Rio Grande - Shanty U.K. Archive

Search
Go to content

Main menu

Rio Grande

Shanties
Rio Grande

Hugill tells us that Bound for the Rio Grande was one of the favourite shanties among outward bound British vessels at anchor capstan or windlass, but it was also popular in American ships according to Doerflinger.

Hugill says that of all the work-songs of the sea, this is the one with the least variation in tune. But the words are a different matter: he goes on to list six different sets of verses, which can be mixed-and-matched with six different choruses! Add to this profusion of versions the choice of pronouncing Rio as Rye-o or Ree-o, and it becomes virtually impossible to give a "standard" version of the shanty.

Despite all these different versions and the disagreement about where it was used, all seem to be unanimous that the Rio Grande referred to in the song is not the one in Mexico (
Rio Grande del Norte), but the one in the southernmost part of Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul). See the panel below for more information of this area

Roud 317
Click to play MIDI file
Song title
Rio Grande

Our ship is a-sailing out over the bar,

Away for Rio!

We're pointing her bow to the southern star.

And we're bound for the Rio Grande!

Then away, boys, away,
Away for Rio,
So fare thee well, my bonny young girl,
We're bound for the Rio Grande.

Say was you never down Rio Grande?

Away for Rio!

It's there that the river flows down golden sand!

And we're bound for the Rio Grande!


It's pack up your donkeys an' get underway,

Away for Rio!

Them judies we're leaving will draw half our pay.

And we're bound for the Rio Grande!


We've a bully good ship & a bully good crew,

Away for Rio!

A bully good mate and a good skipper too.

And we're bound for the Rio Grande!


Cheer up, Mary Ellen, and don't look so glum,

Away for Rio!

On white-stocking day you'll be drinking hot rum

And we're bound for the Rio Grande!


So lift up your glasses and sing fare thee well

Away for Rio!

There's a bonny young lass there to love you so well

And we're bound for the Rio Grande!

Play MP3
Rio Grande, sung by Alan Whitbread
It's there that the rivers flow down golden sand ...


The state of Rio Grande do Sul is the most southerly in Brazil, and contains its largest wine producing area. South and west lie the pampas areas of Uruguay and Argentina, northward the rest of Brazil, while the eastern part of the state is a wide low-lying zone separated from the Atlantic by two great lagoons, navigable by the largest vessels, the Lagoa dos Patos and the Lagoa Mirim. For over 300 miles these are separated from the ocean by two barren peninsulas consisting mainly of sandy beach and dunes. The Rio Grande is not strictly a river, but forms a 24-mile long channel through this sandbar, enabling shipping to reach the lagoons and the navigable rivers beyond.


Porto Alegre (GPS -30.03, -51.23), at the north end of the Lagoa dos Patos, is the state capital, a major port, and a cultural and sporting centre, hosting events such as the largest annual book fair in the Americas and staging several matches in the 2014 soccer World Cup.

The city of Rio Grande itself (
GPS -32.03, -52.09) is the oldest city in the state, founded in 1737, and today it is Brazil's second busiest port, bearing the nickname Noiva do Mar (bride of the sea). Surrounded by water, and lying only about 30 feet above sea level, it is currently sinking by about a centimetre a year. It also claims the longest beach in the world with 155 miles of uninterrupted Atlantic coastline.

Back to content | Back to main menu