Tag Archives: sea shanty

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…

Two sea shanties for singing sailors

Two proper sea shanties that are highly suitable for the singing sailor.

I gather ‘noggin’ was a very rude word a century or two back but seems remarkably harmless now… And for that I guess we can thank Oliver Postgate, creator of the cartoon character Noggin the Nog.

PS – And here’s a forebitter about a common sailor’s fantasy – the young woman who dresses as a boy and goes to sea.

Haul away Joe sung by Malcolm Ward

Sea song specialist Malcolm Ward sings the shanty Haul Away Joe in explosive style at the Frittenden Old Fashioned Night Out weekend earlier this year.

Listening to it now, I’m reminded of a lovely moment in a recent TV programme about foods produced in Kent.

Presenter Giles Coren was on board a sailing barge showing us how barges were used to carry apples and cherries to London, returning with horse manure for the fields. He’s asked to haul on some line or other with the skipper Brian Pain, and while doing so he says ‘Aren’t there some songs to help you do this?’

‘Oh yes,’ said Brian. ‘But they’re full of rude words.’

I doubt Malcolm’s entertaining version of Haul Away Joe will cause much offence, but I guess it gives an idea…

The wonderful photo above comes from the Wikipedia, and shows the full-rigged ship Garthsnaid at sea in around 1920. The sailors are securing a section of the foresail that had come free from its gaskets (ties used to secure a sail that isn’t in use) in heavy weather. The photo is by Alexander Harper Turner, and is held in the De Maus Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.