The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #126347   Message #2838469
Posted By: John Minear
13-Feb-10 - 05:08 PM
Thread Name: From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?
Subject: RE: From SF to Sydney - 1853 Shanties Sung?
The Blackball Line was begun in 1816 and lasted until 1878. Here is some interesting background on the era of the Western Ocean Packets.

While there is no written documentation from that period that I have been able to find with regard to the shanties sung on board the packet ships, there does seem to be general agreement about the songs that come from that era. Here is the list that I have so far. I am taking them from Hugill's SHANTIES FROM THE SEVEN SEAS (1961), and will include Gibb Sahib's interpretation of some of them.

"Haul The Bowline" (pp. 353-357)

"Blow Boys, Blow" (pp. 224-230), which we've already discussed at length. See here and following:


"We're All Bound To Go" (pp. 303-307)

"The Liverpool Judies" (pp. 401-402)

"Paddy Lay Back" (pp.. 321-325)

"Paddy Doyle's Boots" (pp. 330-334)

"Paddy West" (pp.334-336)

"Banks Of Newfoundland" (pp. 412-413)

"Liverpool Packet" (pp. 466-469)

"Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her" (pp. 293-298)
        Especially "Across The Western Ocean"

"Blow The Man Down" (pp. 199-214), especially Hugill's (b) version

"Blackball Line" (pp. 130-133)

"Time For Us To Go" (pp. 509-510)
        Especially "A Hundred Years Ago"

"Can't You Dance The Polka" (pp. 369-372)

"Paddy Works On The Railway" (pp. 103-104)

I have focused first of all on the Western Ocean Packet songs that don't show any direct Black influence or influence from the "cotton hoosiers" of the Southern ports. The exception might me "Blow The Man Down", which may be based on a song of Black origin known as "Knock A Man Down" (p. 199-200).

And I have focused on songs that were current during the early Irish emigrations brought on by the Potato Famine of 1845-1852. One of my own great grandfathers, George Edward Semple, from Clonmel, County Tipperary, sailed as a "ship's doctor" in 1849, on a crossing that took six weeks.

I am assuming that all of these songs, in one version or another, would have been current in New York and other eastern ports in the late 1840's and would have found their way to California during the Gold Rush of 1849, and thus would have been available in San Francisco to sail on board the "Julia Ann" on her voyages to Sydney in 1853-1855.

Can anyone think of a reason why any of these shanties would not have been current then in that location? And are there some which are more likely than others? And, have I missed some that might fit in this rather loose category?