Strike The Bell

Amongst other things a ship’s bell gives the signal to change duties and was and is much-looked forward to. This superb traditional song from Stan Hugill’s collection was sung all over the country in a great many of the folk clubs I played in the 1970s, to the same tune and more or less the same words. Nobody seemed to grow tired of it, including me.

One less-known tradition – a bell as a baptisismal font!

The Maiden Soldier

There are many traditional songs about girls dressing as men and joining the army or navy, and it did happen. The words of The Maiden Soldier were collected by Francis James Collinson (I have no other details) which I sing, appropriately enough, to the first part of the 4th Dragoon Guards Quick March in James Blackshaw’s unpublished Shropshire fiddlebook of 1779.

There’s no suggestion that the young officer in our early 19th century painting was female, but it shows how easily a woman might secretly enlist. Incidentally, two years ago on this very day the painting was sold on ebay for £3,200.

A Sailor’s Alphabet

I’ve always been astonished at the vast range of names for all things nautical, whether parts of the ship, orders to be carried out or everyday items. Everything seems to be called something different from what you find ashore, and it all has to be learned. The song is from Stan Hugill’s great collection, Shanties Of The Seven Seas.

The Jolly Carter

I found The Jolly Carter in two BBC schools’ Singing Together books and like it very much. It was broadcast on the Home Service in the late 1950s or early sixties, and in the later sixties, early seventies. Collected by Ernest (Jack) Moeran, in Norfolk, it’s an unusual sort of folk song for junior school children, you may think, or perhaps I’m jumping to the wrong conclusion.

The Fit’s Come On Me Now

“Of course I realise you have to be there, Ken, but the wedding is really the bride’s day.” So said my mother-in-law to be. The song was collected by Cecil Sharp from William Porter, Ely, Cambridgeshire, 20 October 1911.

The paintingThe Wedding Morning’ is by John Henry Frederick. (The pun of the song title and the bride’s dress-fitting was accidental!) ‘Signing The Register’ is by Edmund Blair Leighton.

Bound For The Rio Grande

How I loved this song and all the shanties we sang at school! But after a boy asked me why I was ‘singing all wrong’ I took to rather discreet harmonies in case the teacher was of a similar opinion. Restraint is not the best way to sing or enjoy shanties, so add your voice and all the ‘wrong’ notes that take your fancy! (And yes, we sang Rye-oh! like proper sailors.)

The excellent photographs of the tall ship Europa and crew in Antarctica are Half Moon Bay, by Debbie Purser and going ashore, by Valery Vascilevskiy. Now that’s what I call a holiday! Classic Sailing gives all the details with lots more photos.

The Pretty Ploughboy

Ploughboys and pressgangs were popular themes of 19th century broadside printers. Many versions end with wedding bells, as does this one from William Stoke (65) of Chew Stokes, Somerset, who sang it to Cecil Sharp on 23 December 1907.

The photograph, circa 1930 from the Museum of Rural Life, is at Manor Farm, Cliddesden, Hampshire.