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Origins: Admiral Benbow

DigiTrad:
ADMIRAL BENBOW
ADMIRAL BENBOW (2)


Related threads:
Folklore: Brave Benbow (29)
happy? - Aug 14 (Death of Benbow) (2)
Lyr Req: Admiral Benbow (7)


The Walrus 10 Jul 02 - 07:47 PM
Charley Noble 10 Jul 02 - 11:14 AM
Joe_F 09 Jul 02 - 08:05 PM
Herga Kitty 09 Jul 02 - 06:38 PM
Joe Offer 09 Jul 02 - 06:22 PM
GUEST,greg stephens 09 Jul 02 - 06:21 PM
Herga Kitty 09 Jul 02 - 06:00 PM
GUEST,Gin 09 Jul 02 - 05:49 PM
GUEST,Lea in Virginia 11 Apr 01 - 01:13 PM
Malcolm Douglas 06 Apr 01 - 08:21 AM
Michael in Swansea 06 Apr 01 - 04:20 AM
GUEST,Bruce O. 06 Apr 01 - 12:17 AM
Mr Red 05 Apr 01 - 09:04 PM
Snuffy 05 Apr 01 - 07:38 PM
Margo 05 Apr 01 - 05:46 PM
GUEST,bigJ 05 Apr 01 - 04:42 PM
Margo 05 Apr 01 - 04:42 PM
GUEST,#1 05 Apr 01 - 04:16 PM
BanjoRay 05 Apr 01 - 04:10 PM
GUEST,Bruce O. 05 Apr 01 - 04:05 PM
GUEST,Hoot & Fidget 05 Apr 01 - 03:52 PM
LaMarca 08 Jul 97 - 06:04 PM
LaMarca 07 Jul 97 - 10:44 AM
Lance Frodsham frodsham@e-z.net 03 Jul 97 - 11:48 AM
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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: The Walrus
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 07:47 PM

Charley,

In the "Come all you seamen bold" version, I believe there is a verse which begins
"'Twas Ruby and Benbow
Fought the french, fought the French...."

This is not incompatable with history as Benbow was a flag officer, "Ruby" could be the name the song gives to his Flag Captain (the Captain of the Flagship).

Walrus


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: Charley Noble
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 11:14 AM

Hey, I could swear I heard a version where one captain stuck with Admiral Benbow in the battle while the others dropped astern.


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: Joe_F
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 08:05 PM

George Orwell, in his newspaper column 29 December 1944, says:

"The English common people are not great lovers of military glory, and I have pointed out elsewhere that when a battle poem wins really wide popularity, it usually deals with a disaster and not a victory. But the other day...there came into my head the once popular song...`Admiral Benbow'. This rather jingoistic ballad seems to contradict my theory, but I believe it may have owed some of its popularity to the fact that it had a class-war angle which was understood at the time.

"Admiral Benbow, when going into action against the French, was suddenly deserted by his subordinate captains and left to fight against heavy odds. [Stanza `Said Kirby unto Wade...' quoted] So Benbow was left to fight single-handed and, though victorious, he himself was killed. There is a gory but possibly authentic description of his death: [Two stanzas quoted]

"The point is that Benbow was an ordinary seaman who had risen from the ranks. He had started off as a cabin boy. And his captains are supposed to have fled from the action because they did not want to see so plebeian a commander win a victory. I wonder whether it was this tradition that made Benbow into a popular hero and caused his name to be commemorated not only in the ballad but on the signs of innumerable public houses?"


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 06:38 PM

Joe

Basically, it's the "We sailed from Virginia and thence to Fayall" version posted by LaMarca 5 years ago, and just requested on this thread by guest, Gin. Most of the people I know who sang this version got it from Swan Arcade, one of whose members, Jim Boyes is now singing with Coope, Boyes and Simpson.

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: Joe Offer
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 06:22 PM

Herga Kitty, what's the Swan Arcade version?
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: GUEST,greg stephens
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 06:21 PM

anybody remember the Ned Sherrin BBC tV play about Benbow? Bet they wiped the tapes. At a guess would have been early 60's. Can anybody add any info?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Admiral Benbow
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 06:00 PM

Interesting that nobody on the previous thread mentioned the Swan Arcade version....


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Subject: Admiral Benbow
From: GUEST,Gin
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 05:49 PM

Words sought to a version of the story of Admiral Benbow- NOT "Come all ye seamen bold" version

but one which commences roughly
"Well we sailed to Virginia and thence to Fayall
Where we hoisted our tops'ls and then we weighed all"
...and with a very different tune
Messages from multiple threads combined. Requested lyrics are above.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: GUEST,Lea in Virginia
Date: 11 Apr 01 - 01:13 PM

Regarding the verse that refers to the mutiny, here's another way to start:

'Twas there Captain Kirkby proved a coward at last And with Wade played at bo-peep behind the main-mast

This variation names the other captain--Cooper Wade--who was executed after the engagement with Du Casse. Kirkby and Wade were court-marshalled in Jamaica, hauled back to England, and shot.

Best,

Lea


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 06 Apr 01 - 08:21 AM

Benbow captured the popular imagination of the day, in part because he was that unusual thing, a naval commander risen from the ranks.  I believe that he started out as a butcher's boy.  He also had his share of brushes with authority; in the 1680s he was court-martialed for something or other, and transferred to the Merchant service for a few years, re-joining the navy in 1689.  The inn in Treasure Island was named after him.

There is a broadside copy of this song at the Bodleian Library:

Admiral Benbow  Printed between 1820 and 1824 for W. Armstrong, Banastre Street, Liverpool.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: Michael in Swansea
Date: 06 Apr 01 - 04:20 AM

Verse 2 last line

We saw they were French men of war cruising by

Third and fourth verses:

We took our leave of them and made quick dispatch
And so steered our course to the island of Vatch
But turning to windward as near as we could lie
On the fourteenth of August ten sail we did spy

They hoisted their pennants and their colours they spread
They hoisted their bloody flag at the main topmast head
We hoisted our Jack flag at the mizzen peak
And brought up our squadron in a line most complete

Mike


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 06 Apr 01 - 12:17 AM

bigj, 'the subject of this ballad' being "Benbow the brother tar", which is not the one under discussion in this thread. Chappell's tune (for the other song) is from "The Vocal Enchantress", 1783.


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: Mr Red
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 09:04 PM

We sailed TO Virginia...
minor variation from the Oxford book of folksongs c1930 part II
just call me a pedant and not a very thourough one at that.


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: Snuffy
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 07:38 PM

I've usually heard peep-bo rather than bo-peep


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: Margo
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 05:46 PM

Regarding that "he would not suffer himself to be removed from the quarter-deck": Yes, in the other version of Benbow, he says "let a bed be fetched in haste, on the quarter-deck be placed, that the enemy I might face 'till I die, 'till I die!" I want that kind of guy on my side! Margo


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: GUEST,bigJ
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 04:42 PM

Don't know if this adds much :-
From "Popular Music of the Olden Time" - William Chappell Vol 2, p641.

The subject of this ballad is mentioned in Evelyn's Diary, under the date of January, 1702-03. "News of Vice-Admiral Benbow's conflict with the French fleet in the West Indies, in which he gallantly behaved himself, and was wounded, and would have had extraordinary success, had not four of his men-of-war stood spectators without coming to his assistance; for this, two of their commanders were tried by a council of war and executed; a third was condemned to perpetual imprisonment, loss of pay, and incapacity to serve in future. The fourth died." Admiral Benbow was a thoroughly gallant seaman. He received his commission in the navy for his bravery in beating off a corsair, while in command of a merchant vessel. He was twice sent to the West Indies by King William. On the second occasion, he fell in with the French Admiral, Du Casse, in August 1702, near the Spanish coast. A skirmishing action continued for four days, but on the last the Admiral was left alone to engage the French, the other ships having fallen astern. Although thus single-handed, and having his leg shattered by a chain-shot, he would not suffer himself to be removed from the quarter-deck (in this respect the ballad is incorrect), but continued fighting until the following morning, when the French sheered off. The Admiral made signal for his ships to follow, but his orders received no attention, and he was obliged to return to Jamaica, where he caused the officers who behaved so basely to be tried. The report of the court-martial will be found in The Harleian Miscellany, vol. I, 1744. There was a treasonable conspiracy among the officers of his fleet, not to fight the French. Admiral Benbow did not survive this disappointment; it aggravated the effects of his wound, and he expired. The tune of Admiral Benbow is the vehicle of many country songs at the present time (1859), and used for Christmas carols. In the month of January last, Mr. Samuel Smith noted it down from the singing of some carollers in Marden near Hereford, to the words commencing,- "A virgin unspotted the prophets foretold."


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: Margo
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 04:42 PM

I have this exact version done by Lou Killen. You've clarified a couple of words for me, thanks! This is a great piece for Concertina. I do it that way

I read that while Admiral Benbow did indeed die of his wounds, he lived long enough to see Kirkby hang. The song makes it sound like he died on board after the battle. Poetic license...

Margo


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: GUEST,#1
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 04:16 PM

Only since 1528 CE.


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: BanjoRay
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 04:10 PM

Bo-Peep is english for Peek-a-boo.

Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 04:05 PM

It's on a single sheet song with music, c 1780. Sung by Mr. Bannister.


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: GUEST,Hoot & Fidget
Date: 05 Apr 01 - 03:52 PM

What in the world is "bo-peep" refering to?


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Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: LaMarca
Date: 08 Jul 97 - 06:04 PM

Here's a few corrections and historical notes:

Vs. 1: "Where we watered our shipping.."

Vs. 2: "Now the first we come up with.."

Vs. 5: "But brave Admiral Benbow for help would not cry,
Take me down to the cockpit, there is ease for my smarts.."

Vs. 6: "To see Admiral Benbow carried to.."

The song describes a battle between Benbow's squadron and a French squad that took place from August 19-24, 1702, in the Caribbean. On August 24, Admiral Benbow's leg was severely broken in battle, and I assume he expired from the injury. One of the other ship's captains, Richard Kirkby, was later court-martialled for cowardice and sentenced to be shot, after reports that during the battle he spent most of his time "dodging behind the mizen-mast and falling down upon the deck on the noise of shot...", thus discouraging his men greatly. Printed versions of the song include a verse after verse 5 describing this:

"Our brave Captain Crosbie* proved coward at last,
For he stood at bo-peep behind the main mast;
He stood at bo-peep and did quiver and shake
For fear that those French dogs his dear life should take."

*The broadside this is taken from used the name Crosbie instead of Kirkby. I don't sing this verse myself, but I think it's kinda fun to know the historical background of the song! I got this info from a musty old book "Naval Songs and Ballads" put out by a British Royal Navy Society at the turn of the century. They have a lot of historical info on the songs they printed, and illustrations of some of the ships.


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Subject: Lyr Add: Admiral Benbow
From: LaMarca
Date: 07 Jul 97 - 10:44 AM

Lance, I have a couple texts to that Admiral Benbow at home, including a couple verses that Tabor doesn't sing. It's a more detailed description of the actual battle. She leaves out the verses about the two captains who turned tail and ran; they were later court-martialed for cowardice. Here's the text Tabor sings (from memory; I'll type in amendments tomorrow if I've screwed up any of the words):

ADMIRAL BENBOW

We sailed from Virginia and thence to Fayall
Where we watered our ships and then we weighed all
Full in view on the seas, boys, seven sails we did espy
So we mannéd our capstans and weighed speedily.

Now the first we come up on was a brigantine sloop
And we asked if the others was as big as they looked
Ah, but turning to windward, as near as we could lie
We saw there were ten men of war cruising by.

We drew up our squadron in very nice line
And so boldly we fought them for full four hours time
But the day being spent, boys, and night a-coming on
We left them alone until early next morn.

Now the very next morning the engagement proved hot
And brave Admiral Benbow received a chance* shot
And as he lay wounded to his merry men he did say,
"Take me up in your arms, boys, and carry me away!"

Oh, the guns they did rattle and the bullets did fly,
But brave Admiral Benbow for rout would not cry;
"Take me down to my cabin where there's ease for my smarts,
If my merry men see me, it would sure break their hearts."

Now, the very next morning at the break of the day
They hoisted their topsails and so bore away;
We bore to Port Royal, where the people flocked much
To see Admiral Benbow buried in Kingston Church.

So come all you brave fellows, wherever you've been,
Let us drink a good health to the King and the Queen,
And another good health to the girls that we know,
And a third in remembrance of great Admiral Benbow.

*I've seen this printed as "chance" shot but also as "chain" shot in another source. Chain shot was a particularly nasty form of ammo where several balls were linked with iron chain. When shot at ship's rigging, it would wrap itself around masts, spars, etc. and cause great damage.

I like this song quite a bit; it's a lot more interesting than the "Oh, my name it is Benbow, I did sail" versions!


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Subject: Admiral Benbow lyrics
From: Lance Frodsham frodsham@e-z.net
Date: 03 Jul 97 - 11:48 AM

I'm trying to find the lyrics to a version of Admiral Benbow as done by June Tabor on the "A Cut Above" recording with Martin Simpson. The data base has The Copper Family version and the Cecil Sharpe version but Tabor's version is very different.Same tune but much more narrative. Between the naughtical terms and her smokey voice, I cant decipher it. Thanks

Versions in the Digital Tradition:
Admiral Benbow
Admiral Benbow (2)


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