Tag Archives: shanty

The Russian Cruising Club celebrates the barque Sedov’s centenary

My thanks to Hans Christian Riecke for this one!

Paddy Lay Back sung by shantyman Chris Roche

The capstan shanty Paddy Lay Back, sung by shantyman Chris Roche at a sea songs session at Frittenden, Kent in March 2012.

Chris is very modest – but he must one of the most committed singers of sea songs around, at least that I know.

The brains and energy behind The Shanty Crew (established 1976), he has studied these songs, their history and their proper purpose for decades, including using them on a square-rigged sailing ships rounding Cape Horn. He was also privileged to learn from the legendary Stan Hugill – the last working shanty singer.

There are two more recordings of Chris’s singing here and here.

Stan Hugill singing shanties in proper style

Stan Hugill, shanty singer

Stan Hugill sings South Australia at the Workum Shanty Festival in 1990

Here’s a treat that I just have to share – a Youtube video of a real old fashioned shanty singer, including the characteristic ‘breaks’ and shouts that are so unfamiliar to us now.

If the style of the singing may seem strange, it’s because we tend not to sing that way now – shanties and folk songs generally have often been very much sanitised and prettified.

But this is the real thing. As a young man, Stan Hugill sang shanties on some of the last commercial sailing ships, and went on to make a serious study of sea songs. He’s been gone from us for quite a few years now, but his books about sea songs are still classics, and his views are highly respected.

La Pique

It’s of a flash packet, La Pique is her name
All in the East Indies she bears great fame
For cruel bad usage of every degree
Like slaves in the galleys we plough the salt sea

This is another song I first heard many years ago on a Topic album. The melodeon here is my ancient Koch CF box, which I haven’t had long but really like using for this kind of thing. I think it dates from the 1920s before the Koch company became part of Hohner, and it’s funny to remember that dates back to a time when the crews of sailing ships still sang this song for their own entertainment.

I’m sorry to say I know very little about the origins of the song or the ship named La Pique that it describes – the references on the Internet seem to conflict. What’s more, to illustrate the song itself, I had to ‘borrow’ a photo of a completely different – though appropriately smart – packet ship from the mid-19th century.

Farewell Johnny Collins, ship’s cook and shanty singer


The funeral of  laboratory scientist, ship’s cook and most of all celebrated shanty singer Johnny Collins took place yesterday. He was a kind man, and a huge enthusiast right to the end. Here’s a clip of him singing some years ago – and I thought regular readers might like the photography too!