Archive for the 'Seafaring' Category



Banks of Newfoundland


h1 Friday, February 1st, 2013

Written in 1820 by Chief Justice Francis Forbes, “Banks of Newfoundland” is one of the first published songs about this northeast region of Canada. It was once used as a dance tune and later as a march by the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. I heard it sung by Ewan McColl and A.L. Lloyd on their 1960 L.P. “Blow Boys Blow.”

An explanation of the fourth verse: To “reef” a sail is to furl and lash it to the yard or the long beam that supports the sail. The crew did this while standing on a single line which they would “mount” and sometimes “pass” another shipmate in the process.

Lyrics:
[Em] Me bully boys of Liverpool
I’d have you to [D] beware,
[Em] When you sail on them packet ships,
no dungaree [D] jumpers [Em] wear;
[G] But have a big monkey [C] jacket
[G] all ready to your [D] hand,
[Em] For there blows some cold nor’westers
on the [D] Banks of [Em] Newfoundland.

[G] We’ll scrape her and we’ll [C] scrub her
[G] with holy stone and [D] sand,
[Em] For there blows some cold nor’westers
on the [D] Banks of [Em] Newfoundland.

We had Jack Lynch from Ballynahinch,
Mike Murphy and some more,
I tell you lad, they suffered like mad
on the way to Baltimore;
They pawned their gear in Liverpool
and sailed as they did stand,
But there blows some cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

We’ll scrape her and we’ll scrub her
with holy stone and sand,
And we’ll think of them cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

Now the mate he stood on the fo’c'sle head
and loudly he did roar,
Now rattle her in ye lucky lads,
you’re bound for America’s shore;
Come wipe the blood off that dead man’s face
and haul or you’ll be canned,
For there blows some cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

We’ll scrape her and we’ll scrub her
with holy stone and sand,
For there blows some cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

So now it’s reef and reef, me boys
With the Canvas frozen hard
And it’s mount and pass every mother’s son
on a ninety foot topsail yard
never mind about boots and oilskins
but sail just as you stand
For there blows some cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

We’ll scrape her and we’ll scrub her
with holy stone and sand,
And we’ll think of them cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

So now we’re off the Hook, me boys,
the land is white as snow,
And soon we’ll see the pay table
and we’ll spend the night below;
And on the docks, come down in flocks,
them pretty girls will stand,
It’s snugger with me than on the sea,
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

We’ll scrape her and we’ll scrub her
with holy stone and sand,
And we’ll think of them cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

We’ll scrape her and we’ll scrub her
with holy stone and sand,
And we’ll think of them cold nor’westers
on the Banks of Newfoundland.

Paddy West


h1 Thursday, March 1st, 2012

A.L. Lloyd sang Paddy West in 1960 on his and Ewan MacColl’s Tradition Records album Blow Boys Blow. He commented in the sleeve notes:

“Mr West is a redoubtable figure in the folklore of the sea. He was a Liverpool boarding-house keeper in the latter days of sail, who provided ship captains with crews, as a side-line. He would guarantee that every man he supplied had crossed the Line and been round the Horn several times. In order to say so with a clear conscience, he gave greenhorns a curious course in seamanship, described in this jesting ballad. It was a great favourite with “Scouse” (Liverpool) sailors.”

Paddy was a resourceful fellow who, with his wife, ran a home school for novice sailors. His methods were rather crude (like having his wife throw a bucket of water on their students to provide ‘sea spray’) but together they created a simulation of real conditions that could instill a sense of confidence in the lads that would most likely help them on an actual ocean voyage.

I accompanied myself on my Martin HD-7 seven string guitar and an English concertina that my wife Camilla gave me.

Lyrics:
[G] As I was walkin’ down [Am] London Street,
[D] I come to Paddy West’s [G] house,
He give me a dish of [C] American [G] hash;
And he called it Liverpool [C] scouse,
[G] He said “There’s a ship and she’s [C] takin’ [G] hands,
And on her you must [C] sign,
[G] Ah the mate’s a tyrant, the [Am] captain’s worse,
[D] But she will do you [G] fine.”
Chorus:
[G] Take off yer dungaree [C] jacket,
[G] And give yerself a [C] rest,
[G] And we’ll think on them cold [Am] nor’westers
That we [D] had at Paddy [G] West’s.

2. When we had finished our dinner lads,
The winds began to blow.
Paddy sent me to the attic,
The main-royal for to stow,
But when I got to the attic,
No main-royal could I find,
So I turned myself around,
And I furled the window blind.
Chorus:

3. Now Paddy he pipes all hands on deck,
Their stations for to man.
His wife she stood in the doorway,
A bucket in her hand;
And Paddy he cries, “Now let ‘er rip!”
And she throws the water our way,
Cryin’ “Clew in the fore t’gan’sl, boys,
She’s takin on the spray!”
Chorus:

4. Now seein’ she’s headed south’ard,
To Frisco she was bound;
Paddy he takes a length of rope,
And he lays it on the ground,
We all steps over, and back again,
He says to me “That’s fine,
If they ask you were you ever at sea
You say you crossed the line.”
Chorus:

5. There’s just one thing for you to do
Before you sail away,
Step around the table,
Where the bullock’s horn do lay
And if they ask “Were you ever at sea?”
Say “Ten times ’round the Horn”
And they’ll think you’re a natural sailor lad
From the day that you was born.
Chorus: X 2

Titanic


h1 Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

When the Costa Concordia capsized last month, people described the panic and chaos during a rather unruly evacuation as reminiscent of the pandemonium on board the Titanic as it sank nearly 100 years ago. I remembered hearing this song in the Harry Smith Anthology of American Music and decided it would be fitting for the Folk Den’s February release.

There are many versions of this. I combined the two that I liked best.

Lyrics:
Riff in A

On a Monday morning, just about nine o’clock
Great Titanic began to reel and rock
Children weep and cry, yes I’m going to die
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down
Husbands and wives little children lost their lives
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

When that ship left England, making for the shore
The rich had declared they would not ride with the poor
They put the poor below they were the first to go
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down
Husbands and wives, children lost their lives
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

They threw the life boats over, in the dark and stormy seas
The band began to play “O Give Thy Soul To Thee”
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down
Little children wept and cried as they left their mother’s side
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down
Husbands and wives, children lost their lives
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

People on that ship, a long long way from home
Friends all around, didn’t know their time had come
Death come riding by, sixteen hundred had to die
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down
Husbands and wives, children lost their lives
Wasn’t it sad when that great ship went down

Eddystone Light


h1 Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Camilla and I have been sailing on the Queen Mary 2 for the past two weeks. There are posters on board of various light houses. The one depicting the Eddystone Light reminded me of this song. I recorded it in our stateroom and sent it up via satellite.
Lyrics:

[C] Me father was the keeper of the Eddystone Light
And [F] courted a [G] mermaid [C] one fine night
From this union there come three
A [F] porpoise and a [G] porgy and the [C] other was me

[Dm] Yo ho ho, the [G] wind blows free
[F] Oh, for the life on the rolling [C] sea

One night, while I was trimming of the glim
Singing a verse from the evening hymn
A voice from the starboard shouted, “Ahoy”
And there was me mother, a-sitting on the buoy

Tell me what has become of me children of three ?
Me mother she then asked of me
One went on tour as a talking fish
And the other was served on a chafing dish

Yo ho ho, the wind blows free
Oh, for the life on the rolling sea

Then the phosphorous flashed in her seaweed hair
I looked again me mother wasn’t there
Her voice came echoing out of the night
“To the devil with the keeper of the Eddystone Light”

Oh, yo ho ho, the wind blows free
Oh, for the life on the rolling sea

Me father was the keeper of the Eddystone Light
And courted a mermaid one fine night
From this union there come three
A porpoise and a porgy and the other was me

The Coast of Peru


h1 Monday, August 1st, 2011

One of my favorite folk albums is “Thar She Blows” with A. L. Lloyd and Ewan MacColl on vocals, Peggy Seeger on banjo/guitar and John Cole on harmonica. I recorded this song in Lloyd’s vocal style, adding mandolin, banjo and guitar.

Here are some notes from A. L. Lloyd:

“The English whaling ship Emilia was the first to inaugurate the Pacific sperm whale fishery in 1788, rounding Cape Horn to fish in the waters of the South Sea islands and the coasts of Chile and Peru. By the 1840s, the days of the South Seamen were numbered, but they left behind a fine memorial in their songs, of which The Coast of Peru is perhaps the most impressive. Tumbez, mentioned in the last verse, is in the far north of Peru, on the Gulf of Guayaquil, near the equator. Its girls are remembered in several whaling songs.

By no means all the old time whaling was done in northern waters. In the 1820s, for example, more than a hundred British ships, mostly out of Hull or London, where fishing in the sperm whale grounds round the Horn off the coast of Chile and Peru and taking the long, long run across the Pacific by way of Galapagos Island and the Marquesas, to Timor. The trip would last three years. The Coast of Peru is the most important ballad of the South-Seamen. Possibly it describes the chase of a southern right whale, not a sperm. Sperms were usually harpooned by running the boat close to the whale. Right whales, who tend to fight with their tail, were more often harpooned with the “long dart” from perhaps ten yards away. Mention of the mate in the “main chains” dates the song before the 1840s.”

Lyrics:

[Dm] Come all you young [C] sailor-men who rounded [Dm] Cape Horn,
Come all you bold whalers who follow the sperm,
Our captain has told us and we hope he says true,
[Dm] There’s plenty of [C] sperm whale on the [Dm] coast of Peru.

It was was early one morning just as the sun rose,
The man on the for-mast sung out: “There she blows!”
“Where away?” says the captain, “and where does she lay?”
“Three points to the east, sir, not a mile away.”

Then it’s lower your boats me boys and after him travel
Steer clear of his flukes or he’ll flip you to the devil
And lay on them oars boys and let your boats fly
But one thing we dread of, keep clear of his eye!”

Well the waist-boat got down, and we made a good start.
“Lay on said the harpooneer for I’m hell for a long dart.”
Well the harpoon it struck and the whale sped away
But whatever he done, me boys, he gave us fair play.

Well we got him turned over and laid alongside
And we over with our blubber hooks to rob him of his hide
We commenced thrusting in boys and then trying out
And the mate in the main chains how loud he did shout

Now we’re bound for old Tumbez in our manly power
Where a man buys a pleasure house for a barrel of flour
We’ll spend all our money on them pretty girls ashore
And when it’s all gone me lads go whaling for more

Come all you young sailor-men who rounded Cape Horn,
Come all you bold whalers who follow the sperm,
Our captain has told us and we hope he says true,
There’s plenty of sperm whale on the coast of Peru.

Leave Her Johnny Leave Her


h1 Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Liam Clancy sang this in concert. He’d introduce it: “Here’s a song you haven’t heard before but you’ll learn it in a few minutes and when you go home tonight, you’ll have a new song in your repertoire.” He’d get a good laugh on that! “It’s an old sea chantey. There was always a kind of sadness at the end of a voyage, in spite of all the fights and hardship, the sailors were a bit sorry to leave and they’d sing this song.”

The Space Shuttle Endeavour has landed for the last time, I would imagine the astronauts felt the same way as sailors leaving their ship.

The picture is from a video Camilla McGuinn shot at a concert where I performed this with John Sebastian.

Lyrics:

[D] I thought I heard the old man say,
[A] “Leave her, Johnny, [D] leave her,
[G] It’s a long, hard [D] pull to your [A] next [D] payday
[D] And it’s time for us to [A] leave [D] her”.
-Chorus-
[A] Leave her, Johnny, [D] leave her!
[G] Oh, leave her, Johnny, [D] leave her,
Oh the [G] voyage is [D] done and the [A] winds don’t [D] blow,
And it’s time for us to [A] leave [D] her!

Oh, the skipper was bad, but the mate was worse.
Leave her, Johnny, leave her
He’d blow you down with a spike and a curse,
And it’s time for us to leave her.
-Chorus-
Leave her, Johnny, leave her!
Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her,
For the voyage is done and the winds don’t blow,
And it’s time for us to leave her!

Oh pull you lubbers or you’ll get no pay
Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her,
Oh pull you lubbers and then belay
And it’s time for us to leave her!
-Chorus-
Leave her, Johnny, leave her!
Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her,
For the voyage is done and the winds don’t blow,
And it’s time for us to leave her!

And now it’s time to say goodbye
Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her,
Them pilings they is a-drawing nigh
And it’s time for us to leave her!
-Chorus- X 2

Henry Martin


h1 Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

I remember seeing Joan Baez sing “Henry Martin” at Club 47 in Cambridge MA in 1960. She looked and sounded just like she does in this clip: CLICK HERE
This ballad is sometimes confused with Andrew Barton, because they are similar both in story and sometimes in tune. According to Sharp Henry Martin is probably the older ballad and was recomposed during the reign of James I. However, some scholars feel it is the other way around. Whichever is the case, Henry Martin dates to at least the 1700s.

In the many versions the hero is variously Henry Martin (Martyn), Robin Hood, Sir Andrew Barton, Andrew Bodee, Andrew Bartin, Henry Burin and Roberton. Sharp feels Henry Martin is probably a corruption of the name Andrew Barton.

The ballad is based on a family that lived during the reign of Henry VIII. A Scottish officer, Sir Andrew Barton, was attacked by the Portuguese. Letters of marque were then issued to two of his sons. The brothers, not finding sufficient Portuguese ships, began harassing English merchants. King Henry VIII commissioned the Earl of Surrey to end their piracy. He was given two vessels which he put under the command of his sons, Sir Thomas and Sir Edward Howard. They attacked Barton’s ships, The Lion and the Union, and captured them. They returned triumphant on August 2, 1511.

Child Ballad #250

Click Here for another strong performance of “Henry Martin” by actor Chris Leidenfrost-Wilson

Lyrics:
There were three brothers in merry Scotland,
In merry Scotland there were three,
And they did cast lots which of them should go,
should go, should go,
And turn robber all on the salt sea.

The lot it fell first upon Henry Martin,
The youngest of all three;
That he should turn robber all on the salt sea,
Salt sea, salt sea.
For to maintain his two brothers and he.

He had not been sailing but a long winter’s night
And a part of a short winter’s day,
Before he espied a stout lofty ship,
lofty ship, lofty ship,
Come abibing down on him straight way.

Hullo! Hullo! cried Henry Martin,
What makes you sail so nigh?
I’m a rich merchant bound for fair London town,
London Town, London Town
Will you please for to let me pass by?

Oh no! Oh no! cried Henry Martin,
That thing it never could be,
For I am turned robber all on the salt sea
Salt sea, salt sea.
For to maintain my brothers and me.

Come lower your topsail and brail up your mizz’n
And bring your ship under my lee,
Or I will give you a full flowing ball,
flowing ball, flowing ball,
And your dear bodies drown in the salt sea.

Oh no! we won’t lower our lofty topsail,
Nor bow ourselves under your lee,
And you shan’t take from us our rich merchant goods,
merchant goods, merchant goods
Nor point our bold guns to the sea.

With broadside and broadside and at it they went
For fully two hours or three,
Till Henry Martin gave to her the deathshot,
the deathshot, the deathshot,
And straight to the bottom went she.

Bad news, bad news, to old England came,
Bad news to fair London Town,
There’s been a rich vessel and she’s cast away,
cast away, cast away,
And all of the merry men drown’d.

Back To Sea


h1 Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

While recording sea chanteys under my painting “The Argonaut” by Roger Chapelet, playing rollicking tunes and researching the capsules of history, I was inspired to pen a new song of the sea. These lyrics trace the adventures of foreign port experiences enjoyed by many sailing ships in the golden age of sail, from Liverpool to Maui.
Lyrics:
[Em] At last we sailed past Rio Grande
A-headed [D] round Cape [Em] Horn
[Em] We’ll make our way to Valpo Bay
Before it’s [D] Christmas [Em] morn

[Am] Pray that we ride a [Em] faithful tide
[G] Our topsail’s blowing [D] free
[Em] We’ve many gifts for them Valpo gals
‘Fore we head [D] back to [Em] sea

We’ll take up loads of good supplies
To the California coast
We’ll bring them miner forty-niners
What they need the most

Pray that we ride a faithful tide
Our topsail’s blowing free
We’ll kiss them California girls
‘Fore we head back to sea

The port of San Francisco is
Now many miles behind
We’re rolling back to Liverpool
A-blowing on the wind

Pray that we ride a faithful tide
Our topsail’s blowing free
Once more we’ll kiss them Valpo gals
‘Fore we head back to sea

And when our sailing is all done
We go back around the Horn
Be sure of your boots and oilskins
Or you wish you’d never been born

Pray that we ride a faithful tide
Our topsail’s blowing free
We’ll say hello to them Liverpool gals
‘Fore we head back to sea

Pay Me My Money Down


h1 Friday, October 1st, 2010

Pay Me My Money Down is a work song from the Georgia Sea Islands. The slaves there were in relative isolation from the culture of the Southern United States and retained much of their West and Central African heritage. They speak an English-based creole language containing many African words and using similar grammar and sentence structure to those of African languages.

The melody is much older and is used in other songs.

Lyrics:
[G] I thought I heard the Captain say,
Pay me my [D] money down,
Tomorrow is our sailing day,
Pay me my [G] money down

[G] Oh pay me, oh pay me,
Pay me my [D] money down,
Pay me or go to jail,
Pay me my [G] money down

As soon as the boat was clear of the bar,
Pay me my money down,
The captain knocked me down with a spar,
Pay me my money down

If I’d been a rich man’s son,
Pay me my money down,
I’d sit on the river and watch it run,
Pay me my money down

Well 40 nights, nights at sea
Pay me my money down,
Captain worked every last dollar out of me,
Pay me my money down

Rolling Down To Old Maui


h1 Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

This is a Pacific whaling song. Most whaling songs I know are Atlantic based, sailing to Iceland and Greenland whale fisheries. This is the story of a ship based in Maui that sailed to the Kamchatka_Peninsula where there were many types of whales in the 1800s.

I would encourage you to listen to this with large speakers or earphones, as there some low frequencies that will surely be lost through computer sound systems.

Lyrics:
[Em] It’s a mighty tough [B7] life [Em] full of toil and [B7] strife
  
[Em] We whaler-men [D] under [Em] go
[Em]
And we really don’t [B7] care when the [Em] gale is [B7] done
  
[Em] How hard them [D] winds did [Em] blow

[G] We’re homeward bound from the [D] Arctic Sound
  
With a [C] good ship taut and [B7] free
[Em]
And we’ll have our [B7] fun when we [Em] drink our [B7] rum
  
[Em] With the girls of [D] Old [Em] Maui

CH
[G] Rolling down to Old [D] Maui, me boys
[C]
Rolling down to Old [B7] Maui
[Em]
We’re homeward [B7] bound from the [Em] Arctic [B7] Ground
[Em]
Rolling down to [D] Old [Em] Maui

Once more we sail with a Northerly gale
  
Through the ice, and wind, and rain

Them coconut fronds, them tropical lands
  
We soon shall see again

Six brutal months have passed away
  
On the cold Kam-chat-ka sea

But now we’re bound from the Arctic ground
  
Rolling down to Old Maui

CH

Once more we sail the Northerly gale
  
Going towards our Island home

Our mainmast sprung, our whaling done
  
We ain’t got far to roam

Our stuns’l booms is carried away
  
What care we for that sound

A living gale is after us
  
Thank God we’re homeward bound

CH

How soft the breeze through the island trees
  
Now the ice is far astern

Them native maids, them tropical glades
  
Is awaiting our return

Even now their big, round eyes look out
  
Hoping some fine thing to see

Our baggy sails running ‘fore the gales
  
Rolling down to Old Maui

CH