This popular capstan shanty has many names -
Words from other shanties could easily be fitted into this song if the job was taking a long time: 'Heave Away, Me Johnnies', 'The Banks of Newfoundland' and 'The Fireship', were often so used and Captain John Short of Watchett sang the shanty variously known as 'Yellow Meal', 'Lay Me Down' or 'The Irish Emigrant' to this tune and chorus.
As I walked out on South Street, a fair maid I did meet
Who asked me please to see her home she lived on Bleecker Street
And away, you Johnny, my dear honey
Oh you New York girls, you love us for our money
I said, "My dear young lady, I'm a stranger here in town
I left my ship just yesterday, from Liverpool I was bound."
I took her out to Tiffany's, I spared her no expense
I bought her two gold earrings, they cost me fifteen cents.
She said, "Come with me, dearie, I'll stand you to a treat
I'll buy you rum and brandy, dear, and tab-
And when we reached the bar-
That liquor was so awful strong, my head went round and round.
When the drinking it was over, we straight to bed did go
And little did I ever think she'd prove my overthrow
When I came to next morning, I had an aching head
And there was I, Jack-
But a lady's shift and apron which now belonged to me
Everything was silent, the hour was eight o'clock
I put my shift and apron on and headed for the dock
My shipmates seein' me come aboard, these words to me did say
"Well well, old chap, you've lost your cap since last you went away."
"Is this the new spring fashion the ladies wear ashore?
Where is the shop that sells it? Have they got any more?"
The Old Man cried, "why Jack, my boy, I'm sure I could have found
A better suit than that, by far, to buy for eighty pounds."
So come all you bully sailormen, take warning when ashore
Or else you'll meet some charming girl who's nothing but a whore
For Yankee girls are tougher than the other side of Hell.
The Lower East Side was where many voyages to New York ended with the sailors coming ashore looking for entertainment of all kinds. As early as 1816 the area round the shipyards and ferry terminal of the Corlear's Hook (GPS 40.71, -
Sailortown eventually extended a mile or two inland as far as Bleecker Street and the Bowery, (GPS 40.725, -
In the 18th century this had been an upmarket entertainment area, boasting taverns and theatres frequented by the best of New York society, but by the time of the American Civil War, these mansions and shops had given way to low-
A 1919 article in Century Magazine described the Bowery thus:
"Here, too, by the thousands come sailors on shore leave,—notice the 'studios' of the tattoo artists,—and here most in evidence are the 'down and outs'".
The area today has changed greatly: like many other dockland areas, gentrification has been rampant since the 1990s and in October 2011, the Bowery Historic District was registered with the New York State Register of Historic Places.