Paddy West’s House!

[ad name=”intheboatshed-post”]

The series of scans from Tait’s Seamanship I began a few days ago reminded me of the song Paddy West’s House, which describes a rather less salubrious ‘educational’ establishment that achieved celebrity status in the city of Liverpool a century and a half ago – not least because of the famously useless ‘sailors’ crimper West supplied to skippers waiting to leave the docks.

My recording made yesterday evening is linked above. The box, by the way, is my latest melodeon, an ancient two-row Koch melodeon that might have been made in the 1910s or ’20s. It has a nice soft tone that makes it very pleasant to sing with, and I think I’ll be using it from time to time.

I learned the song from a record as a teenager and over the last few days half-remembered that I had got it from an old Topic sampler of sea songs, on which it was sung by Stan Kelly – but looking at the online discographies, I must be mistaken – almost the only recordings of the song I can find on that label that I can find was by Ewan MacColl. I must take a look through my father’s vinyl recordings when I get a chance.

I should also add a small word of caution. I now realise there could not be such a sail as a ‘forward top mains’l, however salty it may sound – but the teenager that learned the song so many years ago didn’t know that, and I suspect the singer he got it from wasn’t aware  either. So that’s another little job for me – get the lyrics technically right next time I sing it in public…

PS – Paul Mullings has pasted a nice alternative set of lyrics in the comments below. I hope this doesn’t mean he disapproves of mine!

6 thoughts on “Paddy West’s House!”

  1. Paddy West

    As I was walkin' down London Street,

    I come to Paddy West's house,

    He gave me a dish of American hash;

    He called it Liverpool scouse,

    He said "There's a ship and she's wantin' hands,

    And on her you must sign,

    The mate's a bastard, the captain's worse,

    But she will suit you fine."


    Take off yer dungaree jacket,

    And give yerself a rest,

    And we'll think on them cold nor'westers

    That we had at Paddy West's.

    2. When we had finished our dinner,

    Boys, the wind began to blow.

    Paddy sent me to the attic,

    The main-royal for to stow,

    But when I got to the attic,

    No main-royal could I find,

    So I turned myself 'round to the window,

    And I furled the window blind.


    3. Now Paddy he pipes all hands on deck,

    Their stations for to man.

    His wife she stood in the doorway,

    A bucket in her hand;

    And Paddy he cries, "Now let 'er rip!"

    And she throws the water our way,

    Cryin' "Clew in the fore t'gan'sl, boys,

    She's takin on the spray!"


    4. Now seein' she's bound for the south'ard,

    To Frisco she was bound;

    Paddy he takes a length of rope,

    And he lays it on the ground,

    We all steps over, and back again,

    And he says to me "That's fine,

    And if ever they ask were you ever at sea

    You can say you crossed the line."


    5. To every two men that graduates,

    I'll give one outfit free,

    For two good men on watch at once,

    Ye never need to see,

    Oilskins, me boys, ye'll never want,

    Carpet slippers made of felt,

    I'll dish out to the pair o' you,

    And a rope yarn for a belt.


    6. Paddy says "Now pay attention,

    These lessons you will learn.

    The starboard is where the ship she points,

    The right is called the stern,

    So look ye aft, to yer starboard port

    And you will find northwest."

    And that's the way they teach you

    At the school of Paddy West.


    7. There's just one thing for you to do

    Before you sail away,

    Just step around the table,

    Where the bullock's horn do lay

    And if ever they ask "Were you ever at sea?"

    you can say "Ten times 'round the Horn"

    And Be Jesus but you're and old sailor man

    From the day that you were born.


    Put on yer dungaree jacket,

    And walk out lookin' yer best,

    And tell 'em that you're an old sailor man

    That's come from Paddy West's.

  2. Not at all Gav, your playing and lyrics are absolutely fine by me – Keep up the good work, and any way shanties are generally passed on by word of mouth so you have to expect variations on the theme don't you?

    1. Quite so. It troubles me that books, radio, then TV, 78s, vinyl and CDs, and now the Internet are increasingly tending to 'freeze' the natural evolution of songs, and to create 'standard' versions.

      I hope I'm wrong.


  3. i was interested in your view of Liverpool's Lime Street with St.George's Hall on the left and Lime Street Station on the right. London Road is off on the right hand side in the far distance.

    Would i be right in thinking that I recognise the tune as a Scots folk tune?


    1. I don't really know Liverpool well enough to comment!

      You ask a good question about the tune. I don't think of the tune as Scottish – in our islands we frequently think tunes belong to our own country, when in fact we have a sizeable repertoire that is shared across our different nations – even if they are played rather differently in each area.

      For example, the Yorkshire dance Buttered Pease is also associated with a tune of the same name, but in Scotland it's a commonly used exercise for bagpipe players – and naturally both areas claim it as their own.

      In the case of The Steamboat, however, I think it's established that it was written by the great tune-maker James Hill of Gateshead, an man of whom it was said: 'He would have been as good as Paganini, if only he didn't drink.' I guess that makes it English!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.