Poor Old Horse - Shanty U.K. Archive

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Poor Old Horse

Shanties
Poor Old Horse
Poor Old Man
The Dead Horse



On longer voyages, such as to Australia, India or California, the end of the first month at sea would often see the enactment of a
ceremony called 'paying off the dead horse'. Hugill says "The ceremony ... became a rather half-hearted affair in the latter days of sail, whereas in days gone by it was a spectacular effort, particularly in the emigrant ships, and one of the best descriptions is given in Reminiscences of Travel in Australia, America, and Egypt, by R Tangye (London, 1884). Click on the link to read Tangye's description of the ceremony.

According to Hugill the shanty was originally used only at this ceremony, but as that gradually fell into disuse, it was put to use as a regular halyard shanty.

Roud Number 3724
Click to play MIDI file
Poor Old Horse
Poor Old Horse

A poor old man came a-riding by,

And we say so! And we hope so

Says I, "Old man, your horse will die".

Oh, poor old horse!


And if he dies we'll tan his hide,

And we say so! And we hope so

But if he lives we'll ride him again.

Oh, poor old horse!


For a month a rotten life we've led,

And we say so! And we hope so

While you've lain in your feather bed.

Oh, poor old horse!


But now that month is up, old Turk,

And we say so! And we hope so

Get up, you swine, and look for work.

Oh, poor old horse!


Get up, you swine, and look for graft,

And we say so! And we hope so

While we lays on, and yanks you aft.

Oh, poor old horse!


And after work and sore abuse,

And we say so! And we hope so

We'll salt you down for sailor's use.

Oh, poor old horse!


He's as dead as a nail in the lamproom door,

And we say so! And we hope so

And he won't come hazing us no more.

Oh, poor old horse!


We'll hoist him up to the main yardarm,

And we say so! And we hope so

And drop him down to the bottom of the sea.

Oh, poor old horse!


We'll sink him down with a long, long roll,

And we say so! And we hope so

Where the sharks 'll have his body, and the devil have his soul!

Oh, poor old horse!


I thought I heard the Old Man say,

And we say so! And we hope so

Just one more pull and then belay!

Oh, poor old horse!


Recorded by Sharp As Razors
Play MP3
Poor Old Horse, sung by Sharp As Razors
Sir Richard Tangye

Richard Trevithick Tangye was not your average travel writer, but a major industrialist, and benefactor of the arts. His travel was business-related, visiting branches of his widespread empire in Johannesburg and Sydney.

He was born in 1833, the son of a Cornish farmer, and worked in the fields until breaking his right arm at the age of eight. Sent first to a Quaker school in Somerset, he subsequently obtained a clerkship with a Birmingham engineering company, where he mastered the intricacies of the trade.

In 1857 he and two of his brothers started their own business in Birmingham, making hydraulic equipment, especially lifting jacks. The next year his jacks were successfully used in the launching of I K Brunel's massive steamship the SS Great Eastern. This brought them to wider public notice and gained them much new business: Tangye later said "We launched the Great Eastern and the Great Eastern launched us."

They were responsible for creating the hydraulic Cliff Lift at Saltburn-by-the-Sea in 1884, the oldest working water-powered cliff railway in Britain, and also branched out into steam and then gas engines, many of which can still be seen at work over a century later in remote outposts of the empire. Although the company stopped making engines after World War II, Tangye lifts, jacks and pumps are still being made and sold today.


In the 1880s the brothers founded the Birmingham Art Gallery and the Birmingham School of Art, and Richard was knighted in 1894. He was also a fanatical collector of Cromwelliana,
including Cromwell's Bible, button, coffin plate, death mask,funeral escutcheon, manuscripts, books, medals, paintings, etc. On his death in 1906 the collection was left to the Museum of London, where it can still be seen.

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