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'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds

breezy 14 Feb 13 - 02:48 PM
GUEST,Henry Piper 14 Feb 13 - 02:58 PM
Lighter 14 Feb 13 - 04:20 PM
Dead Horse 14 Feb 13 - 04:23 PM
GUEST,henryp 14 Feb 13 - 04:30 PM
Marc Bernier 14 Feb 13 - 05:13 PM
Lighter 14 Feb 13 - 07:53 PM
Charley Noble 14 Feb 13 - 09:19 PM
breezy 15 Feb 13 - 04:41 AM
Lighter 15 Feb 13 - 07:49 AM
Charley Noble 15 Feb 13 - 08:04 AM
Marc Bernier 15 Feb 13 - 08:26 AM
Lighter 15 Feb 13 - 08:49 AM
GUEST,Henry Piper, of Ottery !! 15 Feb 13 - 09:12 AM
GUEST,SPB at work 15 Feb 13 - 10:05 AM
breezy 15 Feb 13 - 12:30 PM
Snuffy 15 Feb 13 - 12:53 PM
Marc Bernier 15 Feb 13 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,Henry Piper, of Ottery !! 15 Feb 13 - 03:39 PM
Green Man 15 Feb 13 - 03:45 PM
Gibb Sahib 15 Feb 13 - 05:05 PM
GUEST,Sleepyjon (sans cookie) 15 Feb 13 - 06:26 PM
dick greenhaus 15 Feb 13 - 08:18 PM
Dead Horse 15 Feb 13 - 11:54 PM
Gibb Sahib 16 Feb 13 - 01:37 AM
Gibb Sahib 16 Feb 13 - 01:40 AM
GUEST,Beachcomber 16 Feb 13 - 05:57 AM
Lighter 16 Feb 13 - 06:47 AM
Lighter 16 Feb 13 - 06:49 AM
John Minear 16 Feb 13 - 08:34 AM
Lighter 16 Feb 13 - 08:34 AM
Dead Horse 16 Feb 13 - 10:05 AM
Charley Noble 16 Feb 13 - 12:37 PM
Lighter 16 Feb 13 - 12:48 PM
Gibb Sahib 16 Feb 13 - 05:37 PM
dick greenhaus 16 Feb 13 - 09:35 PM
Lighter 17 Feb 13 - 08:34 AM
Dead Horse 17 Feb 13 - 09:45 AM
Gibb Sahib 17 Feb 13 - 04:22 PM
Lighter 17 Feb 13 - 05:55 PM
Gibb Sahib 17 Feb 13 - 06:58 PM
Lighter 17 Feb 13 - 07:16 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Feb 13 - 08:13 PM
Dead Horse 18 Feb 13 - 04:28 AM
Lighter 18 Feb 13 - 08:01 AM
GUEST,sailor ron 18 Feb 13 - 09:11 AM
GUEST 18 Feb 13 - 09:20 AM
Charley Noble 18 Feb 13 - 09:42 AM
Dead Horse 18 Feb 13 - 06:27 PM
Lighter 18 Feb 13 - 07:19 PM
Gibb Sahib 18 Feb 13 - 07:49 PM
GUEST,Henry Piper, of Ottery !! 19 Feb 13 - 07:04 AM
Marc Bernier 19 Feb 13 - 07:25 AM
Charley Noble 19 Feb 13 - 07:48 AM
Lighter 19 Feb 13 - 08:38 AM
Snuffy 19 Feb 13 - 09:12 AM
Dead Horse 19 Feb 13 - 12:27 PM
Gibb Sahib 19 Feb 13 - 02:36 PM
Lighter 20 Feb 13 - 07:07 AM
Marc Bernier 20 Feb 13 - 08:01 AM
Gibb Sahib 20 Feb 13 - 12:37 PM
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Subject: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: breezy
Date: 14 Feb 13 - 02:48 PM

HELP PLEASE

Have just learned that the term 'Donkeyman' refers to the men who cleaned out the ships boilers at the end of a voyage

My question :is the reference to donkey riding anything to do with the aforementioned job?

Thank you

breezy


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: GUEST,Henry Piper
Date: 14 Feb 13 - 02:58 PM

As I understand it, a "Donkey Engine" was a small steam engine used during the latter days of sail,to assist with manual hauling and pulling jobs, the man whose job was to operate this engine was said to be "donkey riding" and was seen to be having an easy time whilst his shipmates still had to do the strenous manual tasks.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Feb 13 - 04:20 PM

As far as I know there's no necessary connection between tending a donkey engine and "riding on a donkey."


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Dead Horse
Date: 14 Feb 13 - 04:23 PM

No. The ship itself if equipped with a donkey engine was Donkey Riding, while other ships not equipped with a donkey engine had to work harder.
The donkey lightened the load as Henry said, but it was the entire crew who felt the benefit.
Donkeys also enabled shipping owners to work their ships with less crew and so compete with all-steam driven ships for a while, until those ships engines became more efficient and so the days of sail were doomed to history.
(Donkey engines did not propel the ship, just the winches etc.)


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 14 Feb 13 - 04:30 PM

So the donkeys were added to give more beef? Oh dear!


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 14 Feb 13 - 05:13 PM

And might I add that I'v never seen a "steam powered" Donkey Engine. Every boat I know of with a Donkey,it is a 1 lung hit & miss.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Feb 13 - 07:53 PM

> The ship itself if equipped with a donkey engine was Donkey Riding.

Colorful idea. But where's the evidence? ; )


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 Feb 13 - 09:19 PM

Good questions and not resolved in my mind, i.e., "donkey riding."

It is clear that the "donkeyman" maintained and operated the steam engine, rather than merely cleaning it, and that the steam engine was used for hauling up some of the heavier yards as well as other shipboard work.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: breezy
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 04:41 AM

Thank you one and all


I have come across a new song that makes references to the term 'Donkey'

The chorus reads

Midnight till four in the morning
Dogwatch on a coal burning ship
Quick shower then your donkey's breakfast
How you long for the end of your trip, end of your trip


will load the verses later

The research was of one Ike Bradley who hailed from Manchester England who often sailed back and forth across the pond working on the boats but eventually went underground somewhere in Missouri to 'get away'

The song is based on Ike's recounting of his own experiences and is to be included among a
collection of songs that are known as the 'Trafford Park Project'


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 07:49 AM

A "donkey's breakfast" isn't food; it's a bunk sack stuffed with straw for sleeping on.

The "donkeyman" indeed tended the donkey engine - operating, maintaining, repairing, etc.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Charley Noble
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 08:04 AM

"Quick shower then your donkey's breakfast"?

Translation: quick shower and off to bed. I entirely agree with Lighter on this one.

This thread remind's me of one of my father's favorite story:

As remembered by Adolph Ipcar in 1998

Jackassing with Captain Davis

After I had just presented a budget to the Town Meeting in Georgetown (Maine), I walked outdoors for some fresh air. Old Captain Stin Davis greeted me, asking, "Is there a jackass in that budget?"

"I've never been asked that in all my budgeting days," I replied to him.

"Well," said Captain Davis, "when I sold my ship's cargo in them Mediterranean ports, I used to hire a jackass to transport me to possible buyers. I remember one day I got back to New York City and presented my expense accounts to the shipping clerk, who after examining them, said to me, 'Captain Davis, everything seems O.K. except for your jackass rental. We cannot reimburse you for that.' Well, you know, when I sold off the next cargo and got back to present my accounts to that clerk, he looked them over and said, 'Captain Davis, everything looks O.K. and I'm glad I don't see any jackass in this billing.' He paid me off, and as I was leaving, I said to him, 'I know you don't see any jackass in that billing but the jackass is still there, Sir.'"

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 08:26 AM

Again: what kind of boat is large enough to have a Steam Engine for Donkeying? Towards the end, New England Whalers sometimes had a steam assist on the windlass, but I don't recall seeing them called Donkeys. In my experience the name Donkey Engine appears to have been used in coastal trades and fisherman. The Donkey Engines on these schooners were one cylinder, Hit & Miss engines. These are internal combustion engines not steam powered.
That said, I always thought "riding on a donkey" was a nod to Yankee Doodle, not a job description for a mechanic.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 08:49 AM

Marc, the "Yankee Doodle" reference is conjecture too, but at least we know that YD was "riding on a donkey" and that the song was well known in the 19th century. There's no evidence for the other interpretations mentioned.

My own *guess* is that the phrase in the shanty is more or less meaningless, but that the original singer may have had "YD" in mind when he first uttered the words.

The usual tune for the shanty, however, is the great "Bonnie Laddie, Hieland Laddie," which looks to be a genuine Jacobite song from the 18th century. (Slowed way, way down, Jeannie Robertson used it for "My Son David.")


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: GUEST,Henry Piper, of Ottery !!
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 09:12 AM

Wether Steam Powered Or I.C matters Little, a "Donkey Engine" was a small(ish) engine used to augment manual tasks on board ship, and as such the operater was said to be donkey riding, when at work. incidentally there are quite small steam engines that would fit easily onboard ships.

Just to avoid confusion, I am not the "henryp", who also sometimes posts here !! hence the use of the geographical location above..


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: GUEST,SPB at work
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 10:05 AM

The Shanty Donkey Riding would have been used for General Purpose capstan for jobs like hoisting up cargo from the quay, to drop through the cargo hatches. For timber stowing vessels had a cargo hatch in the bow so that the timber could be hoisted to the right level an slotted in lengthwise to the hold.

On another note - I think the Pommern and Mariehamn still has a working donkey engine


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: breezy
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 12:30 PM

I was looking for Ike and eventually paired him with Trafford Park then found this site

Salford Quays Heritage Centre web site

Ike Bradley -ropes
Walter Cooper - getting work
Abdullah Dadia - foreign- mentions donkey man
david Attenborough - up the St lawrence
Jim Bradish - mentions discharge papers


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Snuffy
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 12:53 PM

A donkey man is mentioned in the Menhaden shanty Help Me to Raise 'Em, and his function is explained above the lyrics on this page

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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 01:05 PM

@ Henry; I don't mean to argue, but to a Maritime historian steam or not is a significant difference. And though I am perfectly aware that the world is full of small steam engines, the boilers that powered them are not small. I could explain why should you desire. There may be a different tradition in Europe and the UK that I'm not familiar with, but in North America I don't believe Donkey Engines were steam. And I've never heard a schoonerman use the phrase Riding on a Donkey.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: GUEST,Henry Piper, of Ottery !!
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 03:39 PM

Marc, I wouldnt argue with you at all, I'm no expert !! but just offering an explanation of the use of the phrase "Donkey Riding" as I've had it explained to me over the years.
Neither would I wish to be dogmatic in stating that a donkey engine would be steam powered ,just assuming that if the lyrics concerned pre-dated the developement of the Internal combustion engine they would of neccesity be steam powered!! I,m perfectly happy to be wrong, and bow to your expertise as a maritime historian.
the original explanation that I offered seems to be the commonly held one over here in the U.K, ( I,m assuming your in the U.S ) and I have heard it repeated many times,as well as seeingn it in print, although I cant recall where !!
Anyway its an interesting thread, and hopefully it will continue even if we never come to a definite conclusion.
Cheers !!


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Green Man
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 03:45 PM

When I was at sea a donkey engine (s) were used to pump water to the header tank so gravity would feed the boiler keeping a steady water pressure. Likewise the domestic water system where it fed the calorifier to heat water for showers and washing etc.

I never saw on used for lifting loads as I am probably too young for that.

The donkeys breakfast was the regular oiling (vegetable based) and general check it got before I turned in.

This was a metal ship with diesels and the donks were brass and bronze with pitons of steel and piston rings of bakelite.


I love steam engines...

GM


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 05:05 PM

Marc--

Could you say a word or two more about how the non-steam donkey engines ran? Or point me in a good direction to Google!
Thanks!


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: GUEST,Sleepyjon (sans cookie)
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 06:26 PM

Lots of knowledge in this thread - I'm just glad to know the origin of the expression used by a group of "course sailors" (I should've written that book) some 40-odd years ago when deciding to use the auxiliary - we would "fire up the donkey" - I always thought it was just a humerous expression - nice to know it had more provenance than that!

SJ


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 08:18 PM

THe steam donkey engine was invented in 1881.THey weren't that big. see: donkey aboard


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Dead Horse
Date: 15 Feb 13 - 11:54 PM

Good pic Mr Greenhaus, sir.
The boiler is of the vertical variety and not at all large. The sea going versions would likely be even smaller.
And before anyone argues against the use of fires aboard sailing ships, might I point out that whaling ships had large fire heated cauldrons for boiling down the blubber to obtain oil etc.
The point of the shanty is that 'proper sailors' would sneer at those that used the new fangled contraption, while those who sailed in ships so fitted would be saying "At least we are on our way matey, while you poor buggers are waiting a favourable wind or the use of a steam tug" - a sort of 'put that in your pipe & smoke it' retort.
Way, hey and away WE go - riding on a donkey.
It meant fewer hands necessary to work ship - but it was still the beginning of the end for the shantyman.
Schooners were so rigged as to need fewer hands anyway, and were smaller and handier than ship-rigged vessels, so no donkey was required on those fore n' afters.
All references to infernal combustion engines are redundant as the song refers to a practise that hails from before the days of regular steamship usage.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 16 Feb 13 - 01:37 AM

I am wondering where all this information on the meaning of the "Donkey Riding" chanty is coming from. I'm only finding 3 sources in my notes:

Oxford Song Book (1927) - from Walter Raby, ascribed to ca.1887-1897, and used for stowing cargo
Hugill (who read the Oxford SB)
Harlow -- which came from a Capt. Botterill, probably well after Harlow's sea career

If these ideas are coming from the authors, let's say it -- and also differentiate what they knew from what they may have been guessing or interpreting. I'm well aware Hugill said certain things--but was he there to see it?

Some references to a donkey engine in relation to chantying are the following. (I don't think any of the above-mentioned writers read these.)

Russell (_The Romance of Jenny Harlowe_, 1889):

To be sure in these days steam and patent machinery have diminished something of the obligation of these chants. A donkey engine does its work without a chorus; it needs not a fiddler to set a steam capstan revolving. But the manual windlass is still plentiful, the capstan bar of our forefathers is not yet out of date, though the single topsail is halved there is yet the upper yard to masthead; and these, with a hundred other jobs to be done aboard a sailing ship, keep the sailors' sea-song actively current.

Hutchison ("Walking the Capstan 'Round." The New York Times (20 March 1932)):

Since the ship the writer was aboard, a four-masted barkentine, had a donkey-engine forward, the anchor was never handled by sailors walking the capstan 'round; and although he had for weeks listened to halyard and close-haul chanties, had himself swung on the ropes in unison with others, he was unfamiliar with the marching rhythms with which stolid men lightened their weary rounds of the fo'c's'l head. Hence a reader can imagine his pleasure when he caught the wistful strains of "Shenandoah" drifting across the water from the deck of the brig.

Both seem to say that a donkey engine replaced capstans.

People here seem to be saying that sailors were singing the song as a capstan chanty...because they were wishing they had a donkey engine??


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 16 Feb 13 - 01:40 AM

BTW re: the Hutchison quote above, I believe his experience was some few years before 1906.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: GUEST,Beachcomber
Date: 16 Feb 13 - 05:57 AM

What a really interesting thread this is.
One point, I always heard that Yankee Doodle was riding on a "pony" , not a donkey ? ?
I have often heard small auxiliary engines (diesel usually) still referred to as "donkey engines", presumably because they take the "donkey work" out of laborious jobs ?


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Feb 13 - 06:47 AM

Beachcomber: of course you're right about the "pony"!!

Such is the power of suggestion....

So there's no connection with "Yankee Doodle." At all.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Feb 13 - 06:49 AM

It was Jesus who rode a donkey.

So the shanty is really a religious piece.

Or else blasphemous.

Not.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: John Minear
Date: 16 Feb 13 - 08:34 AM

Jesus was a sailor....    L. Cohen


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Feb 13 - 08:34 AM

The hidden allusion to Sancho Panza also shows a Spanish connection.

Not.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Dead Horse
Date: 16 Feb 13 - 10:05 AM

Sancho Panza was a Spanish battalion of the German SS in WW2.
Interestingly, their machine gunners could often be heard singing "Mowing down to old Rohee "

And if you believe that then you should have no trouble with finding out that the true origins of Donkey Riding came from the sailors favourite day out at the beach where they would saddle up and have races on the sands. :-)


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Charley Noble
Date: 16 Feb 13 - 12:37 PM

There are also abundant references to donkey engines aboard the tall ships used in the "Grain Races" during the 1930s. I've always assumed these were steam driven donkey engines but I'll have to recheck.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Feb 13 - 12:48 PM

> Sancho Panza was a Spanish battalion of...

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 16 Feb 13 - 05:37 PM

Getting serious again for a moment... :P

I'm still wondering where the narrative of "Donkey Riding" as some celebration or parody or commentary or critique of donkey engines came from.

My first guess would be one of Hugill's writings, but it's not with the description of the song in SfSS, and I cannot remember where (other books of his), if anywhere, it might be.

Perhaps the idea came in some album liner notes?

I may be suffering from temporary blindness, but are there really any statements (i.e. aside from popular hearsay) that connect "Donkey Riding" with "donkey engine" at all?

I do see that a 1936 book called "Sing Together" (put together by Girl Scouts of America) offers "Donkey Riding"—evidently after the Oxford Song Book version—listed as a "Canadian sea song" and including the note, "Donkey, of course, refers to the donkey-engine." Of course. (?) Its seems a bunch of other mid-20th c. song books included "Donkey Riding," and they may have repeated the idea. The whole "children's song" dimension to the song developed.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 16 Feb 13 - 09:35 PM

Just to help establish a time frame, the word "donkey" was first used in 1784, referring to an ass, not an engine.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 17 Feb 13 - 08:34 AM

Am virtually certain that Hugill never connected the shanty with the engine in any of his books.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Dead Horse
Date: 17 Feb 13 - 09:45 AM

Please tell me this is a wind-up.
Are any of you SERIOUSLY suggesting otherwise???
(exits stage left. bangs head on wall)


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 17 Feb 13 - 04:22 PM

I'm serious as a dead horse!

I think the engine connection is very plausible-sounding and elegant by itself, but there is a conspicuous lack of evidence.

If we could get a sense of when any of the stories about the shanty and donkey engines started, it might be a great example of how shanties have become mythologized.

The 1936 kids' song book I mentioned may have been among the earliest to interpret "donkey" as steam donkey. The book is not authoritative, which means the editor either made the leap without expertise, or got the idea from some still unidentified book written with expertise. I have only seen a snippet, but it's enough to suppose the 1936 version came from the 1927 Oxford Song Book, which makes no mention of the engine. I reason, tentatively, that the 1936 editor took the liberty of interpreting "donkey."

The fact that none of the sailor-based books to give the song (i.e. Oxford, Hugill, Harlow) mentions the engine suggests that either there is no engine connection or those writers were unaware of it if there was. Hugill would certainly have asked what "donkey" meant, and given the engine explanation if he'd got it. That was his style.

If we assume there was an engine connection, who were the people aware of it? The editor of a Girls Scouts songbook? Were there other old salts, participating in oral tradition and engaging with "new salts", that handed down this information? Or did some of the newer salts put it together on their own?

How far back was the explanation heard (about the engine inspiring the song) and from where?

I can't remember where I first heard it. It may have been on Mudcat. It's nagging me.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 17 Feb 13 - 05:55 PM

I know where I first heard it.

Right here.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 17 Feb 13 - 06:58 PM

Haha, you're cracking me up in this thread, Lighter.

Shall I interpret that you first heard it on Mudcat in general, or on this very thread?!!

My current hypothesis is that song books in the 50s may have spread the engine idea a lot (the basic idea, that "donkey" referred to the engine, nothing more). My basis for this? Not much: when I do a search on "donkey riding" and "donkey engine," it turns up a slew of books from the late 50s (but doesn't give access).

Another "mystery" of "Donkey Riding" is when/why many contemporary singers started singing its melody in a minor key. The print sources all give it in major, like the common melody form of "Hieland Laddie" (or at least like the Hieland Laddie I use to play on bagpipes!).

Harlow's ("Botterill") form of the chantey has more similarities to "Powder Monkey Jim", omitting the phrases "donkey riding" yet including "riding on a donkey."

Maybe it was originally "Monkey Riding."

Just kidding.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 17 Feb 13 - 07:16 PM

On this very thread.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Feb 13 - 08:13 PM

I heard the "donkey engine" explanation of the song back in the mid 1930s. BTW, apparently donkeyman was in use during WWII as a name for the engineer aboard.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Dead Horse
Date: 18 Feb 13 - 04:28 AM

Perhaps the engine was originally used for working the pumps.
Pumps used to be important in the days of sail, as it was necessary to keep the ship afloat. Nowadays with super-tankers and suchlike vessels, pumps are absolutely vital as it is the only way to get the beer up from the hold to the crews quarters. :-)


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 18 Feb 13 - 08:01 AM

Look it this way.

It is entirely possible that some singer, singing "Riding on a Donkey" on shipboard in, I don't know, 1893, thought "Hmmm...I wonder if this has something to do with the donkey engine.....Yes, the more I think about it, the more sure I am. But what? Huh!"

So what?

It would only be significant if we knew that "riding on a donkey" was a phrase actually used to mean "operating or employing a donkey engine."

There is no seafaring evidence that the phrase was *ever* used that way.

No memoirs, no collectors, no Stan Hugill. The only evidence we have is an assertion in a children's book in the 1930s, plus further assertions by landlubbers decades and decades years later.

Watch this: I claim that "riding on a donkey" meant "on shore leave." How do I know? Because I do. Now prove me wrong.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: GUEST,sailor ron
Date: 18 Feb 13 - 09:11 AM

In my days [0960-70s] it was said that a 'donkey engine' was originally called that because it was less than 'one horse power'! How true I of course cannot say. 'Hand power' was also known as 'Norwegian Steam' because, so the story goes, in the 'last days of sail, when most large iron barques had 'donkey engines' Norwegian & [by definition] all Scandihooligan vessels didn't!


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Feb 13 - 09:20 AM

> Scandihooligan

Nice! The one I know is "Scandihoovian."


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Charley Noble
Date: 18 Feb 13 - 09:42 AM

This thread reminds me of our old discussion of "bullgine" (as in "clear away the track and let the bullgine run") which was also slang for a stream engine as far back as 1840. Of course a "bullgine" was bigger than a "donkey engine" and had horns instead of long ears.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Dead Horse
Date: 18 Feb 13 - 06:27 PM

(It would only be significant if we knew that "riding on a donkey" was a phrase actually used to mean "operating or employing a donkey engine."
There is no seafaring evidence that the phrase was *ever* used that way.
No memoirs, no collectors, no Stan Hugill. The only evidence we have is an assertion in a children's book in the 1930s, plus further assertions by landlubbers decades and decades years later.)


Could it be because there were no prizes for stating the bleeding obvious? :-)


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 18 Feb 13 - 07:19 PM

That's one way to look at it.

It's suddenly obvious to me that this is a donkey-engine shanty, sung by donkeymen as they started up their little engines. That action required far more work than people today realize. Often several ABs had to clap on to the switch and howl the chorus as the donkeyman soloed of foreign ports and the amazing sights awaiting them there....


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 18 Feb 13 - 07:49 PM

The chanty itself -- that is, aside from the engine idea -- is pretty interesting.

How did it relate to "Highland Laddie," which was one of the early documented capstan songs and a cotton-stowing chant?

And how did it relate to "Powder Monkey Jim," a non-chanty whose chorus it partially shares?

How do all three relate?

If "Donkey" got the "golden crown" bit from "Powder Monkey"... where did "Powder Monkey" get the "Were you ever in XYZ" theme from (which is part of "Highland Laddie")?

Is the "Were you ever in XYZ" theme a contribution to chanty "language" from the old Highland Laddie? If so, is it in that sense a sort of Scottish contribution to chanty language? Or is the non-narrative, non sequitur style of "Were you ever in XYZ" an inspiration of African-American style of versifying?

My current feeling is that, yes, "Were you ever in XYZ" comes from "Highland" and possibly a wider set of songs from that tradition (Northern Britain, etc), so it is very interesting how it fits into and was developed into a mode of work-song that I would claim is more African-American.

Lots of big questions!


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: GUEST,Henry Piper, of Ottery !!
Date: 19 Feb 13 - 07:04 AM

I think that Dead Horse may well be closer to the truth than we realise,!!   applying the priciple of Occams Razor, Ie that the simplest and most obvious answer is often the correct one,perhaps to our seafaring antecedents it was so obvious, and they all understood exactly what was implied by the phrase, that they saw no reason to explain it to a bunch of Landlubbers,.
Its only the modern day "Experts" who insist on seeing every little fact written down,recorded , analysed, compartmentalised and backed up by evidence in triplicate !!!!
I suspect if a collecter of such nautical snippetts asked an old salt "Excuse me my good man, that phrase you just sang, exactly what do you mean by it?? "    The reply would have been along the lines of
"Its Fu***** obvious innit Mate !!!!!!"
Anyway its been an interesting thread, I shall now bow out and leave it to you "Experts".


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 19 Feb 13 - 07:25 AM

Gibb, I would venture to guess that the improvisational style of "Were you ever in XYZ" is inspired by African-American traditions. None of the 18th century versions of the song I'v heard [original to Scotland] have that form. I too would like to know when it became popular to sing it in a minor key. I only recall hearing that in the last couple decades.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Charley Noble
Date: 19 Feb 13 - 07:48 AM

The Scots had an early reputation of being engineers (as carried into the future in Star Trek). No doubt some of them were employed to run the donkey engines. The old shanty "Highland Laddie" was obviously adapted to this new line of work by them.

Beam me up, Scotty!
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Feb 13 - 08:38 AM

What *is* the obvious connection between a donkey engine and the work being done with the shanty which, for all we know, may be older than the engines?

Where *are* the facts indicating that "riding on a donkey" isn't just an amusing phrase that means what it says?

Why should *anyone* believe that shanty lyrics hold secret metaphors that no collectors noticed or that Stan Hugill, who devoted himself to the preservation of all shanty lore, didn't think worth explaining?

(Consider the recent claim that the line "Santy Anna won the day" is "really" a protest against slavery.)

Occam's Razor tells me that if sailors had wanted to sing a song about a donkey engine, they'd have done a lot better than this.

(PS: I'm looking now for the secret metaphors in this post. Will let you know what I find.)


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Snuffy
Date: 19 Feb 13 - 09:12 AM

The shanty lists a load of ports where you can ride on a donkey.

A donkey was a straw mattress.

And we all know what "riding" means ...


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Dead Horse
Date: 19 Feb 13 - 12:27 PM

The original Heiland Laddie had no 'Was you ever in...' verses.
The much later shanty used verses made up from many other shanties presumably because the first shantyman to use them didnt care for the Heiland Laddie story but liked the tune - either that or because the original was a shanty used in the whaling trade and being an ex-whaler he used the tune with different words that would fit the trade he was now in. It has even been speculated upon that the song was turned into some kind of game where each singer in turn would name a port and then add a couple of lines to rhyme with it. (In the fo'cs'le perhaps, but not as a shanty imho)
Also
Donkeys breakfast = straw filled mattress
Donkey engine = small utility engine
No connection between the two.
And
Scottish engineering skills would not be required to work a donkey engine, any more than a Michelin-starred chef would be needed to boil a kettle of water for the British captains tea.
I should also like to take this opportunity to complain about the thread title. I am not a nerd, nor do I wear an anorak.
A Sou-wester maybe, but NEVER an anorak - right!


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 19 Feb 13 - 02:36 PM

Some "old" form of "Highland Laddie" starts with "Where have you been all the day?" I see a possible, though not necessary, connection between this idea and the questions about "were you ever in." Just trying to stay loose and open...like Sally in the Alley.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Feb 13 - 07:07 AM

One conceivable answer to "Where have you been all the day?" is "Riding on a donkey."


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 20 Feb 13 - 08:01 AM

Because all Scotsmen are engineers.


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Subject: RE: 'Donkeyman' calling Shanty nerds
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 20 Feb 13 - 12:37 PM

There was a comic music hall song called "Riding on a Donkey," written by a C. Furtado ca.1866.
Newspaper ads from 1867 and 1883 advertise its performance in England.

I have no idea if there is any similarity; just throwing it out there.


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