Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home

Songs about press-gangs

Jim Dixon 04 Oct 18 - 01:58 PM
Jim Dixon 04 Oct 18 - 02:57 PM
Jim Dixon 04 Oct 18 - 06:43 PM
Jim Dixon 04 Oct 18 - 07:26 PM
Jim Dixon 05 Oct 18 - 05:39 AM
Jack Campin 05 Oct 18 - 08:18 AM
Jim Dixon 05 Oct 18 - 09:09 AM
Jim Dixon 05 Oct 18 - 09:53 AM
Jim Dixon 05 Oct 18 - 06:08 PM
Jim Dixon 06 Oct 18 - 12:12 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 06 Oct 18 - 10:23 AM
Jim Dixon 06 Oct 18 - 09:30 PM
Jim Dixon 07 Oct 18 - 01:15 PM
Raedwulf 07 Oct 18 - 01:39 PM
Lighter 07 Oct 18 - 03:46 PM
GUEST,Guest 07 Oct 18 - 05:15 PM
Jim Dixon 07 Oct 18 - 10:56 PM
Jim Dixon 08 Oct 18 - 12:02 AM
Jack Campin 08 Oct 18 - 04:38 AM
Ged Fox 08 Oct 18 - 09:00 AM
Jim Dixon 08 Oct 18 - 09:52 PM
Jim Dixon 09 Oct 18 - 10:38 AM
Jim Dixon 09 Oct 18 - 01:07 PM
Jim Dixon 09 Oct 18 - 06:09 PM
Jim Dixon 09 Oct 18 - 06:37 PM
Donuel 10 Oct 18 - 12:22 PM
Jim Dixon 11 Oct 18 - 01:27 PM
Jim Dixon 11 Oct 18 - 07:29 PM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 12 Oct 18 - 04:30 AM
Share Thread
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:

Subject: Songs about press-gangs
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 04 Oct 18 - 01:58 PM

It has come to my attention that the Bodleian Library contains several broadsides on the topic of press-gangs, many of which have never been posted here at Mudcat. I plan to post some of them, but first I think it would be a good idea to review the songs that have already been posted. These are the ones I can find. (There might be some redundancy here, because the same song may have been posted under more than one title.)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 04 Oct 18 - 02:57 PM

I figure this one must have been quite popular since the Bodleian Library has 9 versions of it by different printers. I also found it in 3 American songbooks. This copy came from The Forget-Me-Not Songster (Boston: G. W. Cottrell, n.d.), page 239:


Near Clyde's gay stream there liv'd a maid
Whose mind was chaste and pure.
Content she liv'd an humble life,
Belov'd by all who knew her.
Protected 'neath her parent's roof,
Her time pass’d on quite merry.
She lov'd, and was belov'd again,
By William of the Ferry.

From morning's dawn till set of sun,
Would William labor hard,
And then at evening's glad return
He gain'd a sweet reward.
With heart so light, unto her cot
He tripp'd so light and merry.
All daily toils were soon forgot
By William of the Ferry.

With joy their parents gave consent
And fix'd their bridal day.
Ere it arriv'd, the press-gang came
And forc'd poor Will away.
He found resistance was in vain;
They dragg'd him from his wherry.
"I ne'er shall see my love again,"
Cried William of the Ferry.

Loud blew the raging winds around,
When scarce a league from shore,
The boat upset; the ruffian crew
Soon sunk, to rise no more,
While William, fearless, brav'd the waves
And safely reach'd his wherry.
Peace was proclaim'd, and Jane's now link'd
With William of the Ferry.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 04 Oct 18 - 06:43 PM

The Bodleian library has 8 versions of this song. I copied thes e lyrics from The Sad and Mournful History of that Amiable and Loving Couple William Rattling and Sweet Poll of Plymouth... (London: W. Bailey, 1784), page 46:


Sweet Poll of Plymouth was my dear.
When forc’d from her to go,
Adown her cheeks ran many a tear.
My heart was fraught with woe.
Our anchor weigh’d, for sea we stood.
The land we left behind.
Her tears then swell’d the briny flood.
Her sighs increas‘d the wind.

We plough’d the deep, and now between
Us lay the ocean wide.
For five long years I had not seen
My sweet, my bonny bride.
That time I sail’d the world around,
All for my true love's sake,
But press’d, as we were homeward bound,
I thought my heart would break.

The press-gang bold I ask’d in vain
To let me once on shore.
I long'd to see my Poll again,
But saw my Poll no more.
“And have they torn my love away?
And is he gone?” she cried.
My Polly, sweetest flower of May,
She languish’d, droop’d and died.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 04 Oct 18 - 07:26 PM

The Bodleian Library has 3 editions of this broadside.

This text is from Real Sailor-Songs edited by John Ashton (London: The Leadenhall Press, 1891), page 33.


It was in London Town, as we do understand,
Seven lasses, they took a brisk frolick in hand,
And as I protest, they were in sailor's dress,
Not far from Cheapside they resolved to press
Fourteen Taylors.

Then Nancy, she tied her sword by her side,
Resolved she was for to be the guide,
This young female crew, Kate, Bridget and Sue,
And she that went first was Lieutenant Prue,
To press Taylors.

These girls by consent, their minds fully bent,
Unto the house of call at St. James's they went,
But there, in the street, a poor taylor did meet,
They prest him, and he tumbled down at their feet.
O! poor Taylor!

I tell you, says he, I never was at sea,
So I pray you, kind gentlemen to set me free,
And pity my tears—I have seen fifty years,
And never used weapon but bodkin and shears,
Being a Taylor.

Without any regard unto the tape yard,
Whereas a poor taylor was labouring hard,
Upon the shop board Nancy drew out her sword,
And said, to King George you your aid must afford,
Tho' a Taylor.

The Taylor did shake, and quiver, and quake,
At length with trembling voice he did speak,
Whilst tear down did run, I am surely undone,
For, alas! I don't know the right end of a gun,
Being a Taylor.

But, nevertheless, said Bouncing Bess,
You must come along, we've a warrant to press,
And we'll have no excuse—so lay by your goose,
Such nimble young fellows are fit for our use,
Tho' Taylors.

Then unto Round Court, they went, by report,
Where several brisk taylors were making of sport,
With hearts void of fear, when the maidens came there,
They caught them a-napping, as Moss caught the Mare,
Seven Taylors.

They first did resist, but Nan, with her fist;
SHe thump'd them about, till the taylors all hiss'd,
And then, in a rage, all the rest did engage,
And brought them away to Bridewell or Cage,
Seven Taylors.

Then to Tower Lane, with all might and main,
These petticoat press masters hurried again,
For to press, where they knew, both Morgan and Hugh,
A couple belonging to the cross legged crew.
And Welsh Taylors.

Then out Morgan rails, Cot splutter her nails,
Hur is a master taylor, tho' pred up in Wales,
So pray cease your strife, hur has a young wife,
Besides hur was never once kill'd in hur life:
Hur's a Taylor.

But right or wrong, they bandied Taffy along,
Till at length they did meet two more in the throng,
Then said Sukey Flinn, you must serve the King,
These lasses, they press'd and brought them all in.
Fourteen Taylors.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 05 Oct 18 - 05:39 AM

The Bodleian Library has 2 copies of this broadside:


In the land of Hibernia there lived a young damsel,
As lovely a maiden as ever was seen.
Her cheeks were like roses, her breath sweet as violets,
Her eyes black as coal and her age just sixteen.
She loved a young farmer who dwelt by the Shannon,
And he loved this young damsel so lovely and fair.
The lads and the lasses all loved this fair maiden,
The Flower of Hibernia, the Pride of Kildare.

A lord of renown on her gazed with emotion
And longed to embrace her beautiful charms,
While no one but her farmer then would her encourage;
She walked in great danger and feared no alarms.
As she and her lover walked alone by the river,
The loud voices of men they distinctly did hear,
When a press-gang came up and soon forced the young farmer
From the Flower of Hibernia, the Pride of Kildare.

Then in sad despair all alone she did wander,
Both early and late, over valley and dale.
She wept for her lover, her jolly young farmer,
And Cupid oft told her sad sorrowful tale.
At length one fine morning this nobleman met her.
He gazed on her charms that was lovely and fair.
In raptures he cried: “I will make you my bride.
You're the Flower of Hibernia, the Pride of Kildare.”

He flattered; she spurned him; to his tales she’d not listen.
Her jolly young farmer was all her delight.
When he strove to embrace her, she indignantly spurned him.
At length to seduce her he tried with all might.
On the ground they both struggled; she would not be conquered.
At length unperceived this young damsel so fair,
She a pistol let fly, crying: “Villain, now die,”
Did the Flower of Hibernia, the Pride of Kildare.

Over high lofty mountains for miles she did wander,
Bereft of all comfort and far from her home,
No one to console her but birds in the bushes.
In sorrow and anguish long time she did roam.
At length one bright morning when the sun was just dawning,
She heard a young sailor whose voice was so clear,
Crying, “I am distracted; oh where is my lover,
The Flower of Hibernia, the Pride of Kildare?”

She knew his fond voice and quickly got near him.
At length she beheld him and flew in his arms.
The fate of the lord she soon quickly told him,
As at length he embraced her beauteous charms.
Then in wedlock was joined and now in a cottage
Contented they banish all sorrow and care.
Like two turtle doves lives the jolly young farmer
With the Flower of Hibernia, the Pride of Kildare.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Songs about press-gangs
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Oct 18 - 08:18 AM

Why are the examples all British? Didn't other countries use them?

(The Ottoman Empire didn't - they mostly used convicts, which is why their navy was crap compared with their army).

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 05 Oct 18 - 09:09 AM

The Bodleian Library has 2 editions of this broadside.

The text below comes from The British minstrel, Part 1 (London: T. Allman, 1848), page 116:


The voyage was past and England's shore
Had met my longing view;
I left the ship and sought the cot
That held my lovely Sue.
She flew to meet me; in each eye
The tear of joy had started.
"Thank heaven thou'rt safe, my love," she cried,
"We'll never more be parted."

Two lovely boys my Susan brought;
They hung about my knees.
"Now let who will be king," I said,
"Give me such joys as these."
Just as I spoke, a press-gang came.
Poor girl, she shrieked and started,
Then caught my hand, and cried, "Dear Jack,"
I fear we must be parted."

My children wept; in vain I told
How long I'd been away.
They said my king required my aid;
They dared not disobey,
My Susan cried, "It's hard, my love,
But be thou not faint-hearted.
The powers above will guard the brave!"
We sobbed adieu, and parted.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: OH, CRUEL
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 05 Oct 18 - 09:53 AM

The Bodleian Library has 4 versions of this song as a broadside.

This text is taken from Melodist, and Mirthful Olio, Vol. 4 (London: H. Arliss, 1829), page 261.

Sung in character, by W. H. Freeman.

Oh! cruel were my parents that tore my love from me,
And cruel was the press-gang that took him off to sea;
And cruel was the little boat that rowed him from the strand.
And cruel was the big ship that sail'd him from the land.

Oh! cruel was the water that bore my love from Mary,
And cruel was the fair wind that didn't blow contrary;
And cruel was the captain, the boatswain, and the men,
They didn't care a farden if we never met again.

Oh! cruel was the splinter that broke my deary's leg,
Now he's obliged to fiddle and I'm obliged to beg;
A vagabond, a vagrant, a rantipoling wife,
We fiddle, limp, and scrape it through the ups and downs of life.

Oh! cruel was the engagement in which my true love fought,
And cruel was the cannonball that knocked his right eye out;
He used to leer and ogle me with peepers full of fun,
But now he looks askew at me because he’s got but one.

My love he plays the fiddle as he wanders up and down,
And I sing at his elbow through all the streets in town;
We spend our days in harmony and very seldom fight,
Except when he gets grog aboard and I gets queer - at night.

Then, ladies all, take warning by my true love and me,
Though cruel fate should flurry you, remember constancy;
Like me you’ll be rewarded and have your heart’s delight,
With a fiddle in a morning and a drop of gin at might.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Songs about press-gangs
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 05 Oct 18 - 06:08 PM

I just figured out that the song I posted above as OH CRUEL is sometimes known as THE ANSWER TO 'OH CRUEL'. It is a comical parody of an older song called OH CRUEL which is serious. It exists in several versions, and so far, I haven't figured out which one is the original original. But in any case, the versions I've found don't mention press-gangs, so I figured it wouldn't be appropriate to post them in this thread.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 06 Oct 18 - 12:12 AM

The Bodleian Library has 2 versions of this. I also found it in The Goldfinch (J. Gold, 1805), page 98.


Young William was a seaman true,
The darling of the bonny crew,
For blithe he was and kind;
For tho' no lagging lubber he,
Right loth he was to go to sea,
For Jane he left behind.

And Jenny lov'd, but all by stealth;
Her father had much store of wealth;
Of Will he would not hear;
Till cruel chance at length reveal'd
The passion they so long conceal'd,
And William lost His dear.

A friendly voice poor William hail'd;
A ruffian gang the youth assail'd,
'Twas done by cursed gold;
The tender for the offing stood,
The cutter skimm'd the yielding flood,
They hatch him in the hold.

She, troubl'd, walks the beach in haste,
And troubl'd look'd the wat'ry waste;
And by the floating wave
A corpse was wash'd upon the shore;
'Twas William! and with tears they bore
Two lovers to the grave.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Songs about press-gangs
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 06 Oct 18 - 10:23 AM


5th verse:
To Press our Men they claim the right
But blast their Imposition
We'll let the rascalls know, we'll fight
In Preference to submission

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 06 Oct 18 - 09:30 PM

This is an older version of THE FEMALE PRESS-GANG, posted above. It can be seen at the Bodleian collection, also in The Roxburgh Ballads, Vol 3, Part 2, with notes by Wm. Chappell (Hertford: The Ballad Society, 1879), page 402.

[Roxb. Coll. II. 331, and Pepys, IV. 368]
The Maidens Frollick:
A brief Relation how Six Lusty Lasses has Prest full Fourteen Taylors on the backside of St. Clements, and the other adjacent Places.
To the Tune of an Orange. Licensed according to Order.

Of late near the Strand, we well understand,
Six Lasses that took a brisk Frollick in hand;
'Twas thus I profess, they in Seaman's Dress,
Not far from the May-pole resolved to Press
Fourteen Taylors.

Young Nancy she ty'd a Sword by her side,
And she was resolved for to be their Guide:
This young Female Crew, Kate, Bridget, & Prue,
And she that went formost was Lieutenant Sue,
Pressing Taylors.

These Maids by consent, their minds fully bent,
First thro' the back side of St. Clements they went,
Where just in the Street they a Taylor did meet,
They Prest him, and streight he fell down at their feet,
I’m a Taylor.

I tell you, said he, I ne'er was at Sea,
And therefore, kind Gentlemen, pray set me free,
And pity those Tears, I have liv'd Forty Year,
And never us'd Weapon, but Bodkin and Shears,
I'm a Taylor.

But Susan and they strait haul'd him away,
While Tom the poor Taylor did sigh, beg, and pray,
Yet all was in vain, for they did him retain,
And told him that now he must fight on the Main,
Tho' a Taylor.

Then to White-hart-yard they went with regard,
And there a poor Taylor was labouring hard
Upon his Shop-board, Nan drew out her Sword,
Saying, he must King William his Service afford,
Tho' a Taylor.

The Taylor did quake, nay, quiver and shake,
At length with a pitiful Voice he did spake,
While Tears down did run, he cry'd, I'm undone,
I never did know the right end of a Gun,
I'm a Taylor.

Then stout Boston Bess said, Nevertheless,
You must go with us, we've a Warrant to Press;
Then wave this Excuse, and lay by your Goose,
Such nimble young Fellows may be of great use,
Tho' a Taylor.

And then, by report, they went to Round Court,
Where Seven young Taylors were making of sport,
Their Hearts void of Care, tho' when they come there,
These Maids did catch napping, as Moss catch'd his Mare,
Seven Taylors.

They thought to resist, but Joan with her Fist,
She thumpt them about till the Taylors they Pist;
And then in a rage, the rest did engage,
And brought them away to the Round-House or Cage,
These poor Taylors.

With all might and main, down to Dutchy-lane,
These Petticoat Press-Masters hurried again,
To Press some they knew, 'twas Morgan and Hugh,
A couple belong'd to the Cross-legged Crew,
And Welsh Taylors.

Then Morgan hur railes, crys, Splutter-a-nails,
Hur newly come up to fair London from Wales,
Then pray cease your Strife, hur has a young Wife,
Besides hur was never yet kill'd in hur Life,
A Welsh Taylor.

But yet, right or wrong, they brought 'em along,
And happen'd to meet with Three more in the Throng,
Then said lusty Jane, You must serve King & Queen!
And thus these stout Females did press full fourteen,
And all Taylors.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: THE POOR POET (John Carwithen)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 07 Oct 18 - 01:15 PM

Found accidentally while looking for something else. This story rings true although it lacks drama in a conventional sense, and lacks a satisfactory ending. I suspect John Carwithen wrote it about himself while still in the navy. It was printed without stanza breaks; I inserted them where they seemed convenient. Maybe this poem was never intended to be sung.

From The Gentleman’s Diary, or the Mathematical Repository; An Almanack for the Year of our Lord 1799 (London: Company of Stationers, 1799), page 22.

A true tale, by Mr. John Carwithen, late midshipman on board the Royal William.

Those that the muses aid implore,
‘Tis said, are oft distrest and poor;
And, but the assertion false or true,
I’ll not dispute the point with you.

Near reeds and larkspurs on a hill,
There dwelt a man, tenant at will,
Who gigs and flutes could none attain,
For a poor wife and children twain.

To labour was his daily care,
His meals were coarse, his coat threadbare.
For, with his ink-stand by him ever,
Deep drank he the Permessus river.

For, tho’ his work required speed,
He fancy’d line would write or read,
Tho’ blacksmith like he’d only scraps,
Not purchase cou’d dear books and maps,
But fill the Diaries every year
He bought, ere things became so dear.

His pittance small wou’d not supply
With food and fire his family:
The legislature laws had made,
That spoil’d him his most accustom’d trade:
His wife now rail’d, and said, you lout,
Go beat the neighbouring towns about,
And, tho’ your proper trade be scant,
You work must, or we die for want.

With that, this frowning madam pert
A waistcoat, night-cap, and a shirt
Or two, ty’d up, bid him begone:
His child cries, what’s my father done,
That you should drive him to despair?
With him I’ll go, his fortune share.

Alas! my boy, you cannot go,
The weather’s cold, the bleak winds blow,
No bed have I whereon to sleep,
You stay must and your sister keep,
While mother work will at her wheel:
Farewell, alas! what do I feel!

Reluctant, from my humble home,
About in quest of work I roam.
Yet peace of mind and conscience clear
He yet retained, and banish’d fear:
And going on near Gosport town,
Hard by the Feathers sat him down.

A press-gang passing him accost,
What ship my boy? you look like lost.
Another said, ‘tis sexton Tom,
Who lately ran the Friendship from.

He rais’d his eyes, but nothing said.
Come, prophet Jonah, to Spithead;
But ere we’re got to Gosport beach,
Bomb shells and balls will find your speech.

This said, they drag him to the boat,
And bid mind the after-thought.
He knew not what but bow’d assent,
And so towards Spithead they went.

South south-west wind, and a lee tide,
Not soon the boat got along-side
The Royal William guardship, then
Appointed to receive press’d men.
The sidesmen call’d; a rope was flung,
Which hapless o’er his body hung.

The surf soon pluck’d him o’er the side:
Send off the boat, the sidesmen cry’d,
We’ll haul on board this lubber oaf,
While those upon the deck all laugh,
To see him haul’d up from the flood,
He dripping on the gunway stood,
Not knowing to go fore or aft;
But they suspected this was craft,
And to the sentry call’d in haste,
Whose ramrod push’d him to the waist,
Where I shall leave him till next year,
That he may learn to reef and steer.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Songs about press-gangs
From: Raedwulf
Date: 07 Oct 18 - 01:39 PM

"Why are the examples all British? Didn't other countries use them?"

To which the answer is (and apologies to Jim, because whilst I am definitely not derailing, we may be going on the loop line...), they probably did. BUT! The press-gang was not nearly so widely used as the popular conception insists. Nevertheless the RN is the best known user of impressment, for obvious reasons, but not to the extent that is generally believed. I'll let wiki speak for me...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Songs about press-gangs
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Oct 18 - 03:46 PM

Neither the United States Navy (nor the Confederate Navy of 1861-65) employed press-gangs.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Songs about press-gangs
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 07 Oct 18 - 05:15 PM

"Arthur McBride" is a very popular Irish ballad about 2 Irishmen who escape the press gang "on CHristmas morning" lyrics and performance readily available on the internet

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 07 Oct 18 - 10:56 PM

A press-gang story with a happy ending.

The Bodleian Library has several versions of this song, whose title varies as: DUKE WILLIAM, DUKE WILLIAM’S FROLIC, DUKE WILLIAM THE JOLLY SAILOR, DUKE WILLIAM AND A YOUNG NOBLEMAN'S RAMBLE INTO THE WEST COUNTRY. The Bodleian identifies the subject as Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765).

From The Naval Chronicle for 1805 Vol. 12, (London: I. Gold, 1805), page 228.


DUKE William and a Nobleman,
Heroes of England’s Nation,
Got up one morn, by dawn of day,
To take a recreation.
Into the suburbs they did go,
In Sailors’ dress from top to toe;
‘Now,’ says the Duke, ‘we soon shall know
What usage there’s for Seamen.’

Then in this brave and warlike trim
They hastened to an inn.
The Duke then said, ‘Kind landlady,
Bring wine both red and white in.’
Before they’d drank the wine half out,
A press-gang that was brave and stout,
Did search the lower rooms about,
For warlike jolly Seamen.

‘Up stairs,’ the landlady did say,
‘If Seamen you’re a seeking,
There’s one so fat, I dare be sworn,
That you can scarcely ship him.’
‘Ne’er mind, my lads, but let us try;’
They up stairs went immediately;
‘What Ship, brothers,’ they all did cry,
‘For we arc jolly Seamen?’

‘We do belong to George,’ says Will;
Say they, ‘Where’s your protection?’
‘We’ve none at all,’ the Duke replies,
‘Don’t cast on us reflection.’
Then the Lieutenant he did say,
‘Come brothers come, come, come away,
On us you must not make a prey,
My warrant is for Seamen.’

They haul’d them to the tender, where
The Captain he was skipping;
The Duke then said, ‘Kind gentlemen,
Take care of all your Shipping:’
With that, the Captain he did swear,
‘I am your shepherd I declare,
I’ll make you change your saucy air,
Get down amongst the Seamen!’

O then his Highness did go down
Among the jolly Seamen,
Which made him stare, to see the fare
Of many a brisk young Seaman.
‘Where must I lie?’ his Highness said,
‘Must I not have a feather bed?’
‘You’re fat enough,’ they all reply’d,
Pig in amongst the Seamen.’

‘But for your sauce, you surly dog,
You must be flogg’d, so strip, Sir:’
To the gang-way then, away they went
The good Duke for to whip, Sir:
But to strip the Duke would not,
They call’d him then a drunken sot:
The Duke reply’d, ‘Drunk I am not,
But strip me if you dare, Sir!’

Then came down the Boatswain’s Mate,
The Duke for to undress, Sir;
But quickly he did behold
The star upon his breast, Sir:
Then on their bended knees they fall,
And loud for mercy they did call;
The Duke replies, ‘You’re villains all,
For using thus poor Seamen.

‘No wonder why my Father he
Can’t well man all his Shipping,
‘Tis by your basely using them,
And them always a-whipping.
But for the future, Sailors all
Shall have good usage, great and small:’
They heard the news together all,
And cry’d, ‘God save Duke William!’

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: THE HAPPY COUPLE
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 08 Oct 18 - 12:02 AM

This broadside can be found at the National Library of Scotland, and there is an inferior version at the Bodleian Library:


Come, all you brisk young damsels that sport in Cupid's chain,
'Tis of a brisk young maiden, lay sporting on the plain;
All with her true love Billy, as she did sport and play;
The press-gang overtook them, and prest her love away.

With flowing tears she mourned, she wrung and tore her hair,
Crying, I'm undone for ever, by the losing of my dear.
I wish the French may kill them, that stole my love from me,
And send their bodies sinking for ever in the sea.

She dress'd herself up like a Duke, with a star upon her breast,
Resolv'd to kill the Captain, if he did her molest.
Her life she boldly ventured, for her true love, so brave,
Resolv'd that she would be his bride, or the sea should be her grave.

The ship was just a sailing, before she got to sea,
She called on the Captain, before they sail'd away:
The Officers stood cap in hand, this noble Duke to see,
Expecting he was come on board, their Commander for to be.

But when she saw her own true love, she took him by the hand
Saying, This is my servant man, and him I do demand;
He has robb'd me of my gold and store, I'll try him for his life;
Thus she ventur'd life and fortune, all for to be his wife.

Then she got him in fetters bound, she handed him along,
Saying, Now I will confine him within some prison strong.
The young man pray'd for liberty to cross the raging seas,
For, says he, I never robb'd a man, or lord, in all my days.

But when she got him safe away, they sat down under shade,
Then she began to ask him, if he knew such a maid:
His eyes now 'gan to flow with tears, when hearing of her name;
My dear, says she, don't troubled be, for sure I am the same.

With ecstasy of pleasure, wrapt in each other's arms,
With joy unbounded he embrac'd, and dwelt upon her charms.
My dear, says he, how dared you now, to venture your sweet life!
Then to the church he took her, and so made her his wife.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Songs about press-gangs
From: Jack Campin
Date: 08 Oct 18 - 04:38 AM

Arthur McBride is about recruitment under false pretences rather than impressment, surely?

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Songs about press-gangs
From: Ged Fox
Date: 08 Oct 18 - 09:00 AM

"Captain Bover and his gang," Newcastle press-men of the late eighteenth century, are commemorated in a Northumbrian song.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: PATRICK O‘NEAL
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 08 Oct 18 - 09:52 PM

This song can be found in the Bodleian Library collection.

These lyrics are from The Encyclopædia of Comic Songs (London: Edwards & Knibb, 1820), page 382:


On April the first I set off, like a fool,
From Killkenny to Dublin, to see Lawrence O‘Tool,
My mother’s third cousin, who often wrote down,
For to come and to see how he flourish’d in town.
I had scarce set a foot in the terrible place
Before a spalpeen came and stared in my face:
He call’d to a press-gang; they came without fail,
And soon neck and crop carried Patrick O‘Neal.

They scamper’d away, as they thought with a prize,
Taking me for a sailor, you see, in disguise;
But a terrible blunder they made in their strife,
For I ne’er saw a ship nor the sea in my life.
Then straight to a tender they made me repair,
But of tenderness devil a morsel was there:
Och! I ramp’d and I cursed, but it did not avail,
Till a great swimming castle met Patrick.0‘Neal.

This big swimming taef roll’d about in the tide,
Wid all her front teeth sticking fast by her side;
Where they bid me to mount, and be sure for to keep
Fast hold by my trotters, for fear I should trip.
I let go my hands, and stuck fast with my toes,
And (how it could happen the Lord above knows)
Fell plump in the water, and splash’d like a whale,
Till pretty well pickled was Patrick O‘Neal.

Wid a great swell of laughter they hoisted me in
To this huge wooden world full of riot and din:
What strings and what pulleys attracted my eye,
And how large were the sheets that were hung out to dry!
It seem’d Noah’s ark, stuff’d with different guests,
Hogs, pedlers, geese, sailors, and all other beasts:
Some drank bladders of gin, some drank pitchers of ale,
While some sat and laugh’d at poor Patrick O‘Neal.

Then to go down below I express’d a great wish,
Where they lived under water like so many fish;
I was clapp’d in a mess with some of the crew,
They call’d it banyan day, so gave me burgoo:
For a bed I’d a sack swung as high as my chin;
They call’d it a hammock, and bade me get in:
I took a great leap, but my footing was frail,
For clean overcanted was Patrick O‘Neal.

The devil a wink I could sleep all the night,
And awoke the next morn in a terrible fright;
‘Up hammocks, down chests,’ they began for to bawl;
‘Here’s a Frenchman in sight!’ ‘Sure,’ says I, ‘is that all?’
Then we haul’d up our large window-shutters with speed,
And ran out our bull-dogs of true English breed;
While the creatures gave mouth I held fast by the tail,
And they kick’d and ran over poor Patrick O‘Neal.

Thus we rattled away, by my soul hob a nob,
Till the Frenchman gave up, as he thought, a bad job:
To tie him behind a large cord they did bring,
And we led him along like a pig in a string.
Then home to old England we dragg‘d the French boy;
Och, the sight of the land made me sea-sick for joy:
They made up a peace, and the war growing stale,
Set all hands adrift with poor Patrick O‘Neal.

So, you see, on dry land a safe course I can steer;
Neither cat-head nor cat-block, nor any cat fear;
While there’s shot in the locker, I’ll sing, I’ll be bound,
And Saturday night shall last all the week round.
But since king and country now calls us amain,
By the piper of Leinster I’ll venture again,
Make another dry voyage, bring home a fresh talc,
And you’ll laugh till you cry at poor Patrick O‘Neal.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: SANDY OF THE FORTH
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Oct 18 - 10:38 AM

These words were found in The Banquet of Thalia, Or, The Fashionable Songsters Pocket Memorial (Wilson, Spence and Mawman, 1790), page 52. The song was also published as a broadside, which can be seen in the Bodleian collection:

By George Saville Carey.

YOUNG Sandy was press'd from his Alice's side,
As they stray'd to converse in the dale;
And Sandy had ask'd the fair maid for his bride;
But, alas! as he told her his tale,
They tore him away, tho’ she fell on her knees
And implor'd them to spare her dear swain;
But the gang it was deaf to her heart-rending pleas,
And they hurry’d him off to the main!

She stood all alone a pale statue of grief,
When at length the tears burst from her eyes;
Mo friend near her side to afford her relief,
And she ask'd it at length of the skies.
The night-cheering morn was absorb’d in a cloud,
And the wind 'gan to rise in the North;
The flocks on the mountains all bleated aloud,
And the waves 'gan to foam in the Forth.

At this moment the galley was making its way,
With the head-drooping Sandy on board,
Who spy'd at a distance the ship as she lay—
In the mouth of the Forth she was moor'd:
But the waves with the mountains now all seem'd to vie,
For each wave left a valley below:
“Be steady! be steady! good Lads!” was the cry,
“Or adown to the bottom we go!”

These words were scarce spoke, when a turbulent wave
Bid defiance the skill of each oar;
For they all sunk at once in a watery grave—
All but one, that was cast on the shore:
'Twas Sandy, for whom the kind Fates interfer'd,
As a warning, that nought should remove
The bondage of faith, when it ever adher'd
To the hallowed mandates of love.

He fled to his Alice, who mourn’d in despair—
But when she her Sandy beheld,
His presence soon vanquish'd her visitor, Care,
And the vapours of Sorrow dispell’d.
To the mountains they fled, far away from the main,
Where no rude assailants engage;
No ruffians to part the fond lovers again,
Till Time shall intrude with old Age.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Oct 18 - 01:07 PM

This song can be found in the Bodleian collection, and in the University of California Santa Barbara English Broadside Ballad Archive and in the book, The Roxburghe Ballads, Vol. 4, edited by J. Woodfall Ebsworth (Hertford: The Ballad Society, 1883), page 409.

The Distressed Damsels;
A dolefull Ditty of a sorrowful Assembly of young Maidens that were met together near Thames-street, to bewail the Loss of their Loves which were lately press’d away to Sea.
To the Tune of an Orange.
Licensed according to Order.

MY sweet Sister Sue, ah! what I shado[=shall do]?
I fain wou’d be married, but know not I to who;
For why, I protest, the young Men are Prest,
And my Sweetheart Robin is gone with the rest
For a Seaman.

Then Susan reply'd there's many beside,
That Fortune this Summer will surely divide;
Each sudden surprize will cause Lasses cries,
While Tears they do trickle, like Rain from the Skies,
For our Sweethearts.

There's Bess at the Bell you know her full well,
A sorrowful story to me she did tell,
That Thomas her Dear, was Prest she did hear,
And then the poor Creature did tremble for fear
He should leave her.

In Thames-street of late, young pretty-fac'd Kate
Had lost her dear sweeting, the Bricklayer her Mate;
He was prest away but yet the next day
They freed him, then Kate she did lovingly say,
My sweet Johnny.

In the open Street her John she did meet,
And gave him a thousand soft Kisses so sweet,
With stroaking his Chin, she welcom'd him in,
For Joy she was fit to leap out of her Skin,
For her Johnny.

There's Doll at the Swan, her true Love is gone,
Poor Heart she with sorrow doth sigh and take on;
Yet all is in vain, he is gone to the Main,
She fears that he ne'er will return home again,
To embrace her.

There's Bridget & Joan 'tis very well known,
Of fourteen young Sweethearts they have not left one
But all Prest on Board for to stand by the Sword,
And this do’s much Sorrow and Trouble afford,
At the Parting.

If Pressing goes on, there wont be a Man
To please a young Lass, let her do what she can,
For they will be scarce here in a short space,
Then we shall be all in a sorrowful case,
To be Married.

Two Twelvemonths ago, sweet Sister, you know,
The Batchelors then we could bring to our Bow;
Nay, at our command, they stood Cap in hand:
But now they grow scarcy all over the Land,
We must prize them.

Young Nancy and Ned last week they were Wed,
And within an hour of going to Bed,
Just in all their Pride he was Prest from her side,
Before he had dallied one Night with his Bride,
Want[=wasn’t] it pitty?

To leave his delight, and Beauty so bright,
Before he had ever enjoy'd her one Night;
But what shall we say? he was Prest away,
Now you that have Husbands adore them, I pray,
They are Jewels.

Last year I declare, young Maids was choice ware,
But now they grow wonderful plenty I swear,
All over the Town they walk up and down,
I reckon you may have a Score for a Crown,
By Midsummer.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Oct 18 - 06:09 PM

Found in A Dictionary of the Isle of Wight Dialect by William Henry Long (London: Reeves & Turner, 1886), page 139; also in the Bodleian Library, where it is called THE OLD MISER.


'Tis of an old miser who in London did dwell.
He had but one daughter, whom a sailor loved well,
And when the old miser was out of the way,
She was always with her sailor by night and by day.

Soon as the old miser he heard of the news,
Straightway to the captain he immediately goes,
Crying: "Captain, bold captain, I have good news to tell.
I have got a young sailor for a bargain to sell.

“So what you give me?" this old man did say.
"I'll give you ten guineas, and take him away.
I'll send him a-sailing, right over the main.
He shall never come to England to plague you again."

Now when this young damsel she heard of the news,
Away to the captain she hastily goes,
Saying: "Captain, bold captain, I have bad news to tell.
You have got my young sailor for a transport to sell."

She out of her pocket pulled handfuls of gold,
And down on the deck the guineas they rolled,
Crying: "Captain, bold captain, all this I'll give you,
For my jolly young sailor, my right and my due."

"Oh no," says the Captain, "that never can be,
For only last night he was sold unto me.
I will send him a-sailing right over the main.
He will never come to England to court you again."

"Bad luck to my father, wherever he be.
I feel in my own heart he has ruined me.
I'll away to my couch and then lay myself down,
And day and night long for my sailor I'll mourn."

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Oct 18 - 06:37 PM

Found in Real Sailor Songs, edited by John Ashton (London: Leadenhall Press, 1891), page 55, and in the Bodleian Library, where it is called THE MERCHANT’S DAUGHTER.


There was an old Merchant of honour and fame,
He lived in London, I know not his name,
He had a young daughter whose beauty was clear,
And persons of honour did court her we hear.

Yet, nevertheless, she refused them all,
And lov'd a young sailor, was proper and tall,
And sent him a letter, her mind to reveal,
That she was not able her love to conceal.

He received the letter with joy and with mirth,
And unto her father's he presently went,
There unto each other revealed their minds,
With many sweet kisses and compliments fine.

At last her old father got word by the bye,
That on the young sailor she had cast an eye;
Ne'er mind, said the father, I will them soon part,
I'll seem to prove kind, tho' 'tis not in my heart.

Next morning, as soon as the stairs he came down,
He call'd on his daughter, they say, with a frown,
Saying, daughter, will you speak to and embrace,
And marry a sailor, your friends to disgrace?

Dear honoured father, your pardon I crave,
There's none in the world, but the sailor I'll have,
For he is my dear, and my only joy,
And, if I don't have him, myself I'll destroy.

Well, beautiful daughter, if that is your lot,
To marry a sailor, I'll hinder you not;
But, pray do it in private, talk nothing of me,
And when it is over, we'll bravely agree.

But when they were going in at the church door,
A press gang did meet them, 'twas near to a Score,
Instead of being Married, he was pressed away,
So nothing was there but a sorrowful day.

This fair maid dress'd herself in man's clothes,
And unto the very same Captain she goes,
She entered herself, and it fell to her lot,
To lie in her love's arms, tho' he knew her not.

When many a day with each other they'd sail'd,
And many a night with each other they'd laid,
O! I once had a true love, the sailor did say,
But her cruel parents they press'd me away.

'Tis well known I was brought up to my pen,
Some knowledge of 'strology, Jack now and then,
Come, tell me your age, and I'll throw up your lot,
And tell whether you'll ever have her or not.

He look'd in her face, his mind fill'd with care,
Said he would be twenty-four next November,
She smiled and said, she was much surpris'd,
That he did not know her, tho' in disguise.

Then, straight to her arms, like lightning he flew,
Saying, Many a hazard I've ventured for you;
You might see how the sailor enjoy'd his sweetheart,
Now doubt but the sailor could act his own part.

Now when this young couple return'd to this land,
Her father was dead, as we understand,
And she was heiress of her father's estate,
And he was the Lord of riches most great.

Now this couple was married, as plainly appears,
Enjoying one another, without dread or fears,
With love out of measure, unto their content,
And spend their lives in sweet innocence.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Songs about press-gangs
From: Donuel
Date: 10 Oct 18 - 12:22 PM


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 11 Oct 18 - 01:27 PM

The following text is from a broadside held by the National Library of Scotland. Several other copies/versions are held by the Bodleian Library.


IN Rochester City a young damsel did dwell,
For wit and for beauty none could her excel,
Admired she was and had many a suitor.
But one youth above all he loved her full well,
This charming young lad he was a brisk sailor,
Long time had he been ploughing the watery main,
The enemy insulted the British flag royal,
He was summoned to go with them again.

This jolly young sailor as true as reported,
Had but a very few weeks on the shore,
But has he and his true love together were walking
By a large press he from her was tore,
They cried we perceive you are a young sailor
That's fit to fight for your country and King,
And we want sailors you must plough the ocean,
No excuse we will have you must face the bold.

It was early one morning as the day was dawning,
This blooming young fair one a letter receiv'd
'Twas to inform her the ship had weigh'd anchor,
With grief and vexation this fair one was grieved,
She said O the waves they do prove cruel,
They robbed me of one I esteemed so dear,
My mind is tormented with grief and vexation,
While from her bright eye fell many a tear,

It was wrote in these words love don't be surprised,
Once more I'm compell'd to plough the rough sea,
But nevertheless my dear girl don't be grieved,
To you and you only constant I'll be,
Though many a fair one I shall see there's no doubt on't
When our ship is in port or the harbour she lays.
No one shall induce me to think of another
While I am away I hope in return you will do so by me.

So adieu my dear Sally till next time I see you,
Our ship's bound to India all with a free gale,
Quite early tomorrow the day is appointed
All hands must prepare to go and not fail,
So heavens protect you until next meeting,
Which I hope will soon be when the wars may be o'er,
And then my dear Sally we will be united in sweet harmony,
And lead our lives happy when secure on the shore.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

From: Jim Dixon
Date: 11 Oct 18 - 07:29 PM

These lyrics were found in The Myrtle and Vine, Vol. 2, by C. H. Wilson (London: West and Hughes, 1800), page 73. It is also found as a broadside in the Bodleian Library:

Written by Mr. Cross.

WILLIAM and Anne were lovers true,
In the same village infants rear'd,
In childhoods pranks affection grew,
Which youthful passion more endear'd.
To serve his king o'er ocean bound,
The battle's rage had Will defy'd,
And with success and glory crown'd,
Return'd to make his Anne a bride.

The morn was fix’d, so smart array'd,
Will to the steeple led the way,
When springing from a neighbouring glade,
A press-gang darted on their prey:
He check’d a tear that wrung his heart,
Exclaim'd to Anne, who pallid grew—
“’Tis for my country’s good we part,”
Then heav'd a sigh, and bade adieu.

Borne from his Anne wide o'er the main,
Alas! she never look’d up more;
A burning fever wreck’d her brain,
A beating heart her bosom tore.
The ship some leagues had sail'd from land,
Vain 'gainst the feelings William strove;
Fancy pourtray’d her on the strand,
O'er board he leap'd to meet his love.

The cruel waves he beat amain,
Within a cable's length of shore,
Made one sad effort to regain,
But sunk, alas! to rise no more.
His pallid corse when Anne espy'd,
Who dar'd the tempest's terror brave,
She shriek'd, breath'd out his name, and died,
Both now repos'd in one cold grave.

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Songs about press-gangs
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 12 Oct 18 - 04:30 AM

Here is one I wrote few years ago.

Robin Madge © 1987

I don't want to go to sea,
I don't want to go to sea,
But the pressers, they are coming
For the likes of you and me.

Ch. And it's run boys, run,
Make yourselves secure,
Or wake up in the morning
On board a man-of-war.
Run boys, run,
Make yourselves secure,
Or wake up in the morning
On board a man-of-war.

There are pressers on the quay,
There are pressers on the quay,
And they're asking with their blackjacks;
Won't you come along with me ?

There are pressers in the street,
There are pressers in the street,
And they make a new recruit with
Every young man that they meet.

There are pressers in the bars,
There are pressers in the bars,
And there's many an evening drunkard
Who'll waken up a tar.

I don't want to go to sea,
I don't want to go to sea,
But the pressers, they are coming
For the likes of you and me.

Robin Madge

Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")

Mudcat time: 17 February 12:58 PM EST

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.