The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #126347   Message #2834399
Posted By: John Minear
09-Feb-10 - 03:58 PM
Thread Name: From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?
Subject: RE: From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?
I have two questions on this snowy afternoon in the Blue Ridge. First of all does anybody know of any references to shanties that were sung on pirate ships, and here I am making a distinction between "songs about pirates, such as "Captain Kidd" and working shanties? It is my understanding that most of the historical pirates were gone by the 1830s. Did they even use shanties at all? I'm thinking mainly about the time period between the end of the wars and end of the pirates from 1812 or 1815 to 1835. I am aware that Hugill says that "High Barbaree" was used as a capstan shanty. (p. 419-420/'61). However, he does not claim that it was actually sung on board pirate vessels. It is an old song, perhaps coming from the 1700s or earlier. Here is some Mudcat discussion:


My second question, is on a different subject. W.B. Whall says in the "Introduction" to his book SEA SONGS AND SHANTIES (first published in 1910):

   "Going to sea then, in 1861, in the old passenger-carrying East Indiamen, these Sailor Songs and Shanties struck me as worthy of preservation. During my eleven years in those ships, I took down the words and music of these songs as they were actually sulng by sailors, so that what I present here may be relied upon as the real thing." (p. xi)

The East India Company was finally dissolved on January 1, 1874, so Whall was a part of this in the very last days of its existence.

This would mean that Whall's collection of shanties constitutes a relatively complete record of what was being sung on the East India Company ships in the '60s and early '70s, and what may have been sung on them earlier in the 19th century. Presumably he was sailing with much older men whose memory would go back at least twenty or thirty years.   If we are looking for "songs sung on the East India merchant ships", is this the gold mine?

Remember, I am looking for sea shanties that would have, could have, been around in the early 1850s that *could* have been sung on the "Julia Ann" on her voyages in 1853-1855 from San Francisco to Sydney. I have been looking at different categories of the history of sailing in the 19th century. So far I have considered the slave ships and the whalers. Now I'm interested in the 19th century pirates and the East India traders.