Hooker John - Shanty U.K. Archive

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Hooker John

Shanties
Hooker John

In Shanties From The Seven Seas, Hugill gives a version he collected in the West Indies in 1931 consisting of the first four verses below. Carpenter collected a related song in Sunderland in 1929 from the 95-year-old Captain Mark Page, called Mary's on the Island and Whall gives a single verse and chorus in his Sea Songs and Shanties:

O my Mary she's a blooming lass,
To my Ooker John, my Oo-John, (repeat)
Way, fair lady, O way-ay-ay-ay-ay,
My Mary's on the highland,O yonder's Mary - yonder…


In Hugill's opinion, it probably originated as a cotton-stower's song, but judging from the words he thought that, "in spite of the Negro tune, some Scotsman or North Countryman had a hand in this version."

Roud Number 22264
Click to play MIDI file
Hooker John
Hooker John

Oh, Mary she's a sailor's lass

To me Hooker John, me Hoo-John!

We courted all night on the grass

To me Hooker John, me Hoo-John!
Way Susanna, way, hay, high high-ya
Johnny's on the foreyard,
Yonder, way up yonder


Now, Susie she's a sailor's girl

To me Hooker John, me Hoo-John!

She's nine foot high that girl's so tall

To me Hooker John, me Hoo-John!
Way Susanna, way, hay, high high-ya
Johnny's on the foreyard,
Yonder, way up yonder


Flora she's a hoosier's friend

To me Hooker John, me Hoo-John!

She's large around the old beam end

To me Hooker John, me Hoo-John!
Way Susanna, way, hay, high high-ya
Johnny's on the foreyard,
Yonder, way up yonder


But, Sally Brown she's the girl for me

To me Hooker John, me Hoo-John!

She courts with me while her man's at sea

To me Hooker John, me Hoo-John!
Way Susanna, way, hay, high high-ya
Johnny's on the foreyard,
Yonder, way up yonder


Let's haul away for Mobile Bay

To me Hooker John, me Hoo-John!

Let's haul away and earn some pay

To me Hooker John, me Hoo-John!
Way Susanna, way, hay, high high-ya
Johnny's on the foreyard,
Yonder, way up yonder


I thought I heard the old man say

To me Hooker John, me Hoo-John!

Just one more pull and then belay

To me Hooker John, me Hoo-John!
Way Susanna, way, hay, high high-ya
Johnny's on the foreyard,
Yonder, way up yonder

Recorded by Monkeys Fist
Play MP3
Hooker John, sung by Monkeys Fist
Old Hookers ....

Hooker is a name given to various types of sailing craft over the years, but a web search for Hooker Boats will nowadays lead you to the Australian company of that name who build very powerful sea-going recreational craft.

The Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea, says it is a development of the original ketch, a short, tubby little vessel with main and mizenmasts. She was a fishing vessel, used mainly for line fishing. She became a type of vessel distinct from the generic ketch, early in the 18th century. The rig was much favoured by Dutch fishing craft.

Any vessel used for fishing with lines and hooks could be termed a Hooker, but in Ireland the Galway Hooker is a single-masted boat with two foresails, suited to the strong seas in the area. Formerly used for fishing or for general cargo work, they are nowadays more often seen at regattas and races.


Galway Hooker

And finally Hooker became a contemptuous term among mariners for any clumsy, old-fashioned vessel which has lost her early bloom, or come down in the world; perhaps the equivalent term for an iron-hulled ship would be  "rustbucket".

For hookers of the female variety, see New York Gals

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