The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #77777   Message #1390841
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
27-Jan-05 - 10:10 PM
Thread Name: Origins: The Cruel Ship's Captain (Broadside?)
Subject: RE: Origins: The Cruel Ship's Captain (Broadside?)
That New York Trader reference was a misunderstanding. There is no relation, and it isn't what Lloyd was talking about. The DT notes, as so often, are an inaccurate and misleading digest of the information originally given, so it isn't surprising that people get confused.

For a detailed study of the song in its Norfolk and Bristol forms, see Elizabeth James, 'The Captain's Apprentice' and the Death of Young Robert Eastick of King's Lynn: a Study in the Development of a Folk Song in Folk Music Journal, London: English Folk Dance and Song Society, vol 7 number 5, 1999, pp 579-594.

If your college library can't oblige, back numbers of the Journal are available from at a mere £7 (about $13) plus shipping. They are well worth having. Contents lists can be seen at It will soon be possible to order copies online via credit card, but that will be a month or two away yet.

Joe has already quoted the text and notes from Roy Palmer's book (mentioned above, and an important work). I should mention that it is in print, and available in a new edition, Bushes and Briars: Folk Songs Collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams, from

Although it's useful for people to be able to see material without having to go to the library, I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable about the wholesale copying here of significant extracts from books in print and available at modest prices. Too much of that, and we risk damaging the (small) market for actual sales, and discouraging publication in the first place.

Lloyd didn't remember where he'd seen the broadside he mentioned when asked about it later (actually, he only thought he'd seen it), but it may perhaps have been the one Palmer mentions.

The song is number 835 in the Roud Folk Song Index. Examples currently listed are from England and Canada, plus a couple from America. See also Roy Palmer, Boxing the Compass 2001, pp 131-134 (previously The Oxford Book of Sea Songs, pp 119-122) for a broadside text (23 stanzas) printed in Massachusetts c.1810-14, Captain James, which tells essentially the same story.

It seems likely that there were several similar incidents at various times, that gave rise to songs which subsequently influenced each other. Another, later than these (but with a very similar story), was the subject of the song Andrew Rose, which has been discussed here in the past.