Bottle-O - Shanty U.K. Archive

Go to content

Main menu


The Bottle-O

This shanty is also known as The Sailor Loves His Bottle-o, The Sailor Likes His Bottle-o, or So Early in the Morning, and was sung at halyards as well as capstan and pumps. According to Hugill, when there was a "greenhorn" crew, unfamiliar with many of the shanties they might have to work to, the shantyman often started with the chorus as an introduction, as shown here.

Hugill tells us that improvisation was the thing with this shanty, and a versatile shantyman would bring in anything and everything that a sailor might be likely to
love. Often the crew might sing the chorus unchanged throughout, but it was not uncommon to change "his bottle" to whatever was the subject of the current verse, thus

So early in the morning, the sailor loves his baccy-o

So early in the morning, the sailor loves the lassies-o

The tune used in the verse is almost identical to the shanty "Miss Lucy Long". Cecily Fox-Smith thought that it was similar to a nursey rhyme which runs "Fiddle de dee, the fly has married the bumble-bee", while Sharp compared it to "Gently, Johnny, my Jingalo".

Roud Number 314
Click to play MIDI file
The Bottle-O
The Bottle-O

So early in the morning
The sailor loves his bottle-o.

The mate got drunk and he went below
To take a swig of his bottle-o

So early in the morning
The sailor loves his bottle-o.

The bottle-o, the bottle-o,
The sailor loves the bottle-o,

So early in the morning
The sailor loves his bottle-o.

A bottle of rum, a bottle of gin,
A bottle of Irish whisky, oh!

Tobaccy-o, tobaccy-o,
The sailor loves his baccy-o,

A packet of twist, a packet of shag
A plug of hard tobaccy-o,

A rough-house-o, a rough-house-o,
The sailor loves a rough-house-o,

A tread-on my-coat, and all hands in
And a bloody good rough-and tumble-o

The lassies-o, the lassies-o.
The sailor loves the lassies-o

A Scottish lass or a sweet colleen
Or a hard-case Liverpool Judy-o

A a sing-song-o, a sing-song-o,
The sailor loves a sing-song-o,

A song of love or a drinking song,
A tale of seas and shipmates-o

So early in the morning
The sailor loves a sing-song-o,

As sung by Vaughan Hully
Play MP3
The Bottle-O, sung by Vaughan Hully
More bottles

Not all versions of the song used the same tune: the version below was given to Hugill by Ezra Cobb, "a Bluenose (Nova Scotian) seaman of the old school". According to Hugill, Cobb told him it was always sung at pumps, but sometimes at capstan!

Hugill gives this third version (also for capstan and pumps), which appears to originate in the rum traders plying from Bristol to Jamaica, but was also commonly heard in other ships engaged in west India trading. His second verse goes:

Now we're bound to Kingston Town
Where the rum flies round and round

In his 1917 series of articles entitled "Songs of the Shantyman" in
The Bellman magazine, Captain John robinson gives a similar tune and the following solitary  verse:

When you get to Baltimore
Give my Love to Susanna, my dear

Time, gentlemen, please
Back to content | Back to main menu