The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220 Message #2878170
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
02-Apr-10 - 12:26 PM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
To complete the cotton-stowing song references of (attributed to) the 1840s, I must enter in the source already mentioned by Steve Gardham above, in the discussion of Lyman's ideas on the etymology of "chantey."
It's TWENTY YEARS AT SEA, by F.S. Hill, pub. 1893. Hill describes cotton-stowers as he saw/heard them in Mobile Bay in 1844, as follows:
However, the first lighter laden with cotton soon came down from Mobile, and with it a gang of stevedores who were to stow this precious cargo. At that time freights to Liverpool were quoted at " three half - pence a pound," which represented the very considerable sum of fifteen dollars a bale. So it was very much to the interest of our owners to get every pound or bale squeezed into the ship that was possible.
The cotton had already been subjected to a very great compression at the steam cotton presses in Mobile, which reduced the size of the bales as they had come from the plantations fully one half. It was now to be forced into the ship, in the process of stowing by the stevedores, with very powerful jackscrews, each operated by a gang of four men, one of them the " shantier," as he was called, from the French word chanteur, a vocalist. This man's sole duty was to lead in the rude songs, largely improvised, to the music of which his companions screwed the bales into their places. The pressure exerted in this process was often sufficient to lift the planking of the deck, and the beams of ships were at times actually sprung.
A really good shantier received larger pay than the other men in the gang, although his work was much less laborious. Their songs, which always had a lively refrain or chorus, were largely what are now called topical, and often not particularly chaste. Little incidents occurring on board ship that attracted the shantier's attention were very apt to be woven into his song, and sometimes these were of a character to cause much annoyance to the officers, whose little idiosyncrasies were thus made public.
One of their songs, I remember, ran something like this —
"Oh, the captain's gone ashore,
For to see the stevedore.
Chorus : Hie bonnie laddie, and we'll all go ashore.
"But the mate went ashore,
And got his breeches tore,
Hie bonnie laddie," etc.
The improvised and topical nature of the songs is consistent with what we have read of Black American work-songs, though we know from earlier that non-Blacks were also involved in this work by this time.
"Hieland Laddie" as a lyrical theme is here again, but it appears to be a different song (i.e. different "framework") than in the other references. This one has the phrase "captain's gone ashore," which had been cited by Dana. It was also a phrase in "Grog time of Day," and the lyrical structure of this "Hie bonnie laddie" is similar to "Grog Time":
The captain's gone ashore;
The mate has got the key;
Hurrah! my jolly boys,-
'Tis grog time o' day!
The captain's gone ashore,
For to see the stevedore.
Hie bonnie laddie,
And we'll all go ashore.
The "Hie bonnie laddie" part is also reminiscent of the chantey "Pull Down Below."