The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #126347   Message #2833834
Posted By: John Minear
09-Feb-10 - 07:04 AM
Thread Name: From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?
Subject: RE: From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?
So far, I have mentioned the following as possible shanties that could have been sung on board the whalers:

"Ranzo"
"Tommy's Gone To Hilo"
"Sister Susan"
"Tis Advertised In Boston"
"The Greenland Whale"
"We'll Go To Sea No More" (?)

I don't have a clear sense about either "Shallow Brown" or "John Cherokee" . Just because they mention whaling doesn't mean they would have been used as whaling shanties. Of course this is true of "Ranzo", "Tommy's Gone", and "Sister Susan" as well. Sometimes "Ranzo" almost seems like a parody of the whalers, like the merchantmen making fun of them. And of course, "Tommy" sails all over the world.

It does seem like "Ranzo" has been traditionally associated with the whalers. There are two others that might have had some reference to whaling. First of all, there is "Row, Bullies, Row", or as it it more commonly known "The Liverpool Judies". Hugill says the "shanty might quite well have been a whalers' rowing song, explaining perhaps why some versions give 'Row, Julia, row', in the chorus." (p. 403/'61) He goes on to say that "Whalers must have had many rowing songs, but unfortunately none have survived." In his book SHANTIES AND SAILORS SONGS, Hugill does suggest that this song probably originated in the 1840s, but says, there is "not actual proof" that it was ever used as a rowing song by the whalers. (p. 158).

I have not come across a version of "The Liverpool Judies" that actually makes a reference to whaling. It seems to me that the connection here is slim. The connection for the next song seems even more remote, but I'll mention it because it's out there as a theory. This is Hugill's suggestion that "Wild Goose Nation" really is "whale grease nation". He discusses this in relation to the "Huckleberry Hunting" shanty. (p. 251/'61) This is a shanty that is about Ranzo Ray. Hugill says, "Far-fetched? Yes! But as acceptable, I feel, as any of the previous theories!" Perhaps.

Out of the songs in this category, I think that only three are on very firm grounds for being used on board the whalers and they are the two whaling songs "Tis Advertised in Boston", and "The Greenland Whale", and then also "Ranzo".   Two of these certainly go back to the earlier part of the 19th century, and "Ranzo" may as well.