Sea songs from Gavin Davenport’s new CD

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Gavin Davenport concertina and sea songs

My musician and singer friend Gavin Davenport has kindly agreed to let me publish a couple of MP3s of two sea songs from his new album Brief Lives, which is available from the shop section of his website. In each he accompanies himself using a beautiful old ebony-ended Wheatstone anglo concertina.

The songs, British Man Of War and On Board Of A Ninety-Eight come from the Navy’s wooden walls era, are striking and are really two sides of the same coin.

In the first, a swaggering and excited young tells his worried lover that he’s joining the Navy and will return covered in glory; in the second an old sailor tells the story of his heroic career as a sailor in the Navy, and finishes by explaining that he has been well looked after, and is now nearly 98. The ninety-eight of the title is a ship with 98 guns, by the way.

Neither really engage with the downsides of war and, like many sea songs, contain strong elements of boasting and wishful thinking. Well, I guess they had to have something to keep them going.

5 thoughts on “Sea songs from Gavin Davenport’s new CD”

  1. Evening Gavin, after listening to the British Man of War I was minded of this song which acknowledges a British song The Banks of the Nile as it's tune.

    Very busy as it's a wet spring and the veges are growing apace. Getting a bit of sailing and canoeing in and enjoying life. I've gotten very fit too as a result of grubbing out blackberries which are a runaway weed here.

    Hoping you are well and coping with the countries awkward circumstances.


    1. Thanks Jeff!

      We seem to be getting along fine, though I'd be worried if we had any urgent need for any expensive or complicated services – for healthcare, for example.

      My guess is that the cuts and reforms our government are putting in place will put a lot of important things in jeopardy, which I guess is what you can expect when you put a bunch of market-oriented anti-government multimillionaires in charge.

      The source for the song is The Banks of the Nile, isn't it?


  2. Oh hark! the drums do beat, my love, no longer can we stay.

    The bugle-horns are sounding clear, and we must march away.

    We're ordered down to Portsmouth, and it's many is the weary mile.

    To join the British Army on the banks of the Nile.

    Oh Willie, dearest Willie, don't leave me here to mourn,

    Don't make me curse and rue the day that ever I was born.

    For the parting of our love would be like parting with my life.

    So stay at home, my dearest love, and I will be your wife.

    Oh my Nancy, dearest Nancy, sure that will never do.

    The government has ordered, and we are bound to go.

    The government has ordered, and the Queen she gives command.

    And I am bound on oath, my love, to serve in a foreign land.

    Oh, but I'll cut off my yellow hair, and I'll go along with you.

    I'll dress myself in uniform, and I'll see Egypt too.

    I'll march beneath your banner while fortune it do smile,

    And we'll comfort one another on the banks of the Nile.

    But your waist it is too slender, and your fingers they are too small.

    In the sultry suns of Egypt your rosy cheeks would spoil.

    Where the cannons they do rattle, when the bullets they do fly,

    And the silver trumpets sound so loud to hide the dismal cries.

    Oh, cursed be those cruel wars, that ever they began,

    For they have robbed our country of manys the handsome men.

    They've robbed us of our sweethearts while their bodies they feed the lions,

    On the dry and sandy deserts which are the banks of the Nile.

    1. As a Lincolnshire boy, I sing a version, or at least a similar song known as Lisbon recorded on a wax cylinder in the early part of the last century. It's included in Percy Grainger's Lincolnshire Posy and the Wikipedia page dedicated to the Posy has its lyrics:

      Heck, now I've thought of it I might take it out it down at Lewes this very evening!


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