Category Archives: Culture: songs, stories, photography and art

Traditions and culture relevant to the world of real boating and sailors

Sea shanty: Haul On The Bowline

This is a recording of proper old time shanty singer Stan Hugill – who was also a scholar on the subject (and many others) and author of classic works on the subject of sea songs.

You’ll notice there was something pretty wild about Hugill’s singing that we don’t hear so much today (I’m not sure I could do it!), and also that he sang more slowly than shanty performers of modern times.

Recordings of old shanty singers made by American folklorist Alan Lomax make another point about shanty singing – in general shanties were sung much slower (to match the jobs they were designed to assist) than we tend to sing them today. Hear them here.

Bert Lloyd wrote that this particular shanty may be particularly old, because the bowline – a sail control line on a ship rather than the well known knot – had been long out of use even in the time when shanties were collected.

Haul on the Bowline

1. Haul on the bowlin’, the bully ship’s a-rolling,
Haul on the bowlin’, the bowlin’ haul!

2. Haul on the bowlin’, Kitty is me darlin’,
Haul on the bowlin’, the bowlin’ haul!

3. Haul on the bowlin’, Kitty comes from Liverpool,
Haul on the bowlin’, the bowlin’ haul!

4. Haul on the bowlin’, it’s a far cry to payday,
Haul on the bowlin’, the bowlin’ haul!

5. Haul on the bowlin’, Kitty is me darlin’,
Haul on the bowlin’, the bowlin’ haul!

6. Haul on the bowlin’, Kitty comes from Liverpool,
Haul on the bowlin’, the bowlin’ haul!

7. Haul on the bowlin’ so early in the mornin’,
Haul on the bowlin’, the bowlin’ haul!

8. Haul on the bowlin’ and the old man he’s a-growlin’,
Haul on the bowlin’, the bowlin’ haul!

9. Haul on the bowlin’ we don’t know where we’re going,
Haul on the bowlin’, the bowlin’ haul!

10. Haul on the bowlin’ and the sooner we’re get going,
Haul on the bowlin’, the bowlin’ haul!

Shanty verse lyrics are mostly ‘floaters’ – they’re shared with other shanties to different tunes, and can be sung in just about any order, and in real life were often just made up on the spot about people known to the crew. This is a collection made up from bits and pieces I found in the space of a few minutes around the WWW…

Happisburgh Light

Happisburgh_lighthouse_uk

Happisburgh lighthouse photographed by Matthew Field – and published by the Wikimedia Commons.

East Anglia’s oldest working lighthouse and Great Britain’s only independent lighthouse, Happisburgh (pronounced ‘haysburgh’) Light was built in 1790, and was taken over by local residents in the late 1980s – and is still operating, operated by volunteers and supported by voluntary contributions. Well done them!

It was built following a severe winter storm in 1789, during which 70 sailing ships and 600 men were lost. An subsequent inquiry drew attention to the lack of lights between the fire beacon at Cromer and the candle-powered light at Winterton.

Today the lighthouse is painted white with three red bands, and has a light charcteristic of Fl (3) W 30s (three white flashes, repeated every 30secs) with a range of 18 miles.

Originally it was one of a pair that formed leading lights that marked safe route round Happisborough Sands. The second light is now long gone.

The light is celebrated in an old song – albeit one that has been found in versions that mention other lights around the country. Here is is sung by celebrated bargeman Bob Roberts.

Saved as a working light by the local community, it is maintained and operated entirely by voluntary contributions.