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.