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Love and Death on the Shore

10 May 99 - 05:44 AM (#77142)
Subject: Love and Death on the Shore
From: Chris Clarke

I am interested in songs about love and death on the shore, such as Cruel Sister. I am trying to trace a song called "The Three Galleys', 'The Danish Galleys' or 'Porlock Sound' which was in a book of folk songs about war that I had in the late seventies. It starts something like:

Three Galleys came sailing to Porlock Sound And took them away my new-wed bride Who sees my true love lying dead on the shore? Sailing, up and away I never will see my true love no more

The tune is unusual and very beautiful. Do the words ring a bell with anyone?

10 May 99 - 09:44 AM (#77171)
Subject: RE: Love and Death on the Shore
From: Lynn Koch

Chris - is this song traditional or more recently composed? There are a number of ancient ballads on a similar theme, though the lines you quoted didn't ring any specific bells.

10 May 99 - 09:51 AM (#77175)
Subject: RE: Love and Death on the Shore
From: harpgirl

Dear Chris,
am looking for your song but Murray and Bruce might be more successful...The Sea Captain aka Maid on The Shore is a song about love and robbery on the shore...harpgirl

11 May 99 - 08:47 AM (#77488)
Subject: RE: Love and Death on the Shore
From: Chris Clarke

Lyn and Harpgirl

Thanks for responding. This song has haunted me for years. My recollection is that the origin of the song was unknown, but from the unarchaic language it would either be reworked or composed within the last couple of centuries. The book mentioned that there was a Porlock Sound which had historical records of being raided by Danes. So the song may refer to early events, or it may be a later version of an earlier song. I don't know of any other songs that refer to events that early (800-900s). The tune has unusual intervals, and doesn't sound to me as though it comes from the normal run of ballad melodies. It seems either from another tradition, or composed to sound different. I will try to think of a way of writing it down for you in text.

It's great to be able to communicate with someone about this. My cat was sympathetic, but unable to help.


12 May 99 - 08:06 AM (#77791)
Subject: RE: Love and Death on the Shore
From: Chris Clarke

I have found the first page of Three Danish Galleys with the first verse and chorus, and the written music, much as I recalled it. It is on a Xerox of page 187 of the book, which is A5 format, but no clue to the book title. I still want the rest of the song!

Three galleys come sailing to Porlock Side
And stole me away a new wed bride
Who left my true love lying dead on the shore
Sailing, out and away
I never shall see my dear home no more

Another piece on the theme of love and death on the shore is a poem by Victor Daley published in a local newspaper (Canberra, Australia) in 1883. I set this one to music as a folk song.


Give thou a gift to me
From thy treasure-house, O sea!

Said a red-lipped laughing girl
While the summer yet was young;

And the sea laughed back and flung
At her feet a priceless pearl.

Give thou a gift to me
From thy treaure-house, O sea!

Said the maiden once again
On a night of wind and rain.

Like a ghost the moon above her
Stared through winding sheets of cloud.

On the sand in sea-weed shroud,
Lay the white corpse of her lover.

Which is better, gain or loss?
Which is nobler, crown or cross?

We shall know these things, maybe,
When the dead rise from the sea.

By Victor Daley, 1883

Any more?


27 Apr 01 - 12:21 PM (#450470)
From: Malcolm Douglas

While looking for something else entirely, I came across this song and remembered that there had been an inconclusive discussion of it.  Here it is, then, a mere two years on:


(Sung to Ruth L. Tongue in London, 1919, by "a sea captain born in Porlock".)

Three galleys come sailing to Porlock Side,
And stole me away a new-wed bride,
Who left my true love lying dead on the shore,
Sailing out and away.
I never shall see my dear home no more

Then up to her stepped the Danish King,
And her he would wed with a golden ring,
Who left my true love, etc.

The bride she made answer her tears between,
I never will wed with a cowardly Dene. ¹
Who left my true love, etc.

Then out of the galley they tossed the Bride,
And laughed as she drowned in the cruel tide.
Who left my true love, etc.

There came three small galleys from Porlock Bay,
They fought with the Danes for a night and a day.
Who left my true love, etc.

They fought till the decks with blood ran red,
And every man of the Danes was dead.
Who left my true love, etc.

¹  Dene: Dane. Local pronunciation.

From The Chime Child, or, Somerset Singers, Ruth L. Tongue (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968) © Ruth L. Tongue, 1967.

Miss Tongue had this to say about it:

"I had just finished a Folk Song Recital in London, and made my way back to sink exhausted into my dressing-room chair, when there came a hearty bang on my door which opened, and an elderly sea captain came in.  He was smart, grey-haired, scarlet-faced, and as full of enthusiasm as a young westerly gale -and he had a ballad for me.  His family had been Porlock folk right back to Drake's time and before, and they had treasured and kept strictly to themselves this ancient ballad.  Now having listened to that evening's Somerset wealth, he had decided regardless of family traditions that it must be brought to the free air of a singing world and that I was the one to do it.  Before the force of this Severn Gale, I found my weariness blown clean away, and was soon singing too.  He had a tremendous voice and it hit like hammer-blows into my memory.  He sailed tomorrow he said, so I must learn it then and now.  I did, every verse, and sang it back to him.  He gave me a delighted smile, a hearty farewell and a handshake that clamped my fingers for the rest of the evening, and went away, forgetting to leave his name.
The Danish raids on Porlock are mentioned in the AngloSaxon Chronicle, and The Three Danish Galleys is a very ancient ballad which has survived the alterations of singers of other centuries, and is surprisingly unspoiled."

Doubts have been expressed from time to time as to the authenticity of the songs contained in this book; almost all of them are unusual in musical structure and unknown anywhere else.  Certainly it would be unsafe to assume that this song is of any antiquity, or even traditional at all; even if Miss Tongue wrote it herself, though (which is not impossible, particularly as so many of these songs, supposedly from different sources, are so similar in style), it's a fine piece and worth knowing.  I've made a midi of the tune, which will go to the  Mudcat Midi Pages;  until then, as a temporary measure, it may be heard via the  South Riding Folk Network  site:


There are three other songs from Ruth L. Tongue in the Forum:

The Broomsquire's Bird Song  -With tune; from The Chime Child.
The Quaker's Wife  -With tune from another source.  Text from The Quaker's Wife and other Somerset Folk Songs, Ruth Tongue and Felton Rapley (Chappell & Co., 1965).
The Green Lady  -With tune; from The Chime Child.


27 Apr 01 - 03:46 PM (#450636)
Subject: RE: Love and Death on the Shore
From: Charley Noble

Wow! Malcolm strikes again.

By the way are you involved in editing a collection of special songs?

Sure wish you'd focus some attention on my old thread "Sailor with Banjo" by Hamish MacLaren; I know he wrote a few other books but I'd sure like to find out more about him.

27 Apr 01 - 09:37 PM (#450823)
Subject: RE: Love and Death on the Shore
From: Malcolm Douglas

Editing?  Not really, though we (The  South Riding Folk Network)  are negotiating with the  English Folk Dance and Song Society  about re-publishing the folksong collections they put out in the 1960s and '70s.  My role there would be mostly to do with design, though there would be a small amount of editorial work involved, too, if all the copyright issues can be resolved.

So far as  Sailor With Banjo  goes, I can only add that there are currently copies of that and two other books by Hamish MacLaren listed through,  the other two being Cockalorum and The Private Opinions of a British Blue Jacket


25 Mar 18 - 10:54 PM (#3913146)
Subject: RE: Love and Death on the Shore
From: NigelParry

Malcolm Douglas is correct (I have seen a copy of the book, although don't own one).

If anyone is interested, here's a performance of the song (in a different key, with reworked music and a few lyrical tweaks, but that's folk music).

14 Apr 22 - 03:57 PM (#4139088)
Subject: RE: Love and Death on the Shore
From: NigelParry

Update on Three Danish Galleys;

A new studio recording with harp and vocals has just been released;

Three Danish Galleys