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Paddy Doyle’s Boots: We’ll pay Paddy Doyle for his boots!

“Paddy Doyle’s boots!” is a popular albeit short sea shanty, for a specific work: tossing the bunt!

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According to Stan Hugill, Paddy Doyle is the prototype of the boarding masters: Joanna Colcord misidentifies him with Paddy West. (see first part)

Boarding houses are pensions for sailors, present in every large sea port. “They are held by boarding masters, of dubious reputation, that provide ” accommodation and boarding “. Often they welcome the sailors “on credit.” On the advance received by the boarders at the time of enrollment, they refer to food and lodging, and with the rest they provide their clothing and equipment of poor quality “. (Italo Ottonello).

Sailors then usually purchased a sea bag with dungarees, oilskins, sea boots, belt, sheath, knife and a pound of tobacco from the boarding master.
So the first month (or the first months depending on the advance) the sailor works to pay the boarding master, “We’ll pay Paddy Doyle for his boots!”

Paddy Doyle's Boots -boarding house in Liverpool
a typical boarding house of Liverpool


Paddy Doyle's Boots
Paddy Doyle’s Boots

According to other interpretations Paddy Doyle was a good Liverpool shoemaker “known to all the “packet rats”* sailing out of that port for the excellency of his sea-boots, and beloved for his readiness to trust any of the boys for the price of a pair when they were outward bound across “the big pond.” (Fred H. Buryeson)
* slang term for sailors

In the painting – by an anonymous copy of David Terniers II (1610-1690 -) a shoemaker is shown with his tools (which have remained almost the same since then) intent on making a beautiful pair of boots.

Paddy Doyle’s Boots, a bunt shanty

Perfect shanty for short haulers, used expressly to collect the sails on the yard or to tighten them.
Paddy Doyle’s Boots was a shanty used specifically for these maneuvers! Another song that might have worked for these maneuvers was Johnny Bowker, a fore-sheet shanty that was sometimes used as a bunt shanty.

Paddy Doyle's Boots - tossing the bunt

The song is short because the work does not last long. Thus wrote A.L. Lloyd “This is one of the few shanties reserved for bunting the fore or mainsail. Men aloft, furling the sail, would bunch the canvas in their hands till it formed a long bundle, the ‘bunt’. To lift the bunt on to the yard, in order to lash it into position, required a strong heave. Bunt shanties differ from others in that they employed fewer voices, and were sung in chorus throughout. Paddy Doyle, the villain of this shanty, was a Liverpool boarding house keeper.” and he continues in another comment The men stand aloft on foot-ropes and, leaning over the yard, the grab the bunched-up sail and try to heave the ‘sausage’ of canvas on to the yard, preparatory to lashing it in a furled position. The big heave usually comes on the last word of the verse, sometimes being sung as ‘Pay Paddy Doyle his his hup!’ But if the canvas was wet and heavy, and several attempts were going to be needed before the sail was bunted

A song that according to many was sung only for this purpose “bunting up the foresail or mainsail in furling” (RICHARD RUNCIMAN TERRY, The Shanty Book
According to some testimonies it was a piece that was sung exclusively in chorus and according to Stan Hugill the attack of each choral line is sung by the soloist.

Timme way ay-ay-ay high ya!
We’ll pay Paddy Doyle for his boots!

according to Terry, the sailors’ pull occurred exclusively at the last word of the second verse, while Hugill states that there could also be a second pull at the end of the first verse.

Paddy Doyle’s Boots nel Folk Revival

The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem
Assassin’s Creed Black Flag
Paul Clayton who adds the verse  “For the crusty old man on the poop”
Sam Eskin performs the song accompanying himself on the guitar, a version detached from the original context of the shanty but more in line with folk music

To me Way-ay-ay yah!(1)
We’ll pay Paddy Doyle(2) for his boots!
We’ll all drink whiskey(3) and gin!
We’ll all shave under the chin!
We’ll all throw mud at the cook(4)!
The dirty ol’ man’s on the poop! (5)
We’ll bouse (6) her up and be done!
We’ll pay Paddy Doyle for his boots! (7)

1) a non sense line than other versions such as “Yes (yeo), aye, and we’ll haul, aye”. The strongest accent falls on the last syllable of the verse that corresponds to the tear-off maneuver for hoisting a sail
2) In other versions are used more sea terms and inherent to the sailor work: We’ll tauten the bunt, and we’ll be furl, aye; We’ll bunt up the sail with a fling, aye ; We’ll skin the ol’ rabbit an’ haul, aye.
3) or brandy
4) figure of speech to insult or talk badly
5) poop means both stern-aft and shit6) bouse= nautical term its meanings: 1) To haul in using block and tackle. 2) To secure something by wrapping with small stuff. 3) To haul the anchor horizontal and secure it so that it is clear of the bow wave.In the context the reference is to the sail that is collected in a ‘bunt’, it is raised to fix it to the yard
7) In the context of the shanty the sailor complains of food and discipline and also having to pay Paddy Doyle for his poor equipment!


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 tramite il sito dell'associazione L'ontano []

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