The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #81820   Message #3317336
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
04-Mar-12 - 07:45 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
Just to add to the historiography of this song -- though not adding much info: Here's another source that mentions it, which I didn't have in my notes earlier and I don't think has been noted around here:

Dawson, Alec John. 1907. _The Genteel A.B._ London: E. Grant Richards.

Dawson's novel mentions "Roll, Alabama, Roll" by title only, along with the titles of several other chanties and the lyrics of some. The funny thing is that all of the lyrics he gives match Masefield's collection of 1906, verbatim. The way he works in the chanties is slightly off, as if he wasn't terribly familiar with them.

The interesting thing is that every chanty he mentions was present in Masefield's book (he even uses idiosyncratic titles of Masefield) EXCEPT for "RAR".

If Dawson's knowledge was only text based, and the only source we've seen to mention RAR up to that point is the 1903 review in the Atheneum (of Bullen's book), was there another pre-1907 publication out there?

On the other hand, Dawson evidently made a couple voyages as a merchant sailor. Based on his Wikipedia article, I'd guess those occurred in the late 1880s, and included voyages to Australia. So it seems he probably would have had some familiarity with practical chanties, and for whatever reason elected to use Masefield's info when he wrote. RAR may have been one song in particular that he remembered from personal experience.

The Wikipedia article mentions that Dawson also once wrote reviews from The Atheneum. There seems to me a good chance that he was the anonymous reviewer of Bullen's book, who lamented it did not mention RAR -- perhaps a pet favourite?