Archive for the 'Seafaring' Category



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

Randy Dandy Oh


h1 Monday, February 1st, 2010

“Randy Dandy Oh” is a wonderful old sea chantey that I just heard for the first time while walking on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. For some reason this song has eluded me all these years. Camilla and I heard it coming from a shop on the Embarcadero. When we asked the storekeeper for a copy of the CD and he said it was sold out. Thanks to the Internet I was able to track down “Randy Dandy Oh” and learn it. There is sea chantey singing on the Balclutha (pictured above) off the Hyde Street pier the first Saturday of each month so I thought this would be an appropriate song for this month’s Folk Den since we spent nearly three weeks here in San Francisco.

I recorded a new version when I got back home, with banjo and one voice doing verses which is more traditional for a capstan chantey. The original recording is here.

Lyrics:
[Gm]Now we are ready to head for the Horn
Way [F] Hey [Gm] Roll and go!
Our [Bb] boots and our [clothes, boys, [F] are all in the pawn
[Gm]To me rollicking [F]randy [Gm] dandy, oh!

Heave a pawl, heave away,
Way Hey Roll and go!
The anchor’s on board and the cable’s all stored
To me rollicking randy dandy, oh!

Come breast the bar, bullies and heave her away
Way Hey Roll and go!
Soon we’ll be rolling her ‘way down the bay.
To me rollicking randy dandy, oh!

Soon we’ll be warping her out through the locks
Way Hey Roll and go!
Where the pretty young girls all come down in flocks.
To me rollicking randy dandy, oh!

Sing goodbye to Sally and goodbye to Sue
Way Hey Roll and go!
For we are the bullies that can kick her through.
To me rollicking randy dandy, oh!

Roust ‘er up, bullies, the wind’s drawing free
Way Hey Roll and go!
Let’s get the rags up and drive ‘er to sea.
To me rollicking randy dandy, oh!

We’re outward bound for Vallipo Bay
Way Hey Roll and go!
Get crackin’ m’lads, it’s a mighty long way.
To me rollicking randy dandy, oh!

Now we are ready to head for the Horn
Way Hey Roll and go!
Our boots and our clothes, boys, are all in the pawn
To me rollicking randy dandy, oh!

Blow The Man Down


h1 Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Blow the Man Down originated in the Western Ocean sailing ships. The tune could have originated with German emigrants, but it is more likely derived from an African-American song Knock a Man Down. Blow the Man Down was originally a halyard shanty. A variant of this is The Black Ball Line (with a more positive view of the Blackball Line as well).

Western Ocean Law was Rule with a Fist. “Blow” refers to knocking a man down with fist, belaying pin or capstan bar. Chief Mates in Western Ocean ships were known as “blowers,” second mates as “strikers” and third mates as “greasers.”

There are countless versions of Blow the Man Down. The one here is from the Burl Ives Songbook and tells of the Blackball Line. The Black Ball Line was founded by a group of Quakers in 1818. It was the first line to take passengers on a regular basis, sailing from New York, Boston and Philadelphia on the first and sixteenth of each month. The Blackball flag was a crimson swallow-tail flag with a black ball.

The ships were famous for their fast passage and excellent seamanship. However, they were also famed for their fighting mates and the brutal treatment of seamen. (Western Ocean seamen were called “Packet Rats”). Many ships bore the name “bloodboat.” Most of the seamen hailed from New York or were Liverpool-Irish.

By 1880 the sailing ships were being replaced by steamers and the packets entered other trades or were sold.

Thanks to www.contemplator.com for this research.

Lyrics:
[C] Come all ye young fellows that follow the sea,
To my way [Am] haye, [Dm] blow the man [G7] down,
And pray pay attention and listen to me,
Give me some time to [C] blow the man down.

I’m a deep water sailor just in from Hong Kong,
to my way haye, blow the man down,
if you’ll give me some grog, I’ll sing you a song,
Give me some time to blow the man down.

‘Twas on a Black Baller I first served my time,
to my way haye, blow the man down,
And on that Black Baller I wasted my prime,
Give me some time to blow the man down.

‘Tis when a Black Baller’s preparing for sea
to my way haye, blow the man down,
You’d split your sides laughing at the sights that you see.
Give me some time to blow the man down.

With the tinkers and tailors and soljers and all
to my way haye, blow the man down,
That ship for prime seaman on board a Black Ball.
Give me some time to blow the man down.

‘Tis when a Black Baller is clear of the land,
to my way haye, blow the man down,
Our Boatswain then gives us the word of command
Give me some time to blow the man down.

“Lay aft,” is the cry,”to the break of the Poop!
to my way haye, blow the man down,
Or I’ll help you along with the toe of my boot!”
Give me some time to blow the man down.

‘Tis larboard and starboard on the deck you will sprawl,
to my way haye, blow the man down,
For “Kicking Jack” Williams commands the Black Ball.
Give me some time to blow the man down.

Pay attention to order, now you one and all,
to my way haye, blow the man down,
For right there above you flies the Black Ball.
Give me some time to blow the man down.

Away Rio


h1 Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

On December 1, 2007 the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago celebrated its 50th anniversary. This is a song that I learned there 50 years ago. I love sea chanteys and this is one of my favorites! American sailors who sang this disdained any pronunciation other than “Ry oh.”
Lyrics:
[E] Have you ever been out on the [B7] Rio [E] Grande?
Away Rio
It’s [A] there that the [E] river runs down [B7] golden [E] sand
And we’re bound for the [B7] Rio [E] Grande

CH

[E] Away [B7] boys [E] away
Away Rio
So [A] fare ye [E] well my [B7] bonny young [E] girl
And we’re bound for the [B7] Rio [E] Grande

It’s pack up your sea chest and get under way
Away Rio
The girls we are leaving can take half our pay
And we’re bound for the Rio Grande

CH

Oh the anchor is weighed and the sails they are set
Away Rio
The maidens we’re leaving we’ll never forget
And we’re bound for the Rio Grande

CH

Sing good bye to Sally and sue
Away Rio
And all who are listening, it’s good bye to you
And we’re bound for the Rio Grande

The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry


h1 Thursday, March 1st, 2007

This is Child Ballad No.113
“The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry” is one of numerous tales of
the Silkies, or seafolk, known to the inhabitants of the Orkney
Islands and the Hebrides. These enchanted creatures dwell in the
depth of the sea, occasionally doffing their seal skins to pass
on land as mortal men. Legend has it that they then accept human
partners, and some families on the islands actually trace their
ancestry to such marriages. In more complete versions of the
ballad, the Silkie’s forecast of the death of himself and his son
eventually come to pass.
Thanks to Mudcat Cafe for that information
Lyrics:
[G] An earthly [F] nurse sits and [G] sings,
And aye, she [C] sings by [D] lily [G] wean,
And [C] little ken [D] I my bairn’s [G] father,
Far [F] less the land where he [G] dwells in.

For he came on night to her bed feet,
And a grumbly guest, I’m sure was he,
Saying “Here am I, thy bairn’s father,
Although I be not comely.”

“I am a man upon the land,
I am a silkie on the sea,
And when I’m far and far frae land,
My home it is in Sule Skerrie.”

And he had ta’en a purse of gold
And he had placed it upon her knee,
Saying, “Give to me my little young son,
And take thee up thy nurse’s fee.”

“And it shall come to pass on a summer’s day,
When the sun shines bright on every stane,
I’ll come and fetch my little young son,
And teach him how to swim the faem.”

“And ye shall marry a gunner good,
And a right fine gunner I’m sure he’ll be,
And the very first shot that e’er he shoots
Will kill both my young son and me.”