Music: traditional arr. Will Rivers
A cautionary tale on a common theme. Possibly a forebitter or fo’c’sle ballad (a song sung for entertainment when sailors were off duty) although it may have been used for capstan work too. This was picked out for us by the legendary Jim Radford – D-Day veteran, peace activist and folk singer – when we had the honour of singing with him at Mycenae House in November 2018. Arranged by our own Will Rivers.
When I was a young man I sailed with the rest,
On a Liverpool packet bound out for the west,
We anchored one day in the harbour at Cork,
Then we put out to sea for the port of New York.
And it’s row, row bullies ho!
Them Liverpool judies have got us in tow.
For thirty-two days we was hungry and sore,
The winds was agin us, the seas they did roar,
Till off Battery Point we did anchor at last,
With our jib-boom stove in but our canvas all fast.
Them boarding-house masters was out in a trice,
A-smiling and promising all that was nice,
And one fat old crimp sort of cottoned to me,
Says he: “You’re a fool, lad, to follow the sea.”
Says he: “There’s a job, lad, just waiting for you,
With lashings of liquor and sod-all to do –
Well, what do you say, lad – will you jump up to?”
Says I: “You old bastard, I’m damned if I do.”
After thirty-two days at the door of the bar,
The best of intentions, they never gets far,
So I tossed off me liquor, and what do you think?
That lousy old bastard, he’d doctored me drink.
Next thing I remembers, I woke in the morn,
On a three-skys’l-yarder bound out round the Horn,
With an old suit of oilskins and three pair of socks,
And a bloody thick head and a dose of the … flu.
So all you young fellows take warning by me,
Keep an eye on your drink when the liquor is free,
And pay no attention to runner or whore,
Or your head will be thick and … some other part sore.