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Bold Riley

Shanties
Bold Riley

The origins of Bold Riley appear to be shrouded in mystery: it does not appear in Stan Hugill's 1961 shanty "bible" Shanties from the Seven Seas or any earlier collections. Its first appearance seems to be on the 1962 album A Sailor's Garland, where it was sung by A. L. (Bert) Lloyd: he apparently "collected" it from old Bristol sailors who had sailed in the West Indian rum and sugar trade, although it is not clear why such men should sing shanties about Liverpool and Bengal Bay rather than Bristol and Montego Bay!

It was later recorded by Louis Killen on Steady as She Goes in 1977, and gained much wider currency after appearing on Kate Rusbys debut studio album Hourglass in 1997 and a later recording by the Wailin'
Jennys.

Lloyd's
four verses are all "floaters" that also appear in other shanties, such as Bound for the Rio Grande, Goodbye, Fare Thee Well and Leave Her Johnny and present-day singers often choose to sing them in a different order; in the chorus some sing "sweetheart" in the first line and "darling" in the third, while others reverse the order. Likewise, the "boom-a-lay" in the first refrain is nowadays often replaced by another "Bold Riley", so it is quite rare for any two versions to have exactly the same words in exactly the same places.

Roud Number
Click to play MIDI file
Bold Riley
Bold Riley

Goodbye, me darling, goodbye, me dear-oh,
Bold Riley-oh, boom-a-lay,
Goodbye, me sweetheart, goodbye, me dear-oh,
Bold Riley-oh, gone away.


Well, our anchor's on board and our rags are all set,

Bold Riley-oh, boom-a- lay!

Them Liverpool Judies, we'll never forget,

Bold Riley-oh, gone away!


Wake up Mary Ellen, and don't look so glum,

Bold Riley-oh, boom-a- lay!

By Whitestocking day, you'll be drinking hot rum.

Bold Riley-oh, gone away!


Well, the rain it is raining all the day long,

Bold Riley-oh, boom-a- lay!

And the northerly wind, it does blow so strong.

Bold Riley-oh, gone away!


We're outward and bound for the Bengal Bay,

Bold Riley-oh, boom-a- lay!

Get bending, me lads, it's a hell of a way.

Bold Riley-oh, gone away!


Goodbye, me darling, goodbye, me dear-oh,
Bold Riley-oh, boom-a-lay,
Goodbye, me sweetheart, goodbye, me dear-oh,
Bold Riley-oh, gone away.



Bengal Bay

Recorded by Owd Chyvers
Play MP3
Bold Riley, sung by Owd Chyvers
... you'll be drinking hot rum

White Stocking Day came about because of the Press Gang.

Up to the end of the 18th century, after receiving their month's advance sailors received no more pay until the end of the voyage, when they got the whole of the balance outstanding. This meant that their dependants had no income whatsoever until the voyage was over. During the Napoleonic period the Press Gang became very active in meeting the Navy's demand for sailors to fight the French: however the local Poor Law Guardians were not keen on picking up the bill for maintaining the destitute families of the hordes of newly-pressed men, and petitioned the Government to make the Navy pay its fair share.

The result was the introduction of the Allotment of Pay, an order to pay each month a proportion of the seaman's pay (usually half) to his spouse or other nominee. Wives were required to present themselves at the paying office to collect the money, and it was customary to wear one's best clothes for the occasion, with white stockings being a fairly cheap way of appearing fashionably respectable at the time. The name White Stocking Day soon became attached to this ritual, and  even after fashions had moved on, the name stuck. When a later Merchant Shipping Act required that this facility be extended to "Red Duster" sailors, the term was also adopted by the wives and sweet-tarts of merchantmen .


In his 1905 book Windjammers and Sea Tramps Walter Runciman Senior describes it thus:
The "White Stocking Day" was as great an event ashore as the Dead Horse day was at sea. The sailors' wives, mothers, or sweethearts always celebrated half-pay day by wearing white stockings and by carrying their skirts discreetly high enough so that it might be observed. This custom was carried out with rigid regularity, and the participators were the objects of sympathetic attraction. Poor things, there is no telling what it cost them in anxiety to keep it up. Their half-pay would not exceed thirty shillings per month, and they had much to do with it, besides providing white stockings and a suitable rig to grace the occasion.


Bold Riley-o, gone away
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