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Lyr Req: Bellamy's 'On Board a 98'?

03 Aug 06 - 05:21 PM (#1800865)
Subject: Bellamy's "On Board a 98"?
From: Barry Finn

I've a few questions about this song that Peter Bellamy found & reset to music of his own.

Where did he get this verse from & have I got it correct?

Before we reached America, they gave me many a drill
They soon learnt me a nimble way to handle an iron pill
In course of time a fight began, when bold Jack Tars laid straight
What I would give if I could run from on board a ninety eight

I take it that the pate as used in the 2nd to last verse means the top of his head, yes?

"To Greenwich College I came back because I saved my pate".

And what is an iron pill?

Thanks to ya all

03 Aug 06 - 05:35 PM (#1800876)
Subject: RE: Bellamy's 'On Board a 98'?
From: Richard in Manchester

Barry, I love that song, but the version I've got (on 'Songs and Rummy Conjuring Tricks') doesn't have that verse.

Yes, pate is the head. According to the Oxford Concise 9th ed., it's "especially representing the seat of the intellect". I'm sure the song uses it more colloquially than that - the old sailor is just glad to have got away with having his arm shot off rather than his head!

03 Aug 06 - 05:44 PM (#1800885)
Subject: RE: Bellamy's 'On Board a 98'?
From: Les from Hull

Iron pill = cannonball

Greenwich College = Greenwich hospital

03 Aug 06 - 05:45 PM (#1800886)
Subject: RE: Bellamy's 'On Board a 98'?
From: Barry Finn

Hi Richard & thanks
I just found the verse in the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads which Malcolm had linked to in another thread about this song. It in the Johnson Ballads #2728. I should've looked closer before asking but I still looking find out what's an "Iron Pill"/


03 Aug 06 - 05:55 PM (#1800896)
Subject: RE: Bellamy's 'On Board a 98'?
From: Les from Hull

A bit of further detail on my 'pet' subject.

A 98 of course was a 98 gun ship, a three-decked ship of the line. Ships of 100 or more guns were 'first-rate' ships, and so a 98 was a 'second-rate' ship. Britain built quite a few of these in preference to first rates and they were used as fleet and squadron flagships. The famous HMS Victory was for a time a 98. One advantage to the Admiralty was that the established complement of crew, the rate of wages for officers, warrant officer etc was slightly less on a second rate, so they were cheaper to run than a first rate, and just as effective (until you got to the 120 gun first rates).

Les Ward

03 Aug 06 - 05:57 PM (#1800897)
Subject: RE: Bellamy's 'On Board a 98'?
From: Barry Finn

I forgot, I was gonna post the words, as I have them


Oh, when I was young and scarce 18 I drove a roaring trade,
And many a sly trick have I played on many a pretty (severant) maid.
My parents found that would not do, I soon would spend their store
So they resolved that I should go on board a man-of-war.

A bold press gang surrounded me, their warrant they did show.
They swore (vowed) that I must go to sea and face a daring foe
Then off they lugged me to the boat, and then I cursed my fate
Oh then I found that I should float on board a 98.

When first I put my foot on board, how I did stand and stare
Our Admiral, he gave the word, "There is no time to spare".
They weighed the anchor, shook out sail, then off they bore me straight
To face the foe (French) in storm and gale on board a 98.

But as time flew (a-fled) I bolder grew I hardened was to war.
I'd run aloft with my ship's crew and valued not a scar
So well I did my duty, till I got Boatswain's mate
And Dam (blast) me soon got boatswain too on board a 98.

So years rolled by and at Trafalgar brave Nelson he fought and fell
As they capsized that hardy tar I took a rap as well.
So to Greenwich College I come back because I'd saved my pate,
They only knocked one wing off Jack on board a 98.

So now my cocoa I can take, my pouch with baccy stored
All in my blue coat (clothes) and my three-cocked hat, I'm as happy as a Lord
(Cos) I've done my duty, served my King, and now I bless my fate
But dam (blast) me, I'm too old to sing, I'm nearly 98

Thanks Les, duh, should'a figured.


Bellamy recording:
Some lyrics are different from Barry's transcription. -Joe Offer-

03 Aug 06 - 06:10 PM (#1800905)
Subject: RE: Bellamy's 'On Board a 98'?
From: Les from Hull

Of course he was incredibly lucky to go from boatswain's mate to boatswain of a 98. The usual track would be to be boatswain of a unrated ship, then promoted to a sixth rate and so on...

As boatswain he would be attached to the ship rather than the crew, serving from commission to commission as one of the 'standing' warrant officers.

The blue coat and three-cocked hat refer to the uniform of the Greenwich Pensioners (old fashioned in Napoleonic times)

I take the 'blast me' as a Bellamism, being a much more Norfolk (UK) sort of an expletive. If you've got Peter's recording of the song (it's excellent) you'll know why the humourous anagram of his name is 'Elmer P Bleaty'!


03 Aug 06 - 06:13 PM (#1800907)
Subject: RE: Bellamy's 'On Board a 98'?
From: Richard in Manchester

I have a feeling 'hardy tar' might be 'Hardy tar', as in Captain Hardy. Bellamy sings:

"So the years rolled by and at Trafalgar, brave Nelson he fought and fell; and when they capsized that Hardy tar, I took a rap as well..."

03 Aug 06 - 06:16 PM (#1800909)
Subject: RE: Bellamy's 'On Board a 98'?
From: Richard in Manchester

Would that song have worked if those ships had had 97 guns instead of 98?

03 Aug 06 - 08:01 PM (#1800985)
Subject: RE: Bellamy's 'On Board a 98'?
From: Lady Hillary

I believe that hardy here is an adjective, rather than a noun. Lower case is probably correct, despite the concurrence of the name.

03 Aug 06 - 09:42 PM (#1801073)
Subject: RE: Bellamy's 'On Board a 98'?
From: Charley Noble

Nice work!

Charley Noble

04 Aug 06 - 07:13 AM (#1801289)
Subject: RE: Bellamy's 'On Board a 98'?
From: GUEST,doc.tom

Published in Roy Palmer's "The Valliant Sailor" CUP '73. This version includes the America verse. Notes give: "Tune: Frank Kidson, Garland of Country Song, 1926, p.103. Text: abridged from a broadside printed by Ryle of Bloomsbury (Kidson Collection of Broadsides, Mitchell Library, Glasgow)