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songs for holystoning ???

Barry Finn 20 Jan 98 - 11:25 PM
Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 21 Jan 98 - 05:49 PM
Jon W. 21 Jan 98 - 06:18 PM
Bill D 21 Jan 98 - 08:12 PM
Bill D 21 Jan 98 - 08:20 PM
Phideaux 22 Jan 98 - 07:49 AM
Bert 22 Jan 98 - 08:50 AM
Barry 24 Jan 98 - 09:53 PM
Gibb Sahib 23 Aug 09 - 11:00 PM
EBarnacle 24 Aug 09 - 12:38 AM
KathyW 24 Aug 09 - 01:15 AM
GUEST,leeneia 24 Aug 09 - 09:16 AM
Steve Gardham 24 Aug 09 - 12:48 PM
Amos 24 Aug 09 - 01:39 PM
Uncle_DaveO 24 Aug 09 - 01:45 PM
Gibb Sahib 24 Aug 09 - 02:21 PM
Amos 24 Aug 09 - 02:29 PM
Gibb Sahib 24 Aug 09 - 02:34 PM
Micca 24 Aug 09 - 02:47 PM
Charley Noble 24 Aug 09 - 04:40 PM
Micca 24 Aug 09 - 08:54 PM
Gibb Sahib 24 Aug 09 - 09:21 PM
Paul Burke 25 Aug 09 - 01:37 PM
Amos 25 Aug 09 - 02:53 PM
MGM·Lion 25 Aug 09 - 03:31 PM
Amos 25 Aug 09 - 03:40 PM
Steve Gardham 25 Aug 09 - 04:37 PM
Micca 25 Aug 09 - 05:55 PM
Gibb Sahib 25 Aug 09 - 06:14 PM
Gibb Sahib 25 Aug 09 - 06:18 PM
Joe_F 25 Aug 09 - 07:53 PM
Charley Noble 25 Aug 09 - 08:04 PM
Micca 25 Aug 09 - 08:23 PM
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Subject: songs for holystoning ???
From: Barry Finn
Date: 20 Jan 98 - 11:25 PM

A friend asked if I could help him on this. As a tour guide on the US Salem he was taken aback when an old timer told him that there had been singing to the job of holystoning (using stone , sea water & elbow grease to scrub wooden decks). The way it was discribed was that each plank had to be scrubed back & forth a predetermined amount of strokes, only then would it be considered clean, rather than count the strokes, it was said that they sang songs that were timed to last as long as the task at hand. When the song was finished the plank was deemed fit. This is the first I've heard of this, are there any others out there that can shed some light on this. "The Banks Of Newfoundland" doesn't count. Thanks from me & my friend. Barry


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 21 Jan 98 - 05:49 PM

Banks of Newfoundland doesn't count? I hoped it would, as the chorus would be more fitting if they were actually holystoning as they sang "We'll rub her down, and scrub down, with holystone and sand. . ."

Must have been a miserable job.


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Jon W.
Date: 21 Jan 98 - 06:18 PM

The song "Ranzo" mentions holystoning as one of the tasks the shanghai'ed Rueben Ranzo was made to do. I always wondered what it was. Thanks for the definition. Sorry, I have no songs for you.


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Bill D
Date: 21 Jan 98 - 08:12 PM

a picture of the process click

there are a number of references to holystoning in online novels and guides to uniforms, but no specific shanties I could find....perhaps a pumping shanty could be adapted, as I doubt one would want to do either task too fast...


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Bill D
Date: 21 Jan 98 - 08:20 PM

and a description

"Then came the day when we were drafted to the sea-going training ship, H.M.A.S. "Sydney". We had our own boy's mess deck and sleeping deck, but during the day we had to work with the able seamen in whatever part of the ship to which we were detailed. So all the jobs hated by the AB's came our way. Chipping rust, painting and of course "holystoning". Holystoning was rubbing a piece of sandstone about six inches square by four inches thick on a section of the upper deck which had become less immaculate than the remainder. The quarter-deck was always a prime starter in the "holystoning" stakes. As it was at the after end of the ship where, in a harbour, the Officer of the Watch paraded up and down during his time on watch, we were continually under his watchful eye. First the deck was wetted down and then fine sand was sprinkled on it. Then it was down on your knees for a couple of hours or so, kneeling on whatever you could find to kneel on, and broken only by a "smoko" of ten minutes half way through. Holystoning was a favourite punishment given by the Commander for minor offences committed by the boys. No wonder the Quarter deck was always spotless. "


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Phideaux
Date: 22 Jan 98 - 07:49 AM

Why were they called "holystones"?

They were about the size of the bibles seamen carried.

Bob Schwarer


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Bert
Date: 22 Jan 98 - 08:50 AM

Why were they called "holystones"?

I read somewhere that it was because the sailors were down on their knees (like praying) when they used them.


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Barry
Date: 24 Jan 98 - 09:53 PM

The larger of the sandstone blocks were called bibles & the smaller, used while kneeling, called prayer books. Hugill tells of a story that 18th century Brittish Navy & East Indian ships would anchor off Bembridge, Isle of Wight, in the St. Helen's Roads (or Roadstead). Sailors discovered that the nearby ruined St. Helen's church contained blocks of sandstone good for cleaning decks, hence, holystones, I've also read that they resemble small gravestones in appearence & that's another theory. Barry


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Aug 09 - 11:00 PM

Hey, howzabout this??

USS MISSOURI, 2008:

Me, so horny
Me, so horny
Me, so horny
Me love you long time
Switch!

See VIDEO , from 0:55 especially. There's another chant at the end, but I can't make it out.

I love how the narrator says they "sing salty yarns." What? :)


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: EBarnacle
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 12:38 AM

Interesting. I wonder whether they do the same on aircraft carriers, as they had pine or spruce decks. Do they still have spruce decks?


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: KathyW
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 01:15 AM

OMG! Great find, Gibb.

I don't recall coming across a mention of specific songs for holystoning in my reading of late. However, in "Voice of the Waters," Laura Alexandrine Smith wrote (in 1888) that "there are chanties used when holy-stoning the decks, and when stowing away the cargo," and that further "one may safely conclude that every one of Jack's duties, from Monday morning to Saturday night, is done to some sort of music..."


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 09:16 AM

Thanks for the link, Gibb Sahib.

I think it's not the song that's important, but the dancing movement that goes with it. It probably takes the strain off the back.

I have arthritis in my spine, and I would find bending over like absolutely miserable. By doing it while dancing, they guys are probably making the job easier. It is similar to using a rocking chair, which is good for back backs because it constantly moves one's weight around.

Somebody ought to invent a tool which lets the job be done while in an erect and natural posture.


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 12:48 PM

The sole job of shanties was to co-ordinate the timing of communal labour. If the above suggestions are correct this would be a quite different use for them. It can't have been a common usage otherwise there would be a section for 'Holystoning shanties' in all the major collections.


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Amos
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 01:39 PM

Although done in gangs, it was individual labor--I've done it. We had handles with metal frames which made it easier than kneeling, but still serious work. Any rhythmic shanty of a good tempo would do. The rhythm of "Banks of Newfoundland" would serve well, and I can't imagine why it wouldn't count. "Wrap me up in my Tarpaulin Jacket" is too dirge-like and suggest an altogether different application for holystones.

A


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 01:45 PM

Jon W. mentioned

the shanghai'ed Rueben Ranzo

I'd not heard a version where Rueben Ranzo was shanhai'ed. The version I've known for years went:

Oh Ranzo was no sailor
    (Ranzo, boys, Ranzo!)
So he shipped aboard a whaler!
    (Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo!)

The idea being that absolute green landlubbers, being ignorant of the demands of sea service, wouldn't know better than to sign on a whaler.

And that in order to fill out whaler ships complements the recruiters would accept absolute know-nothings.

"He shipped aboard" to me implies that he actually signed on.

Perhaps I just haven't run into the right versions of the shanty.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 02:21 PM

Hello leeneia,

I think it's not the song that's important, but the dancing movement that goes with it. It probably takes the strain off the back.

You make a very good point -- but of course, music is needed for dance, too. And don't forget about the strain on the MIND. Keeping the mind on the song keeps the mind off the strain on the back.

Hi Steve,

The sole job of shanties was to co-ordinate the timing of communal labour. If the above suggestions are correct this would be a quite different use for them. It can't have been a common usage otherwise there would be a section for 'Holystoning shanties' in all the major collections.

You are raising the key issue that I think is kinda why Barry started the thread way back -- why don't we hear of more "holystoning chanteys"? We do read mention in a few texts, like the LA Smith that KathyW quoted above. CF Smith gave a scrap of a holystoning chantey, and Stan Hugill reproduced that in his book. I have read a few more mentions, as in a Harper's Monthly article by Alden, I think around 1904. Consider also that chanteys were not "needed" for lots of other light hauling tasks and such, but they were probably used at times -- they just were not systematized into regular categories. A screwdriver drives screws as a category, though I may use it to open a pickle jar...I never call it a pickle-jar-opener.

Plenty of work songs don't go with communal labor that needs to be PRECISELY coordinated. They just keep up the work at a regular pace, AND keep up the motivation of the workers. I think you are right that, since holystoning did not REQUIRE coordinated action, there was no codified category for it. But how could a song not help? If we want to call a "chantey" any shipboard work-song, then we can call this one...but if we define chantey a little differently, that's OK too -- it's still a work chant!

Barry mentioned the idea of not having to count the number of strokes. We can see that in this contemporary video, they repeat a certain number of lines, then "Switch!", probably to the next plank. (I read somewhere that each plank was to get 32 strokes. As far as I can make out, "me so horny" covers 16 strokes, so I'm not sure what the "switch" is.)

This IS communal labor that need organization. Can you imagine everyone going at his own pace? They would be all over, and it would not be systematic.

There is also an aspect of INDIVIDUAL coordination ....well, not really coordination, but pacing. I sing chanteys to myself all the time when a task gets really tedious and I want to set a pace and coordinate my effort so I don't lag.

Hey Amos,

Any rhythmic shanty of a good tempo would do. The rhythm of "Banks of Newfoundland" would serve well, and I can't imagine why it wouldn't count.

Nah, the idea was just, "Don't nobody say 'Banks of N' just because it has the line (in SOME versions) of 'scrape 'er with holystone'" i.e. just because the song mentions holystone, that don't make it an authentic chantey for holystoning (if there was/is such a thing -- the question under discussion).

Did you have any chants when you used to do it?

Howdy Dave,

Some versions that people sing say "Shanghaied aboard a whaler." The main point is that, HOWEVER he got there, he was no sailor!

Gibb


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Amos
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 02:29 PM

We sometimes drew on a motley inventory of songs, mostly settling on one that had a decent rhythm. Can't recall at this long remove what ones in particular. The only requirements were nautical and of good pace.


A


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 02:34 PM

Thanks, Amos.
Any memory of this idea of a certain number of strokes per sction to call it "done" before moving on?.......which might also suggest a certain number of beats or measures/verses/etc of a song (whatever that might be)?


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Micca
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 02:47 PM

I hate to pour a little cold water but the men in the video were not "doing the job" but posing for the camera, certainly within the methods and systems used on British ships. Why do I say this?
1 they were all working on the same plank!! and not moving along 4 Guys working on ONE plank!!!
2 they were smiling!! NO ONE smiles when holystoning !!
3 they were taking poncy little strokes, The favoured technique was to use a LONG broomhandle, rest the stone free end on the shoulder(you quickly learned to have a pad of Muttoncloth under this) and pressed down on the broomhandle about 1 ft to 18 inches below the rest on shoulder point and took strokes about 1 ft long at each stroke and moved along like sweeping a hatch bottom!!
4 the "method" involved the team(either "day work deckhands or stand by watch keepers) in line ACROSS the deckand proceeded like lawnmowing   with one or 2 hands with " prayer books" doing the edges and akward bits around the deck furniture on their knees ,by hand frequent rotations were used, usually at the end of a "fleet" (one stretch of decking).


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Charley Noble
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 04:40 PM

Interesting that Cyril Tawney failed to collect any Holystoning shanties in GREY FUNNEL LINES. Alas, he didn't have the advantage of the internet and tried to collect them the old way by posting notices in various maritime magazines. He did collect a painting shanty and a song or two about cleaning the head.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Micca
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 08:54 PM

Charley, The Royal Navy seemed almost phobic about shanty singing, I am sure it has been discussed on here before. There was a suggestion, I am sure, that is borne out by the contacts I had myself with crews of various RN vessels that it was regarded as something that, if not actually forbidden, was certainly frowned upon on Her Majestys ships.
As to what might be a suitable holystoning shanty, I would have thought a "stamp and go" capstan would be fine


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Aug 09 - 09:21 PM

As far as what a holystoning chantey mighta been like...in terms of musical form, I know only the C Fox Smith text -- a mere fragment. From this, it looks like it wants to be in the halyard or brake pump form, but there is no rhyming line given, nor indication of chorus versus solo, with which we could really confirm that.

Anyway, here's what it MIGHT sound like, though I've really no idea (just putting the text into some sort of aural form): CF Smith's holystoning chantey

It's also interesting that the phrase is "Leave her, Johnny," since conventional wisdom says the pump chantey by that name was reserved solely for the actual leaving of ship -- the whole "singing earlier was tantamount to mutiny" cliché. So one wonders how this one slipped by...probably, although the chorus was "leave her," the verses did not really diss the officers and ship.


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Paul Burke
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 01:37 PM

I understood holystone to be so called because the preferred stone was pumice.

Or is it something to do with adultresses taken in flagrente?


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Amos
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 02:53 PM

I don't see the connection--is there something divine about pumice? THe connection is the similairty in the sizes ofr commonly used ones to "bibles" and "prayerbooks", and possibly to the early use of sandstone blocks taken from religious ruins or some such.

A


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 03:31 PM

Surely the pumice ref is a kind of pun: pumice has holes in it, so is a holey-stone?


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Amos
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 03:40 PM

AH, I AM slow today. Swiss Cheese and pumice for you, laddy-buck!


A


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 04:37 PM

Was holystoning known on merchantmen? If not, as Micca stated, shantying is practically unknown in the RN, (small revenue cutters aside) and therefore could we possibly refer to any songs used to ease the labour here as shanties anyway? The original query asked about SONGS for holystoning and this appears to have some evidence for its usage. If my researches are right a shanty was a song led by a non participant in the labour, with responses from the workers to time their efforts. Would just singing a song to keep your own timing or rhythm going qualify as a shanty?


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Micca
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 05:55 PM

Steve, Definately on merchantmen,and while shanties may have been used to help keep the rhythm going they were not used as shanties per se but as convenient rhythmical music just as were hymns (by our resident God-botherer) and also military marches, anything with a steady beat. but moatly we ran out of puff too quick.


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 06:14 PM

Was holystoning known on merchantmen?
Yes. ex.: the "Banks of Newfoundland" reference. And nearly every (I exaggerate, but...) text on merchant sailor's work repeats the "Philadelphia Catechism" bit about "...on the seventh day, holystone the deck and scrape the cable."

...a shanty was a song led by a non participant in the labour, with responses from the workers to time their efforts.
Not so, in very many cases. If the crew was large enough, the chanteyman just sat there during a capstan chantey. If not, he had to participate. In halyard chanteys, the chanteyman typically took his place at the "front of the line." He my have saved his energy, but he definitely worked along. Bunting chanteys: obviously the man doing the chanteying was up on the yard. etc etc

Who cares who calls them "shanties" or not? Even shore songs of stevedores were called "chanteys." Such a label, and its now-conventional categories weren't so established until after the fact. We're talking about nautical work songs, here -- close enough I reckon!

******

A possible issue is that ever thought much about what they were doing enough that they were inspired to right it down. I believe Hugill may have mentioned this idea in trying to account for why chanteys weren't mentioned more in the 18th century literature (among other reasons), and I seem to recall someone at the Mystic Sea Music symposium this summer (sorry I forgot who!) making the same case for lack of historical info in maritime music. Likewise, the "sing-outs" -- in effect, "chanteys that are not like full songs" -- are only documented, in brief, in a few books, even though these same authors say that such singing was done whenever a hand was put on a rope.


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 06:18 PM

"A possible issue is that PEOPLE NEVER thought much about what they were doing enough that they were inspired to WRITE it down."

whoops


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Joe_F
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 07:53 PM

Six days shalt thou labor and do all thou are able,
And on the seventh holystone the deck and scrape the cable.

-- Quoted by Ambrose Bierce in _The Devil's Dictionary_ s.v. Sabbath


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 08:04 PM

Smart clipper ships and other square riggers certainly had a history of holystoning the decks. It was a matter of pride for a merchant captain to return to home port with his ship looking as smart as it could, decks holystoned, brass polished, masts and yards repainted, and figurehead freshly repainted.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: songs for holystoning ???
From: Micca
Date: 25 Aug 09 - 08:23 PM

Charley, on modern steel ships the decks, especially on the wings of the bridge, the boat deck and around the accomodation often had a skin of wood laid on the steel which was holystoned to keep it neat and free of blemish and dead wood. Also you didn't mention "Sharplining" in respect to the smartness of the ship, That was how when you made a harbour stow you bunted the canvas of the sails under the ties so that the folds ran along the spar and were like sharp edges, I learned how to do this on canvas hatch covers from an "old salt"


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