https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3ASea_shanty Plymouth Town the oldest?
In a Renaissance Faire a cappella context, I came across the notion that the call & response "Plymouth Town" (there dwelt a maid) is the oldest recorded shanty, at least in English. As time allows, I'll see if I can chase down some cites, or someone else could get there first... Just plain Bill 13:45, 6 April 2006 (UTC)
That's interesting. Are you referring to the song that also has the words "In Amsterdam their lived a maid, mark well what I do say!/In Amsterdam there lived a maid, and she was mistress of her trade./I'll go no more a rovin' with you fair maid . . ." Hugill gives the title of the song as "A Rovin'." In Shanties of the Seven Seas, he writes that the earliest book in English with the lyrics to shanties is Complaint of Scotland published in 1549, which gives several hauling songs. There is no music, however. As for "A Rovin'" he notes that some people claim that the words were taken from a song in the 1640 play The Rape of Lucrece, but he is not convinced of this having compared them. He also reports that "some say the tune [itself] is Elizabethan."
In all, he cites three shanties commonly held to be 16th century: "Haul the Bowline," "A Rovin'," and "Whiskey Johnny." He says that there is little or no evidence for "Haul the Bowline" (though he says it was a more important line at that time than it was later), that there is not enough evidence for "Whiskey Johnny," and that "A Rovin'" may be of that era but as a land-based folk song only rather than a shanty. Crypticfirefly 02:14, 22 July 2006 (UTC)