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Sailortown? (origin of term)

Charley Noble 01 Nov 09 - 11:18 AM
Gibb Sahib 01 Nov 09 - 11:50 AM
Gibb Sahib 01 Nov 09 - 12:31 PM
Charley Noble 01 Nov 09 - 01:09 PM
Gibb Sahib 01 Nov 09 - 01:25 PM
EBarnacle 01 Nov 09 - 10:17 PM
Charley Noble 02 Nov 09 - 08:36 AM
Charley Noble 02 Nov 09 - 11:20 AM
Charley Noble 02 Nov 09 - 12:00 PM
Paul Davenport 02 Nov 09 - 01:59 PM
MGM·Lion 02 Nov 09 - 02:43 PM
Charley Noble 02 Nov 09 - 03:01 PM
MGM·Lion 02 Nov 09 - 03:33 PM
Gibb Sahib 02 Nov 09 - 04:31 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Nov 09 - 05:23 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Nov 09 - 05:43 PM
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Subject: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Nov 09 - 11:18 AM

I dreamed a dream in sailor town, a foolish dream and vain,
Of ships and men departed, of old days come again —
And an old song in sailor town, an old song to sing
When shipmate meets with shipmate in the evening.


In my research on the nautical poetry of Cicely Fox Smith I have often wondered how far back the term "sailortown/sailor-town/sailor town" went. The phrase generally refers to that part of a sea port adjacent to the dock area where the sailor could get his various needs met, be they booze, prostitutes, entertainment, or more mundane things such as his "sea-kit" or shelter.

C. Fox Smith certainly did more than anyone else to popularize the terms; two of her books have "Sailortown" in the title and she composed numerous poems with "sailortown" embedded in them.

However, John Masefield also used the term several times in his earlier anthology, Salt-Water Ballads, first published in 1902. And so did retired master mariner Frank T. Bullen in his memoirs of his first four years at sea The Log of a Sea-Waif in 1899.

Stan Hugill much later, in 1967, "fleshed out" the dimensions of sailortown in his book of the same name. Hugill suggests that "true sailortown" did not begin until the early 19th century but I don't believe he identified an earlier use of the term than by C. Fox Smith.

I don't believe that either Dana in Two Years Before the Mastor Melville used the term in Redburn, although they certainly provided vivid descriptions of this "dockland" area. And I haven't run across the term used in any Kipling poems.

I would appreciate any earlier literary references or other leads.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 01 Nov 09 - 11:50 AM

Interesting question, Charley!

There are numerous earlier references. The earliest I find is:

"the dirty sailor-town of Portsmouth" in an article on "Criminal Statistics" in England, pg 85, CHAMBERS'S JOURNAL, vol XIII, 1860.

I'll cite some more in a bit.


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 01 Nov 09 - 12:31 PM

Here are more references. I don't have time at present to check their contents in any depth.

1879 United service: a monthly review of military and naval affairs, Volume 1
"Cherbourg is a genuine sailor town."

1880 Sailor-town, a night and a day in the world's greatest seaport [an appeal for the London fund of the Missions to seamen].

1887 Three years of a wanderer's life, Volume 1 By John Fryer Keane
"sailor-town" in reference to London

early 1891, in article "The Streets of London" by Morley Roberts in LITTELL'S LIVING AGE, vol LXXIII
"Sailor-town," in reference to London

Jan. 1895 in THE FISHERMAN, Vol. 1(1)
"Sailor Town", in reference to Portland or Portsmouth (U.S.)

1895 Two years on the Alabama By Arthur Sinclair
"sailor-town", in reference to Cape Town and in the context of describing a voyage on the Alabama (yes, the Confederate ship) in 1863.

1897 ON MANY SEAS: THE LIFE AND EXPLOITS OF A YANKEE SAILOR by FB Williams
"Sailor Town", in reference to London

1898 THE STRAND MAGAZINE, vol 15(85)
"Sailor Town," in reference to Sydney (?)

1901 FT Bullen. WITH CHRIST IN SAILOR TOWN
(in reference to London)

1916 "sailor town" spoken by "Yank" in the forecastle of a British steamer in the play "Bound East for Cardiff" by Eugene O'Neill, NYC

It's possible that "Sailor Town" originally was not a general concept applied to all such places, but rather to open or two specific spots, later made generic. Perhaps London was one of the first...though from what I've seen, Sailor Town there is now Bangla-Town!


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Nov 09 - 01:09 PM

Gibb-

Very nice, 1860! We're at least making some progress.

I've also found "sailor town" in a traditional sea shanty:

In sailor town up Mobile Bay,
To me way hay! Storm along, John!
In Sailor town up Mobile Bay,
Come along, get along! Storm along, John!

From The Log of Tome Drake, by James Baldwin and W.W. Livengood, American Book Co., © 1920. p. 87.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 01 Nov 09 - 01:25 PM

Charley,

That chantey verse probably came into TOM DRAKE from Masefield's A SAILOR'S GARLAND (1908) which has the same one exactly. SInce, as you earlier pointed out, Masefield was known to use "sailor town" in a literary context, I am not sure whether it was traditional to the chantey or if he used some poetic license.


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: EBarnacle
Date: 01 Nov 09 - 10:17 PM

I suspect that the origin of Sailortown probably occurred in common usage about the same time as the various ethnic or cultural towns, such as Chinatown, Little Italy, etc. I believe that these were identified as areas belonging to people outside the popular culture, providing an enclave where they could live or socialize out of sight and out of mind of the Anglo culture.


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 08:36 AM

I don't find "sailortown" used in one of my favorite descriptions of waterfront areas, Jack Afloat & Ashore, by Richard Rowe, Smith, Elder & Co., London, © 1875. This is a "reformist" book but the author was certainly familiar with life and death in sailortown, and had a great deal of empathy for the sailor ashore and at sea.

I still think that sifting through Dana and Melville's books will turn up references. I suppose I should look for one of the on-line copies to facilitate that.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 11:20 AM

One clarification with regard to A Sailor's Garland by John Masefield; there is an earlier publication date of 1906.

The reference to the Mission to Seamen book, Sailor-town, a night and a day in the world's greatest seaport, 1880, might be interesting to read but there appears to be no copy available from used book dealers.

No luck with Melville so far.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 12:00 PM

No luck with Dana either.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 01:59 PM

Whatever they called it, St.Pauli in Hamburg during my youth in the 60s was certainly sailortown (in spades!)
Paul


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 02:43 PM

One good clue to the names of the various sailortowns in different ports can be found in the different versions of the 'Jack All-Alone' ballad, which is Peter Street in Liverpool or Glasgow, Barrack Street in Halifax NS, Patrick Street in Belfast, Ratcliffe Street in London, Bleeker Street in NY, &c.


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 03:01 PM

Oh there's little doubt that such places existed all over the world and Hugill has provided the best overview in his book titled Sailortown. But it's also true that the ports the old shellbacks knew have all gone strange, with condominiums and shopping malls crowding the dockyard and even the piers.

My only little ditty also highlights a few:

Words by Charlie Ipcar, © 2003
Tune: traditional Sailors' Hornpipe
Key: C (7/F)
Rolling Down to Sailortown

Chorus:

Oh, we're rolling down to Sailortown,
Yes, we're rolling down to Sailortown;
Now we'll have our run ashore,
For them flashgirls we adore;
And we're rolling down to Sailortown!

We're rolling down to London Town,
Yes, we're rolling down to London Town,
Now we'll cruise through Tiger Bay,
And in Anchor Lane we'll lay;
And we're rolling down to London Town!

We're rolling down to them Liverpool Docks,
Yes, we're rolling down to them Liverpool Docks,
With them Judies all in tow,
Down Paradise Street we'll go;
And we're rolling down to them Liverpool Docks!

We're rolling down to Amsterdam,
Yes, we're rolling down to Amsterdam,
Now they say there is a maid
Who is mistress of her trade;
And we're rolling down to Amsterdam!

We're rolling down to them Bowery Docks,
Yes, we're rolling down to them Bowery Docks;
Now we love them South Street girls,
And we'll give them all a whirl;
And we're rolling down to them Bowery Docks!

We're rolling down to Mobile Bay;
Yes, we're rolling down to Mobile Bay;
We'll screw cotton all the day,
Drink and dance the night away;
And we're rolling down to Mobile Bay!

We're rolling down to Kingston Town,
Yes, we're rolling down to Kingston Town;
One more round with Sally Brown,
Shin-Bone Alley's where we're bound;
And we're rolling down to Kingston Town!


We're rolling down to old Rio,
Yes, we're rolling down to old Rio;
We've got no time to dally,
For it's 'round the corner, Sally;
And we're rolling down to old Rio!

We're rolling down to Callao,
Yes, we're rolling down to Callao;
If we meet with Sarefina,
Our pockets will be cleaner;
And we're rolling down to Callao.

We're rolling down to the Barbary Coast,
Yes, we're rolling down to the Barbary Coast;
Find the Midway Plaisance,
See the hoochy-coochee dance,
And we're rolling down to the Barbary Coast.

We're rolling down to old Maui,
Yes, we're rolling down to old Maui;
Now we'll paint them beaches red,
Wake with a big, fat, aching head;
And we're rolling down to old Maui!

We're rolling down to old Hong Kong,
Yes, we're rolling down to old Hong Kong;
We'll go down to Mother Rackett's.
An' we'll pawn our monkey-jackets;
And we're rolling down to old Hong Kong!

We're rolling down to Sydney Town,
Yes, we're rolling down to Sydney Town;
For sure, it grieves me mind,
To leave Nancy Blair behind;
And we're rolling down to Sydney Town!

We're rolling down to Old Bombay,
Yes, we're rolling down to Old Bombay;
Of the pox you needn't worry,
If you use a little curry,
And we're rolling down to Old Bombay!

We're rolling down to Old Cape Town,
Yes, we're rolling down to Old Cape Town;
On Cape "smoke" our minds we'll burn,
Then to England we'll return,
And we're rolling down to Old Cape Town! (CHO)

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 03:33 PM

According to Sir Henry Wood in his Fantasia on Sea Songs, that hornpipe is called Jack's The Lad [or, perhaps, Jack-the-Lad.]


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 04:31 PM

I have thought it would be fun to do a "tour"....well, not all at once!.... of all the old sailor towns. I've actually referenced Hugill's SAILORTOWN book for some of them, and tried to map them out an then hit the streets. Like Charley said though, most of 'em bear little to indicate what they once were. Paul, I'd love to see St. Pauli; Hugill also speaks of it of having been pretty intense.

Not to drift the thread, but it'd be fun to hear some of the sailortowns people here have seen. Some of the ones I can think of right now that I've seen:

Amsterdam - I hit a few quick spots in Hugill's description)

Liverpool - I extensively explored the street, sights, and docks, as described by Hugill. I remember being surprised to find one of the main docks had been filled in and made into a car park.

London - Again, followed Hugill's old maps of the 2+ sailortowns there. Like I said earlier, mostly a Bengali area now.

New London - whale oil row!

New Bedford - very boring place at night these days

Mobile - wicked run down. They have a museum with maritime stuff.

New Orleans

Frisco

Savannah - They also have a maritime museum.

Santa Barbara - Surprised Hugill lists this. Dana does deal with it a bit. When I was living there a couple years back, the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan stopped in town. WOW! Sailors all up and down the streets enjoying themselves.

San Diego

Kingston JA

Nassau (does that count? )

other places where I never fully explored the obvious docks yet, like San Pedro and New York (gasp!), Providence, more New England, Baltimore etc plenty more on Eastern Seaboard...need to revisit all those places with Hugill's book in hand to find all the "spots"!

Wish list: Hong Kong, St; Pauli, Calcutta (lots of time spent in India, but never made it there!), ports in Chile or Peru!!


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 05:23 PM

Not long ago a group of us went down to the dockyard area in Houston, where there were two Greek restaurants, one noted for food, the other for entertainment.
Not all has changed; between the two was a brothel, all lit up to look inviting.
At the place with entertainment- two levels of floor, one about a foot higher; the professional ladies all on the lower level and us 'respectables' on the upper (but dancing only on the lower); we watched the dancers between periods of action on the stage.

A fairly large group of Greek merchant sailors came in. Their ship had anchored that afternoon.
We had wives and girlfriends with us. Soon, the well-uniformed sailors were asking the ladies to dance, very politely, some speaking acceptable English. A well-mannered, gentile bunch!
They were trainees for the Greek merchant fleet.

Not the old salts of legend who frequented the sailortowns of the world.


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Subject: RE: Sailortown? (origin of term)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 05:43 PM

Kiel, Germany is quite the sailortown, but up-to-date.

The city built apartment building(s) for the professionals; they have set fees, and pay rent to the city.
Some strip and pole dance spots there, but all soft porn. The girls all try to get the marks to buy that fake champagne (almost as expensive as in N. O.). I saw less drunkenness than in Amsterdam.

No display windows like Amsterdam (these are set to disappear as the area is to be remodeled). The Amsterdam girls also have fees set by the city.
Much less drunkenness than I saw in Amsterdam.

We would do well to tax and control prostitution, cleaner, safer, and income for the city.


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