Jolly Roving Tar - Shanty U.K. Archive

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Jolly Roving Tar

Shanties
Jolly Roving Tar
Get up Jack: John, Sit Down



This is not a shanty by the strict definition of the term (a song used by sailors to assist in shipboard work) but is a good example of a "forebitter" - a song that sailors would sing for their own pleasure in their off-duty leisure hours, quite often with instrumental accompaniment.

It does not feature in the shanty singer's "bible", Stan Hugill's Shanties From the Seven Seas (1961), and although there is a 19th century broadsheet ballad entitled 'Jolly Roving Tar' (Roud No. 913) it is a completely different song about a young maiden lamenting for her love away at sea.

The sailor's ditty tells of Jack's treatment when he's ashore, and modern
versions appear to derive from one collected in New England in 1940/41 from Mrs Lena  Bourne Fish (1873-1945).

Roud Number 2807
Click to play MIDI file
Jolly Roving Tar
Jolly Roving Tar

Ships may come and ships may go
As long as the seas do roll.
But a sailor lad just like his dad,
He loves the flowing bowl.
The woman ashore he does adore:
A girl who's plump and round.
When your money's all gone,
It's the same old song,
"Get up Jack! John, sit down!"

Come along, come along, me jolly brave boys,
There's plenty more grog in the jar.
We'll plough the briny ocean
Like a jolly roving tar.


When Jack's ashore, he'll make his way
To some old boarding house.
He's welcomed in with run and gin,
Likewise with pork and scouse.
He'll spend and spend and never offend
Till he lies drunk on the ground.
When his money's all gone,
It's the same old song,
"Get up Jack! John, sit down!"

Then Jack will slip on board some ship
Bound for India or Japan
In Asia there, the ladies fair
All love a sailor man.
He'll go ashore and he'll not scorn
To buy some girl a gown.
But when his money's all gone,
It's the same old song,
"Get up Jack! John, sit down!"

When Jack is worn and weatherbeat,
Too old to cruise about,
They'll let him stop in some rum shop,
Till eight bells calls him out.
Then he'll raise hands high and loud he'll cry,
"Thank Christ, I'm homeward bound.''
When his money's all gone,
It's the same old song,
"Get up Jack! John, sit down!"

Come along, come along, me jolly brave boys,
There's plenty more grog in the jar.
We'll plough the briny ocean
Like a jolly roving tar.

Recorded by Jim Radford
Play MP3
Jolly Roving Tar, sung by Jim Radford
"Grammy" Fish

Lena Bourne was born in 1873 and spent the first 24 years of her life in Black Brook, NY,  (GPS 44.4662, -73.7480) a small town in the Adirondack State Park, 300 miles from New York City, and only 50 miles from the Canadian border.

Like many traditional singers, Lena's main source of songs was her own family:
Stratton and Butler Bourne, her father and uncle, both had extensive repertoires, including songs of British and Irish origin, many reputedly kept in the family for over two hundred years. Stratton was a timber salesman who supplied the local iron trade with wood for charcoal burning, and in his travels he collected many songs from the people he met in the New England woods in the course of his business.

After her marriage she moved away from the Adirondacks and by 1940 she was living in Jaffrey, New Hampshire (GPS 4.81482, -72.0235), some two hundred miles to the South-east. Here she was "discovered" and visited by two teams of song collectors.

Helen Harkness Flanders used a disc recorder to record her in 1940, and her associate, Marguerite Olney returned later with the same recorder to increase the collection to some 175 songs. Later in 1940-41 the husband & wife team of Anne and Frank Warner collected nearly 100 songs in four recording sessions, about half of which had not been collected by Flanders or Olney.


This attention from outside collectors resulted in great interest from the local community in "Grammy" Fish and her songs, many never found anywhere else in North America. She was invited to give public performances at village halls and schools, and started a newsletter called “The Dreamer”. Taking very seriously her role as custodian of a precious traditional repertoire, she also filled several notebooks with the words of her "old songs" to be passed down to posterity.


It's the same old song ...
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