On Board Of The Kangaroo - Shanty U.K. Archive

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On Board Of The Kangaroo

On Board Of The Kangaroo

This song was actually composed by the music hall performer, Harry Clifton, and published in 1856. Many of Clifton's other compositions have also passed into the folk tradition over the last century and a half, such as The Calico Printer's Clerk; The Dark Girl Dressed in Blue; I'll Go and Enlist for a Soldier; Paddle Your Own Canoe; and The Watercress Girl.

The song has been quite extensively changed in its passage through generations of singers. Stan Hugill gives two versions in Shanties of the Seven Seas, both recorded by the BBC: one from Stanley Slade, the veteran Bristol shantyman, in 1942, and another from Elizabeth Cronin of Macroom, County Cork in 1952.

The original is shown below, and the folk-processed versions can be found on this website as Aboard The Kangaroo,
as the song is now more often known.

Roud 925
Click to play MIDI file
On Board Of The Kangaroo - H Clifton
On Board Of The Kangaroo, original tune by Harry Clifton, 1856
On Board Of the Kangaroo

Once I was a waterman and lived at home in ease.
Now I am a mariner and plough  the angry seas.
I thought I'd like seafarin life, so bid my love "adoo",
And shipp'd as Cook and Steward, boys, on board o' the 'Kangaroo'.

I never thought she would be false or ever prove untrue
When we sail'd away from  Milford Bay on board o' the 'Kangaroo'.

My love she was no foolish girl, her age it was two score.
My love was not a "Spinister" she'd been married twice before.
And they could not say it was her wealth that stole my heart away;
She was a starcher at a Laundresses for eighteen-pence a day.

"Oh, think of me, oh think of me," she mournfully did say,
"When you are in a furrin land, carousin' far away;
And take this lucky thrup'ny bit. 'twill make you bear  in mind
The loving, faithful, trusting heart you leave in tears behind."

"Cheer up, cheer up, my own true love, don't weep so bitterly."
But she sobb'd, and sigh'd, and chok'd, and cried, and couldn't say "goodbye".
"I shan't  be gone so very long, only month's a few.
And when I does come back again, in course, I'll marry you."

Our vessel it was homeward bound from many a furrin shore,
And many a furrin present unto my love I bore.

There was Tortoises  from Teneriffe, and toys from Timbuctoo,
A Chinese rat, and a Bengal cat, and a Bombay cockatoo.

Paid off, I sought her dwellin' in the "subbubs" of the town.
A hancient dame upon a line was hanging out a gown.
"Where is my love?"  "She's married, Sir, about six months ago,
To a smart young man what drives a van for Chaplin, Horne and Co."

Farewell to dreams of married life! to soap, to suds, and blue,
To "Glenfield starch" and "Harper Twelvetrees' washing powder" too.
I'll seek some far and distant clime. I can no longer stay,
And on some "Chinese Hottingtot I'll throw myself away.

I never thought she would be false or ever prove untrue
When we sailed away from  Milford Bay on board o' the Kangaroo.

as written by Harry Clifton, 1856 or 1865
(depending which website you believe!)
Product placement
Product placement is obviously not a new thing: manufacturers in the 1860s saw the Music Hall as a good place to promote their wares, and paid writers and performers to "push" the goods on stage. Glenfield Starch became so popular that another firm set up a works in Glenfield to be able to call their starch Glenfield too, but were prevented by a legal ruling of the House of Lords.

Chaplin, Horne and Co was described at the time as the largest coaching and carrying business in Great Britain, but was taken over by the London & North Western Railway in 1878.

Harper Twelvetrees 'Glycerine Soap-Powder' was made at the Imperial Works, Bromley-by-Bow, London
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