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Liverpool Judies

Shanties
Liverpool Judies
Row, Bullies, Row
Roll, Julia, Roll
Towrope Girls





Stan Hugill call this a "very favourite" capstan shanty in Liverpool ships, popular in Western Ocean Packets from the 1840s. He points out that many versions contain lines from other shanties such as A Long Time Ago, Blow The Man Down, Sacramento, and Time For Us To Go (a.k.a. A Hundred Years Ago), but that he is the only collector to call it a shanty - all the others classed this as a Forebitter (off-duty song). In this version the sailor is "shanghaied" by an American
crimp, but our home-bred crimps were no whit less voracious than those of New York or San Francisco.

In the chorus some people sing "Row" and others sing "Roll"; again some sing "Bullies" while others prefer "Julia": it's entirely a matter of individual taste. Sing whatever you want to -
real shantymen did, and no-one ever told them they'd got the wrong words.

Roud Number 928
Click to play MIDI file
Liverpool Judies
Liverpool Judies

When I was a young man I sailed with the rest

On a Liverpool packet bound out to the west
We anchored one day in the harbour of Cork
Then we put out to sea for the port of New York

And it's row, row bullies. Ho!
Them Liverpool Judies have got us in tow

For thirty-two days we was hungry and sore
The winds were agin' us, the seas they did roar
Then off Battery Point we anchored at last
With our jib boom stove in but our canvas all fast

And it's row, row bullies. Ho!
Them Liverpool Judies have got us in tow


Them boarding-house masters was out in a trice
A-smiling and promising all that was nice
And one fat old crimp took a liking to me
Says he, "You're a fool, lad, to follow the sea."

And it's row, row bullies. Ho!
Them Liverpool Judies have got us in tow


Says he, "There's a job, lad, just waiting for you
With lashings of liquor and sod-all to do.
Well, what you say lad? Will you jump her too?"
Says I, "You old bastard, I'm damned if I do."

And it's row, row bullies. Ho!
Them Liverpool Judies have got us in tow


But after thirty-two days at the door of the bar
The best of intentions they never get far.
So I tossed off my liquor, and what do you think?
That lousy old bastard had doctored my drink.

And it's row, row bullies. Ho!
Them Liverpool Judies have got us in tow


Next thing I remember is, I woke in the morn
On a three-skysail-yarder bound out round the Horn
With an old suit of oilskins and two pair of socks
And a bloody thick head and a dose of the …….. flu!

And it's row, row bullies. Ho!
Them Liverpool Judies have got us in tow


So all you young FELLOWS take warning by me
Keep an eye on your drink when liquor is free
And pay no attention to runner or whore
Or your head'll be thick and your dick’ll be sore

And it's row, row bullies. Ho!
Them Liverpool Judies have got us in tow


Recorded by Jim Radford
Play MP3
Liverpool Judies, sung by Jim Radford
One fat old crimp ...


In the mid 19th century Liverpool,
along with London and Cardiff, was notorious for the sheer scale and corruption of crimping operations carried out. In theory, crimps provided lodgings for sailors returning from voyages and recruited new crews for departing vessels. But with no effective regulation, it became a very profitable way of relieving Sailor John of his hard-earned pay.

The crimps employed "runners" to go out to meet incoming vessels and entice sailors to lodge at their boarding house, where they would be provided with accommodation,
food, female company, and liquor (often drugged), all at extortionate prices. This usually meant that the sailor ended up owing the crimp all the pay he had just collected from his recent voyage and all his advance for his next voyage. Many a sailor enjoying this "hospitality" woke the next day to find himself aboard an outward bound vessel, whither his unconscious form had been carried by the runners.

In many cases crimps and their runners didn't even bother with enticement, but resorted to outright kidnapping - often boarding incoming ships in broad daylight and forcibly removing sailors in defiance of the officers. It was not unknown for an outward-bound vessel which, having left the docks, was awaiting the morning tide, to be
boarded and the sleeping crew kidnapped.

Some of the better-known Liverpool crimps and boarding house keepers were '
Shanghai' Davies, Paddy 'Dreadnought', John 'the Yank' Da Costa, John De Moot, Paddy Houlihan, and 'Rapper' Brown. Paddy Doyle didn't resort to violence but specialised in palming off 'greenhorns' (who had never even been to sea) as fully experienced seamen, while Ma Smyrden is reputed to have actually sold a corpse, claiming that the man was drugged.

Pay no attention to runner ...
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