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Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys

GUEST,Jon Goff 22 Mar 04 - 02:36 PM
Art Thieme 22 Mar 04 - 02:51 PM
Art Thieme 22 Mar 04 - 02:55 PM
SINSULL 22 Mar 04 - 04:46 PM
Charley Noble 22 Mar 04 - 06:12 PM
Dead Horse 22 Mar 04 - 07:05 PM
Charley Noble 22 Mar 04 - 08:15 PM
EBarnacle 23 Mar 04 - 12:01 AM
SINSULL 23 Mar 04 - 01:16 PM
Franz S. 23 Mar 04 - 06:26 PM
Charley Noble 23 Mar 04 - 08:31 PM
Franz S. 23 Mar 04 - 09:16 PM
Dave Bryant 24 Mar 04 - 07:09 AM
JWB 24 Mar 04 - 06:45 PM
Gareth 24 Mar 04 - 07:22 PM
Snuffy 24 Mar 04 - 07:52 PM
GUEST,Boab 25 Mar 04 - 02:47 AM
jack halyard 25 Mar 04 - 06:18 AM
Dave Bryant 25 Mar 04 - 08:12 AM
GUEST,Paul Burke 25 Mar 04 - 08:22 AM
Charley Noble 25 Mar 04 - 08:32 AM
GUEST,Dave (the ancient mariner) 25 Mar 04 - 04:16 PM
Uke 25 Mar 04 - 04:40 PM
Charley Noble 26 Mar 04 - 10:53 PM
The Fooles Troupe 27 Mar 04 - 12:41 AM
Shanghaiceltic 27 Mar 04 - 01:29 AM
jack halyard 04 Apr 04 - 05:58 AM
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Subject: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: GUEST,Jon Goff
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 02:36 PM

Currently working on a research project looking at the relationship between Sea Shanties / Sailors Songs and disasters. The relationships can be multifacited or simple. I am particuarly interested in the use of song to prevent warn and memorialize disasters or accidents surounding shipboard life. The use of song as a coping mechanism and investigating parallels with slave songs. Any citations or advice would be greatly appriciated.

Thanks, Jon


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Art Thieme
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 02:51 PM

A friend is a shantyman on on a Great Lakes schooner out of Manitiwoc, Wisconsin. He also rang the bell to keep the singers in properm time. He did this by banging his head against the bell-----until he hit it a glancing blow, fell off the deck and drowned. His shipmates hauled him in and a guy walked up and inquired, "Who the hell is that??"

Someone answered, "I don't know but his face rings a bell !"

Quite a disaster I would venture to say.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Art Thieme
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 02:55 PM

The next day his brother took over the same job. Wouldn't ya know, the same thing happened. The same guy who had asked yesterday posed that same question.

The answer he got was, "I don't know his name, but he is...


...a dead ringer for his brother."

(Disaster #2)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: SINSULL
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 04:46 PM

Thank you, Art. I needed that! Jon, there is a wealth of information on chanteys, shanties, chanties... if you do a search on the threads. Many here are shanty singers and can offer info. Where are you? There are also a number of regular shanty sings held throughout Mudcatville. You may have the opportunity to visit one.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 06:12 PM

Doubtful if any sea shanties (the work songs used to coordinate setting sail, pumping, hauling up the anchors or stowing cargo) contained any warnings apart from the dangers facing discharged sailors navigating sailortown. Now the forebitters, or sea ballads, often had reference to maritime disastors - "Lady Franklin's Lament," "The Bold Benjamin," and "Greenland Whale Fisheries" to name a few.

Maybe you can say a little more about your research to help us focus our response.

Someone ought to clap old Art Thieme in the brig!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Dead Horse
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 07:05 PM

I thought he already had it. The clap, I mean.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 08:15 PM

Well, if he hasn't, he's a dead ringer for one who has!

Thanks for the feed, DH. It's hard to beat...

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: EBarnacle
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 12:01 AM

There may have been many songs about ordinary days but what is the interest in a chantey or song in which nothing is noteworthy--

I thought I heard the old man say--
    John Kanaka, naka, tuliyay
Tomorrow is just like today--
    John Kanaka, naka, Tuliyay...etc.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: SINSULL
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 01:16 PM

rOLL, aLABAMA, rOLL?

The rise and fall of a great ship.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Franz S.
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 06:26 PM

I never realized there was so much involved in making a chantey clear. Charley, have you been tasting forebitten fruits again?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 08:31 PM

Franz-

Chantyclaire was a rooster, was he not?

As for forebitten fruits...I still like my lime juice laced with rum.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Franz S.
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 09:16 PM

Yes, and Lord, how he could sing! Not much of a sailor, though.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 24 Mar 04 - 07:09 AM

Most shanties tend to be composed of "floating" verses. It's a bit difficult to actually have a shanty with a plot when the number of verses needed would vary every time it was sung - I couldn't imagine the mate saying "let's have a few more pulls because there's another three verses to go". I also expect that many of the verses would have been topical to the ship and perhaps even the specific voyage - after all, if the shanteyman could keep the men amused, they'd pull better.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: JWB
Date: 24 Mar 04 - 06:45 PM

Jon,

You do say in your post that you're looking for warnings contained in sailor songs as well as chanteys, so that does open up the chest of forebitters. Here are a few that come to mind, which contain tales of disaster and (at least implicit) warning.

The Flying Dutchman
Ben Backstay
The Mermaid
Cease, Rude Boreas

I've been thinking about the concept of sailor song as instruction, too. So many chanteys (the worksong, not the generic sea song)tell a tale of shipboard brutality that it makes me picture an outward bound vessel with a couple of green hands in the crew who are experiencing their first chantey, and hear lines like:

Oh it's tinkers and tailors and soldiers and all...who ship as prime seamen aboard the Black Ball...
You see these poor bastards as aloft they do scoot...assisted along by the toe of a boot...
It's "Foretopsail halyards!" the mate he will roar..."And lay aloft smartly, you son of a whore!"

For such a one this would have been a little late to keep him ashore, but it may have served to clue the joskin in to the fact that there was a hardcase mate on board.

Then there are the chanteys that contain a moral about getting taken by a whore or a crimp. Entertaining stories to ease the work, no doubt, but also a bit of schooling for a youngster, perhaps? There seem to be a lot more of these type of lyrics than the hard usage ones I quote above.

I can't help but believe that there was some learning going on while such verses were sung.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Gareth
Date: 24 Mar 04 - 07:22 PM

Hmmm ! I think this was an attempt at some serious acedemic study.

Guest John Goff - please hold in mind that what the general public might thinks as Chanty's has a a wild varience.

A Shanty is a work song, to hold the cadence whilst team work is being done - A good Shanty man would vary the pace, time and words to fit the work to be done, after all there is a difference between the shanty needed to coordinate the work in a capstan haul, and ay trimming the sails. And the ability to vary the words to fit a particular ship and the foibles of the owners, mate, cook and master required some sense of occasion and humour.

Forebitters, songs for entertainment were a different study, tho the tune may be familiar, the words would change.

Rutters, Sailors Mnonics (SP) for pilotage or similar were again different. Plot the points of mention (departures) of "Spanish Ladies" against a chart of the English Channel and you will see what I mean.

Broadside Ballads - and many a wreck is mentioned, were, or could have been, commercial attempts to gain income on the back of disasters.

I hope this gives you some ideas of where to look, and incidently "The Shoals of Herring" or "Fiddlers Green" or "Barratts Privateers" are modern narratives.

'Catters any other thoughts ?

Gareth


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Snuffy
Date: 24 Mar 04 - 07:52 PM

"Most shanties tend to be composed of "floating" verses."

And a "sinking verse" now and then


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: GUEST,Boab
Date: 25 Mar 04 - 02:47 AM

Aye--"the Alabama went to her Grave!"


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: jack halyard
Date: 25 Mar 04 - 06:18 AM

G'day gang,
There are a species of seagoing songs such as pilot chants which list such things as lighthouses and navigational marks. The old British song "farewell and adie to you spanish ladies" contains some classic examples and is shanty-like in form.

I've just come back from a highly exciting trip on the three- master
"James Craig" to Newcastle NSW, and can testify to the power of the shanty in lifting morale and timing the work. As a first time sailor, the big swells off Newcastle came as a serious shock. My response to primal terror was to sing. Half a dozen more pirates joined me and the terror was beaten back to mere anxiety. Once I put a shanty to the work of hoisting the main topgallant with a dozen or so passengers, it became fun.
I'm convinced that shanties must have had a key role in averting disasters by the simple fact of keeping the work flowing against all odds and keeping spirits up. The wicked antics of the ladies around Cape Horn would certainly have encouraged the weary sailor.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 25 Mar 04 - 08:12 AM

I also wouldn't have thought that the average crew member would have had much power to avert a major disaster except by failing in his duty as a look-out, or by generally shirking. Even the man at wheel would be steering a fixed course set by an officer, and most decisions about the way that the ship was sailed would have been taken by the Captain, Mate, or Sailing Master.

The only warnings in shantys seem to be about what jack should avoid when he gets back on shore, and from the sound of things, it was assumed that in spite of resolutions to the contrary, he would still behave the same next time.

There are warnings about avoiding "Blood Boats", "Bully Mates", Starvationers", "Whaling Ships" etc, but even then, a sailor who needed an outward bound trip and who had debts to pay off, would have to take any ship that would give him an advance.

For my money, probably the best Warning/Tuition song is "According to the Act" which manages the condense most of the points of "The Merchant Shipping Act" which would be pertinent to the average sailor into a sort of aide-memoir song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: GUEST,Paul Burke
Date: 25 Mar 04 - 08:22 AM

thought I heard the old man say--
    John Kanaka, naka, tuliyay
Tomorrow is just like today--
    John Kanaka, naka, Tuliyay...etc.

Jean, qui n'a qu'un nacre, tous raillaient.

Jean, who has only one "nacre", everybody was jeering.

The disaster here is that Jean has lost one of his "nacres". I haven't been able to discover what they are, it means "mother of pearl" literally, but here it must be used in some colloquial sense.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Mar 04 - 08:32 AM

Paul-

That is an absolutely brilliant explanation of what the phrase "John Kanaka, naka, tuliyay" means. Now we know!

Jack Halyard-

Glad to hear they're still making use of sea shanties aboard the James Craig. Are they still running the Wednesday evening shanty sings?

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: GUEST,Dave (the ancient mariner)
Date: 25 Mar 04 - 04:16 PM

Phonetically
John Ka Na Ka Too Lai Eyy

French actual
Jean qui n'a qu'un nacre tous rayonnent
tous rayonnent Ohh Ohh tous rayonnent
Jean qui n'a qu'un nacre tous rayonnent

English Translation
Jean has one mother-of-pearl a glowing
a'glowing Ohh Ohh a'glowing


John Kanakas are Polynesian sailors and they used pearls and mother-of-pearl seashells to decorate things, and themselves.
Hope this translation helps mates.
Yours, Aye. Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Uke
Date: 25 Mar 04 - 04:40 PM

Sailors in the days of shanty-singing used to be quite superstitious I've read. They would only sing certain songs at cetain times. For instance you didn't sing "Homeward Bound" till you actually were, otherwise you were courting disaster.

This makes me think that maybe sailors wouldn't generally want to be singing about shipwrecks etc. In case it brought one down upon them! Cautionary tales maybe, which instructed you somehow. But if you were on the high seas would you really want to sing about shipwrecks, drowning etc. etc.? Sounds more like a landlubber's type sea-song...

Whatya think?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 26 Mar 04 - 10:53 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 27 Mar 04 - 12:41 AM

Origins: Shanty's role in Disasters


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: Shanghaiceltic
Date: 27 Mar 04 - 01:29 AM

Sailors have always had a great number of superstitions. Not surprising really considering the conditions they worked under.


In becalmed waters sailors would whistle to bring up a wind. On some occasions a knife would be stuck in the main mast indicating the direction that the wind should come from.

But whistling was used sparingly as if one whistled too much a storm could be whistled up. The other reason was that in these times a bosun's call (a type of naval whistle) would be used to tell the sailors what to do. There were different pipes for different actions to be taken.

Sailing on a Friday, particularly the 13th was to be avoided.

It was thought that firing even numbers of guns when saluting (i.e. 21 gun salutes) was unlucky. Gun salutes went in a sequence of 11, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21.

Sailors often tatooed themselves with lucky symbols. The cross being an obvious one. Sometimes a pig would be tatooed on one leg and a rooster on the other to prevent drowning. Men on board ships of sail were often unable to swim.

Rats leaving a ship in port was not a good sign.

When a ship is launched it is considered very unlucky that the bottle would not smash on the first occassion.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Disaster's role in Shantys
From: jack halyard
Date: 04 Apr 04 - 05:58 AM

You might be interested to know in connection with the bottle breaking superstition, of an event my shanty crew, the Roaring Forties, were involved in. We sang some shanties at the launching of a fibreglass America's Cup type yacht. I saw a bloke actually scraping the bottle with a glasscutter to ensure its breaking. At the great moment, the lady banged the bottle over the round, plastic bow. The bow yielded to the blow and the bottle failed to break. After three attempts, a lusty male offered to assist. he too failed and the tough fibreglass bow remained undamaged. Finally they held the bottle over the bow and donged it with a bricklayer's hammer. It broke.
I do not connect the fact that the boat was nearly totally wrecked in one of the Sydney to Hobart races with this superstition, but it does make one pause for thought.
                                 Your Good Health,

                                 Jack Halyard


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