choked
she cried and could not say goodbye
“I won’t be gone for very long ‘tis
but a month or two.
When I will return again
of course I’ll visit you”
Our ship was homeward bound
from many’s the foreign shore
And many’s the foreign presents
unto my love I bore
I brought tortoises from Tenerife
and toys from Timbuktoo
A china rat and a Bengal cat and a Bombay cockatoo
Paid off I sought her dwelling on a street above the town
Where an ancient dame upon the line was hanging out her gown
“Where is my love? “”She’s vanished sir about six months ago
With a smart young man that drives the van for Chaplin Son & Co (2)”
Here’s a health to dreams of married life to soap suds and blue (3)
Heart’s true love and patent starch (4) and washing soda too,
I’ll go unto some foreign shore
no longer can I stay
On some China Hottentot(5) I’ll throw myself away
My love she is no foolish girl
her age it is two score
My love she is no spinster
she’s been married twice before
I cannot say it was her wealth that stole my heart away
She’s a washer in a laundry for one and nine a day

1) t
here have been several ships to take the name of Kangaroo, probably it is from the SS Kangaroo a British passenger and merchant transport ship, whose navigation period coincides with the era of the song
2) Chaplin, Horne and Co was the largest transport company in the United Kingdom
3) Reckitt’s Blue:  before the modern optical brighteners, there was a mysterious blue sachet that was dissolved in the last rinse water and raised the yellowish color from the cotton
4)  Harry Clifton writes: Farewell to dreams of married life! to soap, to suds, and blue, To “Glenfield starch” and “Harper Twelvetrees’ washing powder” too.
A claim to two products for the laundry of the perfect housewife! The music hall writers received financial compensation from producers for advertising their goods; Glenfield starch was so popular that another company put a production in Glenfield to give the same name to their starch, but lost the legal battle.
5) ‘hottentot’ is the derogatory term with which a tribe of the southern African Khoikhoi was called, in the nineteenth century Africans were taken as exotic curiosities and the missing link of Darwinian eviction, the koi were the most popular because of their short stature, women had the peculiarity of accumulating large amounts of fat in the thighs and buttocks: it’s going to fat-ass

Stanley Slade: Where we sail away from Bristol Quay

Among the last shantyman to sail on sailing vessels, with a powerful voice, the sailor Stanley Slade was hired on the first steam ships as a singer to entertain passengers with the most obscene versions of his repertoire.


I never thought she would prove false or either prove untrue
As we sailed away from Bristol quay
on board the Kangaroo

I thought I’d like seafarin’ life, so I bid my love adieu,
And shipped aboard as bosun’s mate, aboard the Kangaroo…
My love, she was no foolish girl,
her age is was two score;
My love she was no spinister,
she’d been married twice before…
You would not think it was her wealth that stole me heart away;
She was starcher at a launderer’s for eighteen pence a day…
Paid off, I sought her dwelling place, ‘twas high on Munjoy Hill;
Where an ancient dame upon the stoop was tossing out the swill…
“Where is my love?” “She’s married, sir, about six months ago,
To a smart young man who’s skipper of a bark that trades the coast in coal…”
Farewell to dreams of married bliss, of soapsuds and the blue;
Farewell to all you Bristol gals, you’re fickled minded too…
I’ll seek some distant foreign shore,
no longer will I stay;
An’ on some Chinese Hottentot I’ll waste my life away…


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