The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #126347   Message #2822032
Posted By: Lighter
26-Jan-10 - 05:21 PM
Thread Name: From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?
Subject: RE: From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?
John, re Miller and Oates.

Research Rule # 6: If the evidence is very late, not explicitly sourced, and (most especially) fits perfectly with modern expectations, don't trust it without seeing the (supposed) original source.

Popular historians sell books by making history "come alive." I've seen many examples over the years of even careful writers innocently weaving harmless, colorful "facts" into their narratives with no basis but supposition. And for most people, placing "Away, Rio!" in the 1840s is pretty harmless.

After all, everybody "knows" that sea shanties were sung in the 19th C. and that "Away, Rio!" was a popular shanty and oh, wow, they really were bound to the Rio Grande! So obviously they sang the shanty.

Wrong. Rather, not be assumed without evidence we can see.

Your New Zealand and Australian news articles, however, are valuable finds. Seeing the words of "Lowlands" fitted to "Away, Rio!" is a healthy reminder of just how fluid the shanties could be (much more fluid than their revival versions). Did either writer date the song to the 1850s? (If only the "Julia Ann" had sailed in the '60s instead!)