The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #149468   Message #3477461
Posted By: doc.tom
09-Feb-13 - 06:45 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Bristol Channel Jamboree (Whip Jamboree)
Subject: Lyr Add: WHOOP JAMBOREE (from Cecil Sharpe)
Don't know the Bristol Shantmen's version - but all the versions around on the folk scene stem from the version collected by Cecil from John Short of Watchet in 1914 - then the Spinners recorded it (and changed the scale!) - then people started thinking it wasn't crude enough and started inventing variations. The other versions, published by the like of Whall were different. So here's John Short's original:

Now, me lads, be of good cheer,
For the Irish land will soon draw near
In a few more days we'll sight Cape Clear
O Jenny get your oatcakes done
Whoop jamboree, whoop jamboree
O you long-tailed black man
Poke it up behind me
Whoop jamboree, whoop jamboree
O Jenny get your oatcake done

Now Cape Clear it is in sight
We'll be off Holyhead by tomorrow night
And we'll shape our course for the Rock light
O Jenny get your oat cake done

Now me boys we're off Holyhead
No more salt beef, no more salt bread
One man in the chains for to heave the lead
O Jenny get your oat cake done

Now me lads we're round the Rock
All Hammocks lashed and chests all locked
We'll haul her into the Waterloo dock
O Jenny get your oat cake done

Now me lads we're all in dock
We'll be off to Dan Lowrie's on the spot
And now we'll have a good roundabout
O Jenny get your oat cake done

The notes from the Short Sharp Shanties page on the website reads: "Whip Jamboree is another shanty published only by Sharp ("I know of no other version of this chantey except one") and Terry ("I have never heard this shanty from anyone save Mr. Short") and, of course, Hugill "many of my verses I had from… a Welsh mate who served in many sailing ships.") Whall prints a version slightly different in structure but with a variant of the same tune. The text is however, distinctly different as is Sharp's other published version (from George Conway). Sharp's second tune is, again, a variant on the same tune as before.

Sharp acknowledges 'a negro influence' on the words of the chorus, and Whall also claims a minstrel origin for the song. The minstrel song Whoop Jamboree (as sung by Daniel Emmett's Virginia Minstrels, circa 1850, and published in 'Christy's Panorama Songster') is an 'imitation of the Mississippi riverboatmen' and bears no textual similarity to collected shanty versions, although it may have some claim to being an influence on the sea song. Both Sharp and Terry comment on the ejaculative 'Whoop' or 'Whup' in the singing of the chorus.

It has sometimes been claimed that 'get your oat cakes done' was a euphemism or substitution for something decidedly more bawdy – it may be a euphemism, like 'fire down below' or 'seeing the promised land' and, if so, would be understood as such and not as alternative - nor bowdlerization. Hugill seems obsessed with the bawdiness, and the camouflage of it, of the chorus of this shanty – and therefore follows Whall – claiming that the words were 'unprintable'. There is no evidence that Short is camouflaging text in his version [see also notes to Hanging Johnny] and, indeed, 'getting your oatcakes done' (or more often ho-cakes) is not uncommon in stage minstrelsy (e.g. American Negro Folk Songs, by Newman I. White). The longer I think about it, the more likely it seems that Jenny getting her oat-cakes done derives from a misunderstanding, a mishearing or (more perversely) a deliberate mis-reading of getting her ho-cakes done. Ho-cakes are in origin, I am informed, corn-bread cakes that were cooked over a fire on a hoe (or similar implement). Whatever the origin, we have no reason to think that Short's version needs 'restoring' in any way – although we have substituted 'sailor' for 'black man' in the chorus in deference to modern sensibilities, and the 'me' has been dropped after 'behind' in the chorus just to get all the words in!

In view of the above, it seems that 'come and get your oats my son', as an alternative last line in the chorus, is solely a modern revival attempt to introduce a more bawdy euphemism. Although there were undoubtedly bawdy and downright filthy versions of many shanties, we cannot go along with the notion that this was the inevitable norm. There are some shanty singers and collectors who seem to be obsessed with 'dirty' versions – and with not publishing them. It may say more about them than the material they deal with.