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Origins: Aboard a Man o' War

DigiTrad:
PRESS GANG


Related threads:
Lyr Req: On Board of a Man-of-War (25)
Req: The Press Gang (as sung by Ewan MacColl) (4)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
On Board of a Man of War O
On Board of a Man of War O (from Maud Karpeles (ed), Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs)


GUEST,Soundcatcher 03 Mar 04 - 08:07 PM
Malcolm Douglas 03 Mar 04 - 08:45 PM
GUEST,Soundcatcher 03 Mar 04 - 09:49 PM
Alex.S 03 Mar 04 - 10:52 PM
Shanghaiceltic 04 Mar 04 - 05:20 AM
Soundcatcher 04 Mar 04 - 05:33 AM
IanC 04 Mar 04 - 06:16 AM
Lighter 04 Mar 04 - 06:55 AM
GUEST,JOHN FROM ELSIE`S BAND 04 Mar 04 - 07:30 AM
Lighter 04 Mar 04 - 07:43 AM
The Borchester Echo 04 Mar 04 - 08:25 AM
Malcolm Douglas 04 Mar 04 - 08:34 AM
The Borchester Echo 04 Mar 04 - 08:45 AM
Pete Betts (inactive) 05 Mar 04 - 07:06 AM
akenaton 05 Mar 04 - 06:08 PM
Gareth 05 Mar 04 - 06:34 PM
Malcolm Douglas 05 Mar 04 - 07:25 PM
Charley Noble 05 Mar 04 - 08:07 PM
The Borchester Echo 06 Mar 04 - 04:34 AM
GUEST,Peter from Essex 06 Mar 04 - 12:52 PM
GUEST 08 May 09 - 11:39 AM
shipcmo 06 Mar 11 - 01:25 PM
MGM·Lion 06 Mar 11 - 01:41 PM
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Subject: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: GUEST,Soundcatcher
Date: 03 Mar 04 - 08:07 PM

G'day frum Oz.

Can anyone tell me the origins of "Aboard a Man O' War". I heard it sung by the Forebitters. I geuss what I really need to know is it Trad or contemporary.
Thanks Gang.
John SoundCatcher


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 03 Mar 04 - 08:45 PM

First, you had better tell us who "The Forebitters" might be, and quote a few lines of the song. There is certainly a traditional song of that name, but until you provide some usable information there's no certain way of knowing whether that's what you mean or not, and I see no point in guessing blindly. Help us to help you.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: GUEST,Soundcatcher
Date: 03 Mar 04 - 09:49 PM

Er, yup I guess yer right at that.
As far as the Forebitters go I can't tell you much except I once heard a friends tape of them and this one always stuck in me head. As theri name implies they only sang songs of the sea.
As for the song it goes like this: Music maestro please.

Aboard a Man O' War

As I was a walking down a London street
A press gang there I chanced to meet
They asked me if I'd join the fleet
Aboard a man o' war boys

But they lie brother shipmates so tell me true
The kind of treatment they gave to you
That I may know before I go
Aboard a man o' war boys

Well the first thing they did they took me in hand
And they flogged me with a tar off the strand
They flogged me 'till i could not stand
Aboard a man o' war boys

Then they strung me up by my two thumbs
Then they flogged me 'till the blood did run
And that's the treatment they gave to me
Aboard a man o' war boys

Now I had a wife and her name was Grace
And she was the cause of my disgrace
At night I'd curse her ugly face
Aboard a man o' war boys

Now if ever I get me feet on shore
To be with them London girls once more
I never will go to sea any moreme feet on
Aboard a man o' war boys
Aboard a man o' war boys


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: Alex.S
Date: 03 Mar 04 - 10:52 PM

Well, it sounds to me like a folksong about the British Navy's impressment of sailors. Many sea powers, especially during the 18th and early 19th centuries (when large navies of huge sailing ships were prevalent)had a shortage of men. After all, life on a wooden ship at sea must have been far from pleasant, and the labor of an enlisted seaman was grueling (as you will know if you have ever sailed!).
So, many countries, Britain most notably, allowed their naval captains to form "press gangs" and draft citizens (usually of the lower class, for obvious reasons) into the navy. Needless to say, this was not popular.
As our American history experts will tell you, British impressment was cited as a cause of the War of 1812, at which time Americans (who also spoke English and were therefore indistinguishable from englishmen to officers) were sometimes forced aboard English vessels to help fight Napoleon.
As for the particulars of the song, I couldn't tell you much, but Ewan MacColl sings a rather nice version of it(as he does of practically everything else). Hope I was of some help!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: Shanghaiceltic
Date: 04 Mar 04 - 05:20 AM

Looking at the wording it mentions walking down a London street.

Usually the press gangs would 'recruit' locally. The nearest navy dockyards to London in the 1800's when the press was really active were Deptford and Chatham.

So it is possible that this man in the song ended up in the Channel Fleet.

Unusual that they tied him by his thumbs. Normally a grating was used, this was rigged upright against the ships side and the man was triced up by his hands and feet. This ensured the boatswains mates, who carried out the flogging, had a steady target to strike at.

No mention of what the man was flogged for, but even things like spitting on the deck and not into a spitkid could earn a dozen lashes.

Technically any more than a dozen lashes would need a court marshal to decide the number to be given.

The man in the story does not sound like someone who had been to sea before so quite possibly this is based on a story about how a landsman or a waister got into trouble by breaking one or more of many rules and regulations that governed shipboard life.

The term waister was often applied to those with no sea experience. Their watch position would be in the waist of the ship between the quarterdeck and the forecastle. Here they were just expected to heave and pull on ropes and man the capstan. Until they gained more experience it was unusual to send them aloft.

Even in the modern navy a man with little experience or knowledge is still often referred as a bloody waister. A name tag often given to we naval apprentices when we were under training.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: Soundcatcher
Date: 04 Mar 04 - 05:33 AM

Thanks for the info so far gang.

I have just found another MC thread "On Board a Man of War" which identified the song as being most likely called "Press Gang" but i still can't find when it was written ie if it's trad or contemporary.

Soundcatcher


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: IanC
Date: 04 Mar 04 - 06:16 AM

From here.

Rarer than a good song should be, this one. Sharp heard it, or three verses of it, in a Herefordshire workhouse (the workhouse was a great place to find singers in his day). Jack Moeran noted a fuller version at Winterton Norfolk, and that's the one Mike bases his performance on. Moeran's singer was James Sutton, nicknamed 'Old Larpin', from whom the great Sam Larner learnt a boatload of songs. The tune belongs to that imposing family of heavy crotchet, double-stamp ending, hornpipe-like melodies such as the Irish march tune, The Peacock, already popular in the opening years of the nineteenth century. It's the favourite kind of melody for a great many songs about sailors, beggars and robbers. Any connection?

:-)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Mar 04 - 06:55 AM

Moeran collectd the song in July, 1915. Cecil Sharp turned up a somewhat different text and tune from Thomas Taylor, Ross, Hereford.
As might be expected, Waterson's version varies slightly from Moeran, his source (probably via MacColl). MacColl's rendition appeared on the album "The Manchester Angel."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: GUEST,JOHN FROM ELSIE`S BAND
Date: 04 Mar 04 - 07:30 AM

We have a song in our repertoire that relates the other side of the story and tells of the matelot`s promotion through the ranks and his satisfaction of being aboard his particular ship. It is "Aboard A Ninety-Eight". A really good song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Mar 04 - 07:43 AM

Peter Bellamy popularized "Aboard a Ninety-Eight."

Sharp collected his version of "The Press Gang" in 1921.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 04 Mar 04 - 08:25 AM

For many years Peter Bellamy opened his sets with On Board A 98. It refers to a ship in Nelson's navy with 98 cannon. Vaughan Williams collected the song in King's Lynn but Peter didn't like the tune so wrote another.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 04 Mar 04 - 08:34 AM

A text appears in the DT as Press Gang: it appears to have been taken from a Ewan MacColl record. A further three texts from revival performers are posted in thread Lyr Req: 'On Board Of A Man-of-war', but with no information as to traditional sources.

See also thread Lyr Req: Ewan MacColl's The Press Gang which points out a probable error in the DT transcription.

So far as I can tell, all these are collations of the two traditional sets mentioned, from Thomas Taylor (Ross Workhouse, Herefordshire, 10 September 1921, noted by Cecil Sharp) and James Sutton (Winterton, Norfolk, July 1915, noted by E J Moeran): altered either deliberately or by accident by the various performers concerned or by whoever they learned the song from.

The broad answer to the question is, yes; the song is traditional, though we don't know if it was traditionally sung in the form in which Ewan MacColl recorded it (and I expect that most people have learned it from him, directly or indirectly). We don't know who originally wrote it.

A midi made from Moeran's notation of James Sutton's singing is at the Mudcat Midi Pages:

The Pressgang

On Board a Ninety Eight is a different song, unrelated to the one Soundcatcher has asked about.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 04 Mar 04 - 08:45 AM

Oh, yes. I know it's different. Just thought John from Elsie's Band might like to know its history.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: Pete Betts (inactive)
Date: 05 Mar 04 - 07:06 AM

I heard this song sang last night at the Wilsons Folk Club at Wolviston - all the Wilsons were there and all sang individual songs.
Get your selves there - every Thursday !!!
Everyone has given highly illuminating soem quite academic replies - however the line ( his wife Grace / she was the cause of my disgrace ) - could this man have been have been tracked-down purposefully by the Press Gang for some perceived wrong-doing i.e. prostituting his wife ??


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: akenaton
Date: 05 Mar 04 - 06:08 PM

Shanghai...Thanks for the interesting information..
The term "waister"is still used here in West Scotland,I often use it myself,but didn't know the origin......Ake


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: Gareth
Date: 05 Mar 04 - 06:34 PM

Hmmm ! Its late at night, and I can not recall the evidence, but there is a thought in mind that possibly the #"Press Gang" was used as a means of disposing of unwanted lovers or husbands - For a consideration of course !

Gareth


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 05 Mar 04 - 07:25 PM

All the "versions" of this song that have been posted so far are modern collations recorded by revival singers; most if not all appear to be based on Ewan MacColl's collation. Either some odd changes have been made to some of them, or mis-hearings have been incorporated in some examples posted here. Of the tiresome insistence of some people on writing "my" as "me" all the time, I have already spoken in other places. It may be appropriate (in some contexts) as document, but when copying lyrics from a professional entertainer it risks affectation, particularly as many people will take it as prescriptive, and will imagine that that is how the song should be sung —whereas it's no more than an attempt (often completely unnecessary) to represent the accent of an individual interpreter.

Only two sets of the song, so far as I know, have ever been found in tradition: I'll add them both here in order to put the derived forms into (perhaps) a slightly clearer context. First, the set that Cecil Sharp got from Thomas Taylor (67), at Ross Workhouse, Herefordshire, 10 September 1921. Taken in this case from Maud Karpeles (ed), Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs, Oxford: OUP 1974. II, 299, no. 294.


ON BOARD OF A MAN OF WAR O

I married a wife and her name was Grace
I oft-times cursed her ugly face,
Saying: It's you that has brought me to this disgrace
On board of the man o' war O.

They hung me up by my two thumbs,
And they cut me till the blood did run;
And that was the usage that they gave me
On board of the man o' war O.

If I could get my one foot on shore
Some other pretty girl I'd marry once more;
Neither the winds not the waves should entice me any more
On board of the man o' war O.


[not in verse 3 line 3 appears to be an uncertain reading, and may be nor].


The song was first printed (tune and first verse only) in The Journal of the Folk Song Society, VIII (31) 1927, 14. The following notes were appended:

"No further words were collected." —M[aud] K[arpeles]. [Evidently the other two had been overlooked at that time. All three stanzas were later printed in James Reeves, The Idiom of the People, London: Heinemann, 1958, 155].

"This tune is a curious blend of the Irish march-tune The Peacock and I'm seventeen, come Sunday." —L[ucy] E. B[roadwood].

"This version seems to be an adaptation from that form of The Peacock air familiar to sailors as Just as the tide was flowing. See Kidson's Traditional Tunes, p. 108." —A[nne] G. G[ilchrist].


X:1
T:On Board of a Man of War O
S:Thomas Taylor (67), Ross Workhouse, Herefordshire, 10 September 1921.
Z:Cecil Sharp
B:Maud Karpeles, Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs, Oxford 1974: II, 299, no. 294.
N:Sharp MS 3348 (words) 4875 (music)
N:Roud 662
L:1/8
Q:1/4=120
M:4/4
K:D
(BA)|G2 EE F2 DD|G2 G2 A2 (BA)|
w:I_ mar-ried a wife and her name was Grace I_
G2 E2 F2 D2|
w:oft-times cursed her
M:3/2
E2 E2 E4 e2 ee|
w:ug-ly face, Say-ing: It's
M:4/4
d2 BB (BA)GG|
w:you that has brought_ me to
M:3/2
A2 A2 B4 (B3c)|
w:this dis-grace On_
M:4/4
d2 ee B2 (AG)|A4 E2|]
w:board of the man o'_ war O.


This is the tune that Sharp got from Thomas Taylor (67), at Ross Workhouse, Herefordshire, 10 September 1921. Taken in this case from Maud Karpeles (ed), Cecil Sharp's Collection of English Folk Songs, Oxford: OUP 1974. II, 299, no. 294.

Click to play

To play or display ABC tunes, try concertina.net
The other set was noted by E J Moeran from James Sutton, at Winterton, Norfolk, July 1915.


THE PRESSGANG

As I walked up of London street
A pressgang there I did meet;
They asked me if I'd join the fleet,
And sail in a man o' war, boys.

Pray, brother shipmates, tell me true
What sort of usage they give you,
That I may know before I go
On board of a man o' war, boys.

But when I went, to my surprise
All that they told me was shocking lies,
There was a row and a [jolly] old row
On board of a man o' war, boys.

The first thing they did they took me in hand,
They flogged me with a tar of a strand,
They flogged me till I could not stand
On board of a man o' war, boys.

Now, I was married and my wife's name was Grey;
'Twas she that led me to shocking delay,
'Twas she that caused me to go away
On board of a man o' war, boys.

So when I get my foot on shore
Those Irish girls to see once more,
I'll never go to sea any more
On board of a man o' war, boys.


The Journal of the Folk Song Society, VII (26) 1922, 11-12.


X:1
T:The Pressgang
S:James Sutton, at Winterton, Norfolk, July 1915.
Z:E J Moeran
B:Journal of the Folk Song Society, VII (26) 1922, 11-12
N:Roud 662
L:1/8
Q:1/4=120
M:4/4
K:Bb
(Bc)|d2 d2 (Bc) d2|c2 (cB) A2 c2|
w:As_ I walked up_ of Lon-don_ street A
B2 (AG) (AG F2)|G2 (F=E) D2 D2
w:press-gang_ there__ I did_ meet; They
G3 A B2 (AG)|
w:asked me if I'd_
M:6/4
(cd) =e2 d4-d2 c2|
w:join_ the fleet,_ And
M:4/4
B2 A G A2 B2|(G3F) G4|]
w:sail in a man o' war,_ boys.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Mar 04 - 08:07 PM

Well, very nicely done, Malcolm. Are you having a bad day? You seem less than patient with someone who clearly wants to know more about a song he heard and may not have access to your sources.

There are a number of sea music groups called "Forebitter." The one I'm most familiar with is based at the Mystic Maritime Museum in CT, USA. I wasn't aware that they made it to Oz, though. They are a revival group, that is to say they try to sing traditional songs with a minimum of changes to words and tune. I think they are very good.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 06 Mar 04 - 04:34 AM

Oh dear! *Anyone* can have access to sources. They're not secret. Though I do rather wish all revival singers would consult them and say which they have used, what compilations they have made and where that new tune came from.

And while I'm not much impressed with the singer who heard Joe Bloggs do it one way and trots out a copy, duff notes and mondegreens included, I'm a lot more irritated by the pseudo-scholar who hears Martin Somebody making up a line to cover up temporarily forgotten lyrics who then proceeds to proclaim it as a 'new variant'.

In each case a little research (even if it's just reading a Mudcat thread) and rehearsal would not go amiss.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: GUEST,Peter from Essex
Date: 06 Mar 04 - 12:52 PM

Its always fun to play "spot the LP" when listening to floor singers.


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Subject: Aboard a Man o' War chords
From: GUEST
Date: 08 May 09 - 11:39 AM

Can anyone post Aboard a Man o' War chords?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man o' War
From: shipcmo
Date: 06 Mar 11 - 01:25 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man o' War
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Mar 11 - 01:41 PM

-------Subject: RE: Origins: Aboard a Man O' War
From: Gareth - PM
Date: 05 Mar 04 - 06:34 PM
Hmmm ! Its late at night, and I can not recall the evidence, but there is a thought in mind that possibly the #"Press Gang" was used as a means of disposing of unwanted lovers or husbands - For a consideration of course !
Gareth
--------
=====
Reminder, as this point does not seem to have been developed above: the related On Board A 98 tells of a young man originally pressed to sea when his own parents themselves become fed up with his wastrel ways and summon the Press Gang ~~ "My parents saw it would not do, I soon would spend their store, So they resolved that I should go on board a man-o-war ~~ The press gang they surrounded me, Their warrant they did show..."

~Michael~


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