Tag Archives: mudcat

A love song about the Montagu whaler

Montagu whaler – a boat type that inspires a deep affection among some of those who have known them well

There’s a song about everything in my experience, and I’m not shy about reminding folks of this important cultural fact. I find they nod and smile, and pull expressions that show they think I’m being silly.

But this is an important matter, and I know I’m right, and that the evidence is there for those who look for it. So I was delighted this week a thread on the astoundingly bonkers Mudcat forum that led me to a song that pays  tribute to a famous boat used by the British Navy – the Montagu whaler. Made and sung by a chap called Bernie Bruen, it’s available from the British Library sound archives website.

Bernie has a nice way with words, I’m sure you’ll agree.  Listen to it here.

For more Intheboatshed.net posts about whalers, click here.

Was Sir Walter Raleigh a murderer?

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Sir Walter Raleigh painted by Nicholas Hilliard, from the The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei via the Wikimedia

Ex-Naval man, 20th century historian and Roman Catholic Bishop, David Mathew describes Sir Walter Raleigh’s importance in 1596 like this: ‘With Hawkins, Drake and Grenville lost on service and Frobisher dead the previous year, Sir Walter Raleigh alone remained. Though much less of a naval figure, for he was in essence a Renaissance magnifico, Raleigh set the lines of later doctrine.’

British schoolchildren are taught that he was an important figure in Queen Elizabeth I’s court and navy, and that he was always getting into trouble with his queen, on one occasion for secretly marrying one of her ladies-in-waiting. But was he also a heartless murderer?

A street ballad in Samuel Pepys’s ballad collection certainly suggests he was. Read the story as told in a ballad that was widely sung and part of the oral tradition in England and America well into the 20th century. Sussex singer, fisherman and ferryman Johnny Doughty had a a particularly good version.

It’s sometimes also known as the Sweet Trinity and has its own Wikipedia entry. Mudcat has versions, and a surprising range of really good tunes for the song.

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The Dream of Napoleon


Longwood House, St Helena. This is where Napoleon was imprisoned
by the British from 1815 until his death in 1821. Photo taken by Isaac
Newton and published by the Wikipedia

Thinking about South Georgia also led me to to muse on St Helena and also, perhaps inevitably, to Napoleon’s exile there.

And then I recalled the striking ballad about it, The Dream of Napoleon, shown below, with thanks to the Mudcat Cafe and the Digital Tradition.

I mean to learn this song some time so, if you’re sufficiently curious, please come back in a while, when you may find there’s an MP3 to download and listen to. It’s an interesting example of the broadside balladeer’s work, and once again underlines the point that not all of the English-speaking world saw Napoleon as a thoroughgoing baddie, or felt that the people of France were their enemies.

For more on St Helena, see the Wikipedia, and this tourism site.

The Dream of Napoleon

One night sad and languid I went to my bed
And had scarcely reclined on my pillow
Then a vision surprising came into my head
And methought I was crossing the billow;
I thought as my vessel sped over the deep
I beheld that rude rock that grows craggy and steep
Where the billows now seem to weep
O’er the grave of the once famed Napoleon

Methought as my vessel drew near to the land
I beheld clad in green his bold figure
With the trumpet of fame he had clasped in his hand
On his brow there shone valor and rigor
He says noble stranger you have ventured to me
From that land of your fathers who boast they are free
If so then a tale I will tell unto thee
‘Tis concerning that once famed Napoleon

You remember the day so immortal he cried
When we crossed o’er the Alps famed in story
With the legions of France whose sons were my pride
As I marched them to honor and glory
On the fields of Marien lo I tyranny hurled
Where the banners of France were to me first unfurled
As a standard of liberty all over the world
And a signal of fame cried Napoleon

Like a hero I’ve borne both the heat and the cold
I have marched to the trumpet and cymbal
But by dark deeds of treachery I now have been sold
Though monarchs before me have trembled
Ye princes and rulers their station demean
And like scorpions ye spit forth venom and spleen
But liberty all over the world shall be seen
As I woke from my dream cried Napoleon

Lyrics thanks to Mudcat Cafe’s DigiTrad pages.

Here’s a rather rough recording of my version – I hope you like it.

From Songs the Whalemen Sang, by Gale Huntington.

I gather one can buy a copy here.