Running Down To Cuba - Shanty U.K. Archive

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Running Down To Cuba

Running Down to Cuba

Why would anyone be running down to Cuba "with a load of sugar" when Cuba was one of the world's largest sugar producers? It doesn't make sense - but then it wasn't meant to.

n Stan Hugill's "Shanties from the Seven Seas" he quotes a passage from a book by Rex Clements published in 1924, "A Gipsy of the Horn - Life in a Deep-Sea Sailing Ship" which explains it all.

There was even a shanty for doing nothing at all. It was like the others with solo and chorus and was sometimes started by a discontented crowd who felt they were having their old iron worked up unnecessarily. One of the men would begin: "I've got a sister nine foot high" and was taken up by the chorus, "Way down in Cuba" but instead of heaving, the words were followed by three short jumps. It was very infrequently heard and always came to an abrupt end after the first line, in obedience to an angry order from the mate - "Stop that!"

Round Number 8820
Click to play MIDI file
Running Down to Cuba
Running Down to Cuba

We're bound
to Cuba with a load of sugar,

'Way, me boys, for Cuba!

So make her run, you lime-juice sailors,

Running down to Cuba.

Running down
with a press of sail
Flinging water over the rail

O, good Lord,how the wind do blow
For our old man he cracks on so

I've got a sister nine foot tall

Sleeps in the kitchen with her feet in the hall

I've got a
sister, and her name is Jane
Can you can guess where she gives me a pain

Give me a g
irl can dance Fandango
Breasts like a melon and as sweet as mango

Running down, me bucko boys
Let's all haul and make some noise.

ing sugar on the homeward go
Mister Mate, he told me so

Bound away at the break of day

'Way, me boys, for Cuba!

One more pull and then belay

Running down to Cuba.

(Some groups sing it with a grand chorus, repeating
'Way, me boys, for Cuba! Running down to Cuba' twice after each verse).

Recorded by Stormalong John and Short Drag Roger
Play MP3
Running Down to Cuba, sung by Stan Hugill with Stormalong John
Running Down to Cuba, sung by Short Drag Roger

Little seems to be known about Rex Clements, other than the books he wrote in the 1920s and '30s. These include the intriguingly named "Manavilins" (1928). a muster of sea-songs, as distinguished from shanties, written for the most part by seamen, and sung on board Ship during the closing years of the Age of Sail 1890-1910. Its meaning is explained in the introduction:

“The word ‘manavilins’ will be found in no dictionary. It is a product of the deep sea, salt-encrusted and untouched; a fragment of sailor language native to the Trades and blown solitudes further south. Familiar in the mouths of sailors of the sail, it has not survived into the days of steam nor become a part of the speech of folk ashore. It would be rash to hazard a guess as to the origin of the word. Like ‘shennanikin’ it defies the philologist. One can only say that it was used to denote unconsidered trifles, the ‘crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table;’ in other words, those delectable scraps of sea-pie, plum duff and the like, left over from the cabin table, which occasionally found their way for’ard to supplement the more Spartan fare of half-deck and foc’sle.”

... and then belay
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