The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #115504   Message #2473405
Posted By: Ross Campbell
22-Oct-08 - 11:39 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Loving Hannah - Bawley Boat?
Subject: Origins: Loving Hannah - Bawley Boat?
I,ve just been watching a programme on BBC2 (UK), 2.15-3.15am Thurs 23rd October:

Thames Shipwrecks: A Race Against Time
Part two of two. Maritime archaeologist Frank Pope and historian and TV presenter Tessa Dunlop unearth the stories behind seven shipwrecks in the river Thames, from one of the last great sailing ships of the Empire to the iconic Thames Barge that supplied Victorian Britain.

One of the wrecks they investigated was a "Bawley Boat", the Thames Estuary version of the small fishing smacks common all round the coast of Britain. Google produced a couple of definitions - one referred to a Bawley Bay near Gravesend which may have given the name - another suggested the name derived from the boilers which were latterly used to boil (or "bawl" in local dialect) the shrimp so that they could be sold directly on landing the catch.

Many years ago Jean Ritchie (kytrad) kindly repeated the words for her family's song "Loving Hannah" for me while I scribbled them down. The last verse I had this way:-

"Oh, I wish I was in London, or some other seaport town
I'd set my foot on a barley boat, and I'd sail the seas all around"

I always wondered about the "barley boat" line, as grain boats crossing the Atlantic would normally carry wheat. Barley for malting for the whisky distillery industry grows readily in the UK climate and would not usually need to be imported.

My question is this:- could the Thames "Bawley boat" be the "barley boat" of the song?

The reference to London as the seaport town of choice for the wounded lover has proximity in its favour.It's easy to imagine that the "Bawley" reference might quickly lose its meaning away from there, to be replaced by something that seemed to make sense to the singer.

Against: I believe the song has not been collected in its entirety in the British Isles. (Some floating verses occur in other songs, and "Handsome Molly" has similarities). Although now well known in England, Scotland and Ireland, I think the versions you would hear in song sessions all derive from Jean Ritchie herself. While in Britain on a Fulbright scholarship (1952-3), she recorded "Loving Hannah" at Abbey Road studios along with some other songs. They were issued on 78s. Elizabeth Cronin loved the song and soon adopted it into her repertoire, from where it may have percolated down to younger singers such as Mary Black.

I've just checked Jean Ritchie's corrected version of "Loving Hannah"
here:- thread.cfm?threadid=85261#1596770
and note that she has "bally boat" (possibly pronounced "bawl" rather than "bahl"?)

It's getting late (early?) I'll sign off before I confuse myself even further!


Thread #85261   Message #1596770
Posted By: Joe Offer
03-Nov-05 - 05:12 PM
Thread Name: DTStudy: Songs of Jean Ritchie
Subject: DTStudy: Loving Hannah


I went to church last Sunday
My true love passed me by
I could see her mind was a changing
By the roving of her eye
My love she's fair and proper
Her hands are neat and small
And she is quite good looking
And that's the best of all
Oh Hannah, loving Hannah
Come give to me your hand
You said if you ever married
That I would be the man
I'll go down by the river
When everyone's asleep
And think on loving Hannah
And then sit down and weep
variant of Handsome Molly
recorded by Sandy and Caroline Paton
filename[ LOVHANNA

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"Loving Hannah" is a Ritchie family song, adapted and copyrighted by Jean Ritchie.

Jean, anything else you can tell us about the background of this song?
Also see these threads (click).

Jean Ritchie Version

Here's the version from Jean Ritchie's Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians:

(a Ritchie family song, adapted and copyrighted by Jean Ritchie)

I rode to church last Sunday,
My truelove passed me by,
I knew her mind was a-changing
By the roving of her eye.
My love is fair and proper,
Her hands and feet are small;
And she is quite good-looking,
And that's the best of all.
O Hannah, loving Hannah,
Come give to me your hand,
You said if you ever married,
That I would be the man.
I'll go down by the waters
When everyone is asleep,
I'll think of loving Hannah,
And then sit down and weep.
I wish I were in London
Or some other seaport town,
I'd set my foot on a bally boat
And I'd sail them seas all around.
I'd sail them seas all around,
I'd sail them seas all around,
I'd set my foot on a bally boat
And I'd sail them seas all around

© 1964 Jean Ritchie/Geordie Music Publishing Company

Excerpt from Jean's notes: