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Goodbye Fare Thee Well

Shanties
Goodbye, Fare Thee Well

Stan Hugill calls this Goodbye, fare-ye-well, and says it was probably the most popular homeward bound shanty of them all. As well as a variant of the "standard" revival version he gives three other sets of words to the same tune: all three lyrics are also commonly found in other shanties. "Homeward Bound" is the title Doerflinger uses: he also gives a single tune and three sets of words often found in other shanties.

Whatever the title or lyrics, its main use was at windlass or capstan when raising the anchor for a homeward voyage. Although agreeing that it was very common in the nitrate ports of the West Coast of South America, Hugill and Doerflinger differ
again here over what used to happen.


Doerflinger says that on the eve of sailing the crew would swing a blazing tar barrel aloft and serenade the other ships in harbour with singing and cheering; on sailing day as the crew raised the anchor to this shanty cheering rang out from the other ships in port to wish them well.

Hugill, on the other hand, relates what Capt. Frank Shaw says in Splendour of the Seas
(London 1953), that other crews would come on board to help with raising the anchor, and up to two hundred men might be heaving and singing the same shanty.


As Hugill himself was fond of saying "different ships, different long splices": believe whom you wish and sing what you will.

Roud Number 927
Click to play MIDI file
Goodbye, Fare Thee Well
Goodbye, Fare Thee Well

Oh, we're homeward bound for Liverpool town

Goodbye, fare thee well, Goodbye, fare thee well.

Them Liverpool judies they all will come down.

Hurrah, my boys, we're homeward bound.


We're homeward bound for the girls of the town

Goodbye, fare thee well, Goodbye, fare thee well.

So stamp up my hearties, and heave her around,

Hurrah, my boys, we're homeward bound


We're a fine flashy packet and bound for to go,

Goodbye, fare thee well, Goodbye, fare thee well.

With the girls on the towrope we can not say no.

Hurrah, my boys, we're homeward bound


And when we get to the old Mersey Bar,

Goodbye, fare thee well, Goodbye, fare thee well.

Them girls will come flocking from near and from far.

Hurrah, my boys, we're homeward bound


We'll meet them fly girls and we'll ring the old bell,

Goodbye, fare thee well, Goodbye, fare thee well.

With the girls that we meet there we'll raise bloody hell.

Hurrah, my boys, we're homeward bound


And one to another you'll hear them all say,

Goodbye, fare thee well, Goodbye, fare thee well.

Here comes Jack with his fourteen months pay.

Hurrah, my boys, we're homeward bound


I'll tell my old woman when I get back home,

Goodbye, fare thee well, Goodbye, fare thee well.

Them flash girls on Lime Street won't leave me alone.

Hurrah, my boys, we're homeward bound


We're homeward bound And I'll have you to know

Goodbye, fare thee well, Goodbye, fare thee well.

It's over the water to England we'll go,

Hurrah, my boys, we're homeward bound


Liverpool Pilot Cutter No. 2

Recorded by Sharp As Razors
Play MP3
Goodbye, Fare Thee Well, sung by Sharp As Razors
And when we get to the old Mersey Bar ...


The Mersey Bar was not a low dive where sailors got drunk, but a series of dangerous sandbanks barring the approaches to Liverpool. Because of the strong currents these sandbanks were constantly shifting, and great care was needed to navigate the narrow channels in order to get in and out of port safely.

In an attempt to reduce the dangers, Trinity House provided four lightships guarding the approaches to the Mersey, not always successfully: Hughie Jones' song tells how, in 1909:

Just a mile from the Bar Lightship,
By a mighty wave Ellan Vannin was hit".


Planet
was the last of the Bar lightships, and served from 1960 to 1972. She can now be seen in the Canning Dock in Liverpool still with B_A_R painted in large letters along the ship's side. In January 2012 the owner announced plans to turn it into a floating bar with Bed and Breakfast accommodation.


But lightships were not enough to guarantee a safe passage: ships leaving or entering the port also needed a pilot who knew the channels and currents. With the formation of the
Liverpool Pilotage Authority in 1766 it became compulsory for all vessels on the Mersey to use the services of a qualified pilot. In 1858 this responsibility was transferred to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board (and little lambs eat ivy).

The pilot cutters worked in teams of four boats, with one stationed off the Mersey Bar, one off Anglesey, one acting as supply boat for the other two and one in dock on standby. Each cutter carried ten pilots, and such was the volume of traffic that there were often seven or eight separate teams waiting off the Bar at the same time.

Pilots of outward bound ships would board at the Princess Landing Stage, and transfer to the pilot cutter after crossing the bar, while inward bound vessels would pick up their pilot here. Pilots originally boarded and left ships using a flat-bottomed punt but these were replaced by larger boats in the 1850s, making the transfer both easier and safer.


Steam cutters were introduced in 1896 and within eight years had totally replaced the sailing cutters. But their supremacy was short-lived: the last of the steam cutters entered service in 1936, these being replaced in their turn by diesel-electric powered vessels after the war. The
Edmund Gardner was one such, serving from 1953 to 1981 and is the only preserved large pilot boat in the northern hemisphere. She now lies in dry dock by the Merseyside Maritime Museum, and tours of the ship are available on summer Thursdays and Saturdays.

After over 200 years  of sterling service, the last cutter was finally phased out in the early 1980s.The pilotage service is now maintained by high-speed launches based at the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company headquarters at Seaforth docks.

Goodbye, old ship of mine
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