The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #115504   Message #2474317
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
23-Oct-08 - 08:42 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Loving Hannah - Bawley Boat?
Subject: RE: Origins: Loving Hannah - Bawley Boat?
For more on Jean Ritchie's set, see the discussion mentioned earlier: DTStudy: Loving Hannah.

Ordinarily I wouldn't attach much weight to a 'Sing Out' text unless properly provenanced, but Josephine McGill's Folk-Songs of the Kentucky Mountains (1917) is probably the earliest 'Loving Hannah' form we have, noted in 1914, and in it too the stanza runs

If I were on some ocean or in some foreign town
I'd put my foot in a bonny boat and sail the world around.

The 1918 text in Sharp, English Folk Songs From the Southern Appalachians (II, 254) has

I wish I was in London
Or in some seaport town
I'd set my foot on water-ship
And sail the ocean around.

Titled 'The Irish Girl' because it had acquired the opening verses of that song, the heroine is 'handsome Mary'. As 'Handsome Molly', there are four versions at the Max Hunter Collection. The relevant verses are as follows:

I wish I was in London
E'r some little seaport town
I'd set my foot in a steamboat
I'd sail this ocean 'round

I'll set my foot on ship, boys
And sail the ocean 'round
And sail the ocean 'round

I wish I were in London
Or some seaport town
Set my foot in a steamboat
Sail th ocean 'round

Well, I wish I was in London
Or some other seaport town
I'd set my feet on a steamboat
Sail th ocean 'round

Henry, Folk Songs From the Southern Highlands (1938):

I wish I was in some sea-port
Or in some sea-port town
I set my foot on sea-board
And sail this ocean round

There's a further text with tune in the DT: Handsome Molly, but no source of any kind is acknowledged. See also other earlier discussions here (links have now appeared, I see, at the top of the page) which touch on the same questions.

These are the only versions I have to hand that contain the verse; those Irish forms (and their American and Canadian derivatives) that I've seen don't include it. They often have a 'I wish I was in...' line, but it always develops differently: no boat.

Jean Ritchie's 'bally' or 'barley' boat notwithstanding (she was told by her family that it meant 'good', 'fine', 'beautiful' -see thread ), I really think that we're just looking at the ballad-commonplace 'bonny boat'. The 'bawley boat' idea is ingenious (and not impossible; it's been suggested here before, in the thread just mentioned) but unlikely; mainly because it's a local term belonging to an area where no form of the song has ever been found, and because most forms of the song don't contain anything remotely resembling it.

The Bodleian Collection does actually contain a broadside edition of 'Loving Hannah'; but it was printed by The Broadsheet King around 1970; no idea where he got it from. No image is available.