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Heart of Oak

12 Mar 03 - 11:02 PM (#908749)
Subject: Heart of Oak
From: Anglo

Words by David Garrick (not Dibdin though it seems like it ought to be).

The original chorus seems to be:

Heart of oak are our ships, heart of oak are our men;
We always are ready, steady, boys, steady!
We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again.

Now when I was much younger I learned this as "Heart of oak are our ships, Jolly tars are our men..." etc.

Does anyone know when or how this alteration was made?

13 Mar 03 - 01:29 AM (#908809)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: Night Owl

Anglo-dunno if this can help track down the change in lyrics or not..
I have a Folkways album (1976) called "Heart Of Oak" recorded by a New York City group named "The X Seamens Institute".
Their lyrics are "...Jolly tars are our men.....".

Liner notes go on to say that:
   "Through the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth 'Heart of Oak' was the unofficial anthem of the British Royal Navy."

13 Mar 03 - 03:55 AM (#908843)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: Steve Parkes

I've always wondered about this since we sang it at school some forty-odd years ago. A quick Google search reveals quite a variation in the verses too. As a sometime Lichfield lad, I feel I have a vested interest in the answer, so I've out out a feeler and I'll see if anything turns up.


13 Mar 03 - 04:08 AM (#908848)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: Nigel Parsons

The "National Song Book" vol.1 Edited and arranged for use in schools by Charles Villiers Stanford (copyright 1906) was one of the books I used regularly from junior school days (C 1962).
That version has the "Jolly Tars" refrain, and would have been a popular source book throughout the country (UK).
That source also confirms the words as by David Garrick, and music by Dr. Boyce


13 Mar 03 - 04:10 AM (#908849)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: GUEST,Keith A working

I doubt a real sailor would like to be called a jolly tar. I bet it was a music hall 'improvement'

13 Mar 03 - 04:16 AM (#908851)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: alanabit

I always thought that "jolly tars" sounded a bit effete. It sounds like it belongs back in the music hall as Keith suggests - along with "My good man" and "Top of the morning...."

13 Mar 03 - 06:04 AM (#908904)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: Steve Parkes

Well, it was written in 1759 for a pantomime. It may not have been such a "girly" expression back then (if it was original), and I don't suppose the panto would have been the "oh yes it is!"--"oh no it isn't!" style we're familiar with.


13 Mar 03 - 06:21 AM (#908914)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: breezy

the folk group 'Hearts of Oak' will be playing a charity gig in Burcot near Bromsgrove, Worcs., Eng on Saturday 12 th April and one of the nominations for the 'alternative folk awards' will also be performing.
If you are in the area do come along it promises to be a 'jolly jack tar' sort of evening with loads of choruses to join in on.
At the Village hall 7.30 on the Alcester road.
Hope some catters can make it.
This was not intended as a hi-jak, my apologies, more an act of piracy.#[:-)>

13 Mar 03 - 04:04 PM (#909365)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: Schantieman

The tune is still the official march of the Royal Navy and is always played as the first tune in any big parade by a Royal Marines band. (Their introduction sounds like - and probably is - also the introduction to "There's Something About A Sailor")

It's considered unlucky to sing the words, but that doesn't usually stop me! I learned the 'jolly tars' version from the Hackney Scouts' Song Book when I were a lad.


13 Mar 03 - 06:28 PM (#909454)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: nutty

It may be that over the years a number of quite different songs have merged ... particularly from the time of the Napoleonic Wars. There are numerous versions of the song on Broadsides in the Bodleian Library Oxford.

This song ....... Printed in 1803 has the Hearts of Oak is this ship , Hearts of Oak are our men, Chorus

The Island Of Britain

This is another interesting version The Voice of the British Isles

This version has "gallant tars" in the chorus
Hearts of Oak

There are numerous other songs set to the tune of 'Hearts of Oak' which you can find here .... Bodleian Library

13 Mar 03 - 08:58 PM (#909531)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: Anglo

Thanks to all for the contributions, even if I'm not a great deal wiser :-)
I hadn't seen "Gallant tars" before, however - I quite like that.

And before I posted I did a search including "oak" with both "heart" and "hearts" and none of those earlier threads came up. Perhaps the search engine only searches a random portion of the database?

And Breezy, having been born and raised in Kiddie, I do know the Alcester Road out of Bromsgrove. Now being on the other side of the pond, however, I'll have to miss the festivities. I won't be there till October.

17 Mar 03 - 03:58 AM (#911709)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: Steve Parkes

I enquired of Lichfield Tourist Board for the true and original, explaining the reasons. They didn't read the question and pointed me to a "jolly tars" version. I tried them again, pointing out the anachronism of the "queen" in their version in support of my argument, but they haven't come back .. ad I'm not holding my breath. Somenody must know!

07 Jan 10 - 12:10 PM (#2805797)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak

"Fart of Coke" is how we did it at Wynberg Boys High School in 1974

07 Jan 10 - 03:30 PM (#2805951)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: bubblyrat

Yes, it has been the official "March Past" of / for the Royal Navy for many a year, but not just played by the Royal Marines ! During my 11 years service in the Fleet Air Arm, I played it,as a Volunteer or "Bluejacket" Bandsman on many occasions where a Royal Marine band was not available ( usually due to "Defence Cuts" ). Venues included HMS Heron (Yeovilton), HMS Seahawk (Culdrose) HMS Goldcrest ( Brawdy, near Haverfordwest), HMS Condor (Arbroath) HMS Collingwood( Fareham) HMS Daedalus (Lee on Solent) Titchfield Carnival (Hants) Winchester Fireworks Carnival (Hants) Portchester Carnival (Hants) and "Beat Retreat" at The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu. In fact, I never want to hear it again,as I don't really like it !! Give me "On The Quarterdeck" ( official march past of the WRNS) , "Holyrood", "Blaze of Brass" or "Mechanised Infantry " any day !!! I quite like "Eagle Squadron " and "Aces High" too, but please !! more "Hearts of Oak", or "True & Trusty", or "Pennine Way" or "Marching Sergeants" -- Yucch !!!

25 Nov 12 - 07:26 PM (#3442154)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: SaltyWalt

Hello Anglo,
I also never found this thread when looking for it.
I wanted to chime in, as I was looking for the same answer, and almost called you.

I learned the song from "A Sailor's Garland" by John Masefield, 1928 (New York ed.) credited to David Garrick. It was "Heart of oak are our ships, Heart of oak are our men" as of that writing.

By the way, do you know when the slow down on "steady, boys, steady" came in?


25 Nov 12 - 11:11 PM (#3442213)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak

Ha, just saw this thread - and finally remembered that I had started it. To answer your question, Walt, I have no idea. The Roger Wagner Chorale? Barry Finn? :-) Who could know?

26 Nov 12 - 06:27 PM (#3442695)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: Charmion

When played as a march, Heart of Oak doesn't slow down but maintains a steady clip of 120 to the minute.

02 Feb 13 - 12:36 PM (#3474884)
Subject: RE: Heart of Oak
From: SaltyWalt

I should say "pause" more than "slow down".

I refer to the point in the chorus :
"We always are ready. . . [skip a beat, or pause]* Steady, . . . boys, . . . steady *
[*which seems to be slower or labored*]
[then back to speed for:]
We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again!"