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Skipper Jan Rebek

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Skipper Jan Rebek

Skipper Jan Rebek appears to be a larger-than-life mythical master mariner with almost supernatural powers and appetites, a sort of cross between Stormy/Stormalong and Desperate Dan.

The shanty does not appear in Hugill, and may not have even existed when 'Shanties From The Seven Seas' was first published in 1961: Bob Walser's sleevenotes for his album 'Landlocked', state: "
According to Ian Woods, the late Angus Russell was the source of Skipper Jan Rebek. If Angus wrote the song, as some people think likely, I think he would have been pleased to have folk think it was traditional."

But the name of this superhero does appear to be derived from a real Dutch adventurer - see below for details.

Roud Number
Click to play MIDI file
Skipper Jan Rebek
Skipper Jan Rebek

Well who's the king of the fighting Dutch

Skipper Jan Rebek

And who do the sailors fear so much

Skipper Jan Rebek. And it's
Ja Ja leave your hammocks
Ja Ja hands on deck
Ja Ja break your backs
For Skipper Jan Rebek

And who can furl the main top-sail

Skipper Jan Rebek

All by himself  in a living gale

Skipper Jan Rebek. And it's
Ja Ja leave your hammocks
Ja Ja hands on deck
Ja Ja break your backs
For Skipper Jan Rebek

Who was it brought all the tea from China

Skipper Jan Rebek

And sold it all in Caroiina

Skipper Jan Rebek. And it's
Ja Ja leave your hammocks
Ja Ja hands on deck
Ja Ja break your backs
For Skipper Jan Rebek

And when he got a ship of his own

Skipper Jan Rebek

It was brute force kept him on the throne

Skipper Jan Rebek. And it's
Ja Ja leave your hammocks
Ja Ja hands on deck
Ja Ja break your backs
For Skipper Jan Rebek

And who can drink his weight in beer

Skipper Jan Rebek

And who takes two baths every year

Skipper Jan Rebek. And it's
Ja Ja leave your hammocks
Ja Ja hands on deck
Ja Ja break your backs
For Skipper Jan Rebek

Who sleeps with four girls every night

Skipper Jan Rebek

One Black, one Yellow, one Red, one White

Skipper Jan Rebek. And it's
Ja Ja leave your hammocks
Ja Ja hands on deck
Ja Ja break your backs
For Skipper Jan Rebek

And who is the king of the fighting Dutch

Skipper Jan Rebek

And who do the sailors fear so much

Skipper Jan Rebek. And it's
Ja Ja leave your hammocks
Ja Ja hands on deck
Ja Ja break your backs
For Skipper Jan Rebek


Recorded by Dutch Courage
Play MP3
Skipper Jan Rebek, sung by Dutch Courage
Jan van Riebeeck

Jan van Riebeeck was born in 1619 in the Netherlands town of Culemborg, the son of a surgeon. He joined the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as assistant surgeon and was posted to Batavia, the present-day Jakarta.

After service in Japan, he was put in charge of the VOC trading post in the Tonkin region of Vietnam, but was recalled to Holland when it was discovered that he had been doing some trading on his own account (
perhaps selling tea in Carolina?).

He eventually regained favour, and on 6th April 1652 landed with three ships to set up a staging post, at what is now Cape Town in Table Bay to enable
VOC ships bound for the Indies to take on supplies of fresh food and water. Up till then scurvy had been a huge problem on long voyages with death rates of 40%, but it was known that recovery was quick once on shore. Wine was also known to be better than water for preventing scurvy, so he imported vines from Europe, with the first pressing in autumn 1659.

After 10 years as Commander of the Cape, he continued his career further east with the VOC, being promoted to Secretary to the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies . His wife, who bore him eight sons, died in Malacca in 1664 en route to this new post, but he lived a further 13 years, dying in Batavia in 1677, at the age of 57 without returning to the Netherlands. His son, Abraham van Riebeeck, was born at the Cape and later attained the rank of Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies.

Jan van Riebeeck's significance in South Africa remains huge, with many Afrikaaners regarding him as the founding father of their nation. Up to the mid-1990s, his image appeared on bank notes and postage stamps, while April 6th was a public holiday, known intially as Van Riebeeck's Day, and latterly as Founders' Day. Many towns have streets named after him, and there is a statue of him and his wife in Cape Town. The city's coat of arms is based on that of the Van Riebeeck family.

Ja, ja, hands on deck
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