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On Board of a Man-of-War

16 Sep 20 - 09:55 AM (#4072078)
Subject: On Board of a Man-of-War
From: Steve Gardham

Here is a reworking of a quite scarce folksong, Roud 662, that exists in a very few fragmentary garbled versions, the earliest dating back to 1768, so at least c1750 if not earlier. More details to follow.

On Board of a Man-of-War. (The Pressgang II)

Once I courted a pretty girl
A thinking for to gain her,
She told me that she would prove true
If that I would maintain her.
I courted her three years I’m sure
What could a poor young man do more,
Till I was forced to leave the shore
On board of a man-of-war, boys.

I went to her to get one kiss
And this she didn’t deny me.
She said, ‘How can you think of this,
Is this all just to try me?’
I married her, her name was Grace,
‘Twas she that brought me to disgrace
I often cursed her smiling face
On board of a man-of-war, boys.

As I was going down Plymouth street
The weather being cold, sir,
A jolly tar I chanced to meet,
He looked both brash and bold, sir.
I said, ‘Me jolly tar, come tell me true
What sort of usage they give you
That I may know before I go
On board of a man-of-war, boys.’

‘We’ve bread and cheese and ale that’s good,
And plenty o’ beef and mutton,
We’ve pease and pork and other foods
Enough to feed a glutton,
We drink our fill and then make free,
Whilst we are sailing on the sea,
And so, young man, will you go with me
On board a man-of-war, boys?’

As I lay musing in my bunk
Not thinking of the morrow,
A little before the break of day,
It proved to me great sorrow;
The mate he came with whip in hand,
Tied my hands with a hickory band,
They flogged me till I could not stand
On board of a man-of-war, boys.

The food that they gave me to eat,
It did not me well please, sir,
They fed me on some mouldy meat
Likewise some rotten cheese, sir;
They made me drink their old burgoo,
I swear to you it stank like rue,
Which made me curse the whole ship’s crew,
On board of a man-of-war, boys.

I threw myself into the deep
And swam unto the land , sir
And up to London I did creep
If you may understand, sir,
And now I’ve set my foot on shore,
Neither lord nor duke nor damne`d whore
Shall ever entice me any more
On board of a man-of-war, boys.


16 Sep 20 - 10:06 AM (#4072080)
Subject: RE: On Board of a Man-of-War
From: Steve Gardham

Of the 4 versions I've used here, although none of them completely use the well-known format ababcccd of The Rambling Sailor/Soldier/Wool-comber/Saileur, it is pretty obvious that is what the original format was and is utilised here. As you would expect the fullest version with 8 inconsistent garbled stanzas is from the Eury Collection at Appalachian State University and can be seen online, under the title 'A Song about a Man of War'. It was written down in a notebook belonging to General Lenoir in 1768. The other 3 versions are:
Alfred Williams (Wiltshire website-online) 'The Jolly Tar' recorded in Middlesex c1915 (parts of 7 stanzas)
Folk Song Journal 26, p11, The Pressgang, collected by E.J.Moeran in Norfolk, 1915 (parts of 6 sts)
Sharp Manuscripts (VWML) CJS2/9/3348, 'Man of War', Somerset, 1921 (parts of 3 sts)


16 Sep 20 - 01:09 PM (#4072099)
Subject: RE: On Board of a Man-of-War
From: Steve Gardham

Quick correction. Rambling Comber is a different format and the other should be 'The Rambling Suiler' not 'Saileur'.


16 Sep 20 - 02:15 PM (#4072109)
Subject: RE: On Board of a Man-of-War
From: Steve Gardham

For the sake of completeness..we can add to the format Rambling Female Sailor, and Rambling Miner.