This 18c capstan shanty was much-liked by the poet, John Masefield. Stan Hugill, in his “Shanties from the Seven Seas” 1961, says that the “Rio Grande” was not the Mexican one but Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, which has a lagoon surrounded by golden sand dunes and which was felt to be a source of gold and riches. “White stocking day” was when the ship returned to port, to be greeted by the wives dressed in their best clothes and wearing white stockings. Johnny Collins, the great shanty singer who is sadly missed, often sang this song to start a set.
Johnny Collins once told me that traditional song from c1750 was collected by Bob Pegg in Cleveland. I like to believe that it is about the fishing village of Whitby, where they were very religious, mostly being Plymouth Brethren, and where they had to get to church before the bells stopped ringing.
Words and music for this chilling song are by Tom Kastle c1999. He lives in Chicago and wrote it to describe the feeling of working on the ships & barges of the Great Lakes of North America, where the wind-chill factor means it is very cold indeed in winter.
This net hauling song is from the Menhaden Chantymen from Beaufort, North Carolina and was sung in the late 19c and early 20c. The menhaden is a foot-long fish valued by industry as oil for making fertilizers, feeds, paints and perfumes. The pull was on the second “oh”.
Hornpipes developed in the 18c & 19c as a means of exercise for sailors. Captain James Cook (1728-1779) thought dancing was most useful to keep his men in good health during a long voyage. Worcestershire Hornpipe was collected by Cecil Sharp from John Mason of Stow-on-the-Wold in 1907 and Enrico was reputed to have been Thomas Hardy’s favourite tune.
Roy Palmer has traced this song back to c1809-1815, when Jennings of Water Lane, London, issued it as the Broadside Ballad “The Sailor and His Truelove”. Later versions saw the sailor changed into a soldier. The song was most popular in East Anglia.
This capstan shanty was popular on the Liverpool to New York packets. A “pawl” is the catch, which stops the capstan recoiling. Hugill’s version has 19 verses – it could take quite a while lifting the anchor!
This halyard shanty tells the story of the Alabama, a US Confederacy ship, which was built in Birkenhead and fitted out in Liverpool in 1861. During the American Civil War it created havoc in the North Atlantic by sinking dozens of Yankee ships. The Kearsage, a Yankee gunboat, eventually caught up with it and it was sunk on 19 June 1864. Many lives were lost but Captain Raphael Semmes managed to escape. The whole saga was very embarrassing for the UK government, as it had to pay considerable compensation.
This traditional song was collected by Peter Kennedy from Harry Cox in Norfolk c1950. Happisburgh, which is in North East Norfolk, is pronounced "Haisborough" and it has a red and white striped lighthouse.
Hugill states that this song started life as a pumping shanty and was later used as a halyard shanty. It is of West Indian origin and “challo brown” means half caste.
Portsmouth is from John Playford's “English Dancing Master” 1651. I don’t know why Shepton Mallet has its own hornpipe – it just does! Anyway, it fits nicely in this set.
Words and music are by Don Freed 1985, arranged by Tom Lewis 2003, who added two verses and altered the original three. The usual compensation paid by the pirate community in the 18c was 100 pieces of eight (worth some £20,000 in today’s money) for the loss of an eye & 600 for losing a leg. There is no record of the value of a “thing”!
This capstan shanty was collected in 1914 by Cecil Sharp from the seafarer, John Short of Watchet, Somerset, who now has his statue on the quay. Tom Brown rediscovered it in Watchet Museum in 1979. The Roseabella was probably a Portuguese or Spanish barque. Sailing in May she would be round Cape Horn by the following May and would have traded to New York, Australia and San Francisco in the 1830s until she sank at Cape Cod in 1846.
The words for this song were found by Gail Huntington in an 1864 journal from the New Bedford, Connecticut, whaler “Three Brothers” and the music was composed by Tim Laycock.
A traditional parting shanty c1930 from the Menhaden Chanteymen from Beaufort, North Carolina.