Flying Fish Sailor - Shanty U.K. Archive

Search
Go to content

Main menu

Flying Fish Sailor

Shanties
The Flying Fish Sailor

This shanty probably started ashore as "Knock a Man Down", sung by dock workers stowing cotton into  the holds of ships in the ports around the Gulf of Mexico. But the tune proved very popular, particularly with the Western Ocean "packet rats" and soon many different sets of words were set to it: Hugill gives no fewer than six distinct versions. Many of these were also fitted to other tunes. Hugill gives it for tops'l halyards.

Flying Fish sailors was the name given to those whose voyages took them to the Pacific and Far East: Singapore, China, Japan and Australia all offered warm and sunny climates, in sharp contrast to the gales and storms and fogs of the Atlantic. This
easier life caused them to be regarded as "softies" by the Packet Rats of the Black Ball line, who had to endure not only the harsh climate, but also the harsh discipline of their "bully" officers.


Other versions:

The Fishes
The Blackball Line
Blow The Man Down


The Milkmaid
Bungyereye


Roud 2624
Click to play MIDI file
Flying Fish Sailor
The Flying Fish Sailor

I'm a flying  fish sailor just home from Hong Kong!"  

To me wey-hey, blow the man down

If you give me some whisky, I'll sing you a song

Gimme some time to blow the man down


As I was a-rolling down Paradise Street
A handsome fat policeman I chanced for to meet

He says "You're a Black Baller by the cut of your hair;
And them long red-topped sea boots that I see you wear.

You've come from some packet that flies the Black Ball
You've robbed some poor Dutchman of his boots, clothes and all."

Says I to the policeman, "You do me much wrong,
I'm a flying fish sailor just home from Hong Kong!"

So I spat in his face and I stove in his jaw.
Says he, "My young sailor, you're breaking the law"

So they gave me six months, boys, in old Walton town
For booting and kicking and blowing  him down.

So all you young sailors, before we belay
Stay clear of fat policemen: you'll find it'll pay

And it's blow the man down, bullies,  blow the man down

To me wey-hey, blow the man down

Blow him right back into Liverpool town.

Gimme some time to blow the man down

Recorded by Stormalong John
Play MP3
Blow The Man Down: Stormalong John
Blow The Man Down, Recorded by Stormalong John
Variations


Having a strong story line, the Flying Fish Sailor could also be sung at pumps and capstans, where the job would last much longer than halyard work. The addition of this grand chorus after every verse made it last longer and gave the shantyman more time to remember the next verse!


And it's blow the man down,  bullies, blow the man down

Timme way hey, blow the man down

Oh, Blow him right back into Liverpool town

Gimme some time to blow the man down!


In a 1980 recording Stan Hugill concludes the shanty with these additional verses:

We're a Liverpool ship with a Liverpool crew
A Liverpool mate, and a Scouse skipper too.

We're Liverpool born and we're Liverpool bred
Thick in the arm, boys, and thick in the head

Blow the man down,  bullies, blow the man down,

Timme way hey, blow the man down

With a crew of hard cases from Liverpool town

Gimme some time to blow the man down!





 
Back to content | Back to main menu