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Donkey Riding

Shanties
Donkey Riding

The tune and the verses of this shanty are very similar to those of Hieland Laddie, and Donkey Riding is generally considered to be an offshoot development of the older shanty. Both shanties were very popular at the capstan when  loading huge logs onto timber droghers in the ports of Atlantic Canada and New England, and also for unloading them when they reached Europe.

Hugill says it was also used for screwing down cotton bales in the Gulf Ports, and as a runaway shanty when working cargo. One of his informants stated that it was as popular when under way as when working cargo in port, and
without the full chorus was even occasionally heard at halyards.

Roud Number 4540
Click to play MIDI file
Song title
Donkey Riding

Was you ever in Quebec
Stowing timber on the deck?
Nearly break your bleeding neck
Riding on a donkey.


Way Hey and away we go
Donkey riding, donkey riding
Way hey, away we go
Riding on a donkey.


Was you ever in Miramichi
Where you tie up to a tree?
There they'll leave you all the day.
Riding on a donkey

Way Hey etc

Was you ever in Baltimore
Dancing on the sandy floor?
See the Lion and the Unicorn.
Riding on a donkey

Way Hey etc


Was you ever in Mobile Bay
Screwing cotton all the day?
A dollar-and-a-half is a white man's pay.
Riding on a donkey

Way Hey etc


Was you ever off Cape Horn
Where it's always fine and warm?
You'd wish to the Lord you'd never been born
Riding on a donkey

Way Hey etc


Was you ever in Vallipo
Where them girls put on a show?
Waggle their arse with a roll and go
Riding on a donkey

Way Hey etc


Was you ever in Frisco Bay
Where them girls they shout, "Hooray,
Here comes Johnny with six months pay
Riding on a donkey

Way Hey etc


Was you ever in Liverpool town
Where them flash girls do come down?
Only charge you half-a-crown.
Riding on a donkey

Way Hey etc


Was you ever in Quebec
Stowing timber on the deck?
Nearly break your bleeding neck
Riding on a donkey.

Way Hey and away we go
Donkey riding, donkey riding
Way hey, away we go
Riding on a donkey.

Recorded by Sharp As Razors
Play MP3
Donkey Riding, sung by Sharp As Razors
Was you ever in Miramichi?

With one exception, all the ports mentioned in this shanty are also major cities with very large populations: the odd-man-out is Miramichi, which is situated on the banks of the Miramichi River which flows into Miramichi Bay in the Canadian province of New Brunswick.

This smallish town can muster a mere 18,000 souls, and only achieved this size in 1995 when Chatham, Newcastle and several smaller settlements were forcibly amalgamated into the new City of Miramichi. Originally settled by the French from 1650, they were expelled after Wolfe's victory at Quebec in 1759, and were largely replaced by Scottish settlers and loyalists from New England, followed by a large influx of Irish in the 1840s.

As the poor soils of the area did not favour agriculture, lumbering was the mainstay of the local economy, with the local timber much in demand for masts for the Royal Navy. The Atlantic salmon fishery also figured large, and a shipyard was established in 1773 to provide vessels for both these trades.

For some fifty years the area prospered, but in 1825 an enormous fire destroyed three million acres (over a quarter of the province's timber resources). Combined with the advent of steam power and steel-hulled ships, this led to a long, slow decline in the area's fortunes.


Famous residents include newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook, and shipbuilder Joseph Cunard, brother of Sir Samuel Cunard, founder of the famous shipping line. Joseph was not as successful as his brother, and was declared bankrupt in 1847, throwing many people in the region out of work. The ghost of a headless nun, beheaded by a mad trapper (or two sailors in search of buried treasure), is also said to haunt the area of French Cove.

Nowadays
Miramichi is famous as the home of the longest established folk music festival in Canada: the Miramichi Folksong Festival was established in 1958 to preserve local culture, and is still held there every August. Many local amateur performers are highlighted by the festival, often elderly traditional singers.

Other local institutions claiming the distinction of Canada's oldest are the Marine Hospital, built in 1830 for seamen and dock workers; and the Miramichi Salmon Conservation Centre, dating from 1873.




Way, hey, and away we go
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