The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #141779   Message #3837398
Posted By: Steve Gardham
07-Feb-17 - 03:35 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Rolling Sailor (Eliza Carthy)
Subject: RE: Origins: Rolling Sailor (Eliza Carthy)
Here's some detail on the evolution of the songs based on all the versions I have to hand.

Using the late 18th century 'The Rolling Sailor' as the most influential I have made this the link between older and newer relatives. However I have to say the only version TRS I have from oral tradition is a 4 stanza fragment (one being the everpresent chorus) from c1825 in the John Bell Collection without tune so I would guess the tune has been taken from either Whittaker's Northumbrian 'O the Bonny Fisher Lad' or one of the collier variants.

The 15-stanza London printings which appear to be the earliest and are written in northern dialect only have one stanza and the chorus in common with later rewrites.

Oh! my bonny sailor laddie,
Oh! my bonny sailor, he,
Well I love my sailor laddie,
Blythe and merry may he be.

Stanza 5
Sailor lads has gold and silver,
Fisher lads has nought but brass,
Send him safely back to Terry,
There to court his bonny lass.

The song is about the girl declaring her love for her sailor and lamenting the fact he has been pressed. If pushed I would guess it is set and originated at Newcastle which was a major printing centre for ballads in the 18th century, probably the biggest out of London.

I have about 5 variants of The Rolling Sailor, all from c1790 and all pretty much alike with only the odd word altered here and there.

The Rolling Sailor

Sailors they get all the money,
Soldiers they get none/nought but brass,
I do love a jolly sailor,
Once I was a sailor's lass.
    O my little rolling sailor,
    O my little rolling he,
    I will have a jolly sailor,
    blithe and merry may he be.

My mother sent me to the well,
To get some water for my tea,
My foot slipt and in I went,
The sailor fell a top of me.

Don't you see the ship a coming,
Don't you see she is in full sail,
Don't you see the Britannia coming,
With the prizes at her tail.

My mother she oft-time told me,
Sailors they would win my heart,
I never minded what she said,
But would always take their part.

It was in the month of February,
When the green leaves began to spring
The little lambs did skip like fairies
Birds did couple, build and sing,
The roses red, the violets blue,
Carnations sweet and so are you.