This being one of the more popular chanties, Stan Hugill’s Shanties from the Seven Seas includes several different versions, including borrowings into foreign languages.
“Goodbye, Fare You Well,” though it has the binary, solo-refrain-solo-refrain form of many a halyard chanty, strikes me as a song originating from the side of Euro/American culture. Though it certainly could have existed earlier, we don’t get a sense that it was necessarily prevalent before the 1860s. As I noted in the discussion of “Rio Grande,” I feel that whereas earlier “chanties” had the air of Black American songs, by the time the genre had become ubiquitous in the 1860s—and so, “generalized” or “liberalized” or “shared” or whatever you would call it—new chanties of a “White” character were free to develop (at least for the work outside of halyards). This was a windlass chanty with a jaunty 6/8 feel, a temporary melodic modulation, and a particular style of language that, I think, makes it more likely to have belonged to that category. If it means anything, Frank Bullen would have agreed. For whereas he stated that most chanties were of Black origin, and his comments on chanties in his collection (Songs of Sea Labour, 1914) further detail this belief, for the notes of “Good-bye, Fare-you-well” he says,
…an old, old favourite with the white sailor, but it is full of melancholy…probably more frequently sung than any other Chanty when getting under weigh either outward or homeward bound.
The one verse he gave was as follows:
I thought I heard our old man say
Good bye fare you well , good bye fare you well
I thought I heard our old man say
Hurah my boys we’re ho-omeward bound!
By coincidence, the first recorded version I made of this chanty is a bit like Bullen’s.
Several sailors who were active in the 1860s offered versions of this chanty later on.
We are homeward bound, come, let us all sing.
Good-by, fare you well; good-by, fare you well.
We are homeward bound, strike up with a ring.
Hurrah, my boys, we are homeward bound.
Then I thought I heard our old man say
That our store of grog gave out yesterday.
So heave her up, we are bound to go
Around Cape Horn through frost and snow.
Hurrah, my boys, we are homeward bound;
We are homeward bound to Liverpool town.
And when we get there we'll have money to spend,
With lots of good cheer, boys, and lashings of rum.
The landlord will greet us with a bow and a smile,
A-saying, "Get up Jack and let John sit down."
But when your money it is all gone
Then in comes the landlord with a frown.
A-saying, "Young man, it is time you were gone,
1 have a ship for you bound out to Hongkong."
So shake her up, bullies; let us be gone,
And sing the good news, we are homeward bound.
[Buryeson, Fred H. [‘El Tuerto’]. 1909. “Sea Shanties.” Coast Seamen’s Journal 22(40) (23 June).]
Buryeson’s version has some verses that evoke the theme of the forebitter, “Outward and Homeward Bound” (to be discussed later), which does seem to get crossed a bit with this chanty due to the “Hurrah! We’re homeward bound!” trope. Or perhaps, as Hugill says, the forebitter is simply being used for material—which would also explain the tendency for the language/lyrics to be more “English” sounding. The earliest known detailed printing of the chanty, which comes in 1968’s “On Shanties,” also has this theme in the lyric:
To Liverpool docks we'll bid adieu,
Good-bye, fare you well;
To lovely Poll, and pretty Sue;
Hurrah, brave boys, we're outward bound.
A version along these lines is Hugill’s (B):
For variety (and because Hugill only offers one melody for all his versions), I used the unique melody given in Harlow’s collection for that one.
Whall (ca. 1861-1872)
The opening few bars of melody in this version are distinctly different than those of most others in print version.
O, fare you well, I wish you well!
Good-bye, fare you well; good-bye, fare you well!
O, fare you well, my bonny young girls!
Hoorah, my boys, we’re homeward bound!
O, don't you hear our old man say
We're homeward bound this very day?
We're homeward bound, and I hear the sound,
So heave on the capstan and make it spin round.
Our anchor's a-weigh and our sails they are set,
And the girls we are leaving we leave with regret.
She's a flash clipper packet and bound for to go.
With the girls on her tow-rope she cannot say no.
[Whall, W.B. 1913. Ships, Sea Songs and Shanties. Third edition, enlarged. Glasgow: James Brown & Sons.]
Some of the versions from sailors of the 1870s are as follows.
As in some versions (but unlike Hugill’s), its melody’s first bar begins on a high and descends.
Oh Homeward Bound is a joyful cry,
Goodby, fare you well, Goodby fare you well.
We wish you all well, in this hearty goodby.
Hurrah my boys, we’re Homeward Bound.
[Robinson, Captain John. “Songs of the Chanty-Man: IV.” The Bellman 23(577) (4 Aug. 1917): 123-128.]
"We're homeward bound!" I've heard them say;
Good by, fare you well, good bye, fare you well!
We're homeward bound to Mobile Bay.
Hurrah, my boys, we're homeward bound!
When we get there, won't we fly round!
With the gals we find there we will raise merry hell.
When we are hauling in the Waterloo Dock,
Where the boys and the gals on the pier-head do flock,
And one to the other you'll hear them say,
"Here comes jolly Jack and his eighteen months' pay!"
Then we'll go up to the Dog and the Bell,
And the landlord he'll come in with his face all in smiles,
Saying, "Drink up, Jack, for it's worth your while!"
But when you money is all gone and spent,
There's none to be borrowed nor none to be lent.
Then you'll see him come in with a frown,
And then you'll hear him to the other man say,
"Get up there, Jack, and let John sit down!"
When your pocketbook's full and your name it is John,
But when you are broke then your name it is Jack.
That one also has shades of the “Homeward Bound” forebitter. Calling home as “Mobile Bay” seems to have just been the result of rhyme and the place’s general ubiquity in chanties, since the rest of the “narrative” would indicate Liverpool.
American sailor Capt. Leighton Robinson, on a 1939 recording, sang of an equally popular destination,
We're homeward bound for 'Frisco town.
And in James H. William’s (c. 1875-1888) version, it’s said,
We're homeward bound, from Hong Kong town,
We're homeward bound, heave up and down.
[Williams, James H. “The Sailors’ ‘Chanties’.” The Independent (8 July 1909):76-83.]
Yet still it was “Liverpool” that was most commonly documented, as in this:
We’re homeward bound, ah! That’s the sound!
Good-by, fare you well, Good-by, fare you well,
We’re homeward bound, to Liverpool town.
Hurrah! My lads, we’re homeward bound.
[Whitmarsh, H. Phelps. “The Chantey-man.” Harper’s Monthly Magazine 106(632) (Jan. 1903): 319-323.]
This straight-up version is represented by Hugill’s (A). This was my second go at recording it, to better match what Hugill wrote (my earlier attempt, above, being more personalized and whimsical).
Versions documented while chanties were still in wide use include the one in the shipboard newspaper of the steamship Parramatta, from London to Sydney in the fall of 1879 (noted by Haswell, later reproduced in LA Smith’s 1888 collection). It borrowed the narrative theme from “The Dreadnaught”. It’s on the basis of this evidence, I believe, that Hugill decided to offer his Version (D):
(For variation, again, I chose a different melody for the above—this time, Bullen’s.)
When Luce came out with his Naval Songs (1883), he gave one verse. The funny thing is, he indicates it was a halyard chanty. Not surprising, perhaps, but unusual
FOR “SHEETING HOME” TOPSAILS
We're outward bound this very day.
Goodbye, fare you well, Goodbye fare you well.
We're outward bound this very day.
Hurrah! My boys we're outward bound.
Hugill claimed that, similarly, the “Milkmaid” theme was spliced to this chanty. I’ve not seen that elsewhere. Here’s my rendition of Hugill’s Version (C).
Moving on to the 1920s era of popular chanty collections, there is the version presented by RR Terry in his first book (1921). Terry’s note that this popular song was never debased with vulgar lyrics is contradicted by Hugill’s above “Milkmaid” version.
1. I thought I heard the old man say
Good-bye, fare ye well, Good-bye, fare ye well.
I thought I heard the old man say,
Hooray my boys we're homeward bound.
2. We're homeward bound, I hear the sound. (twice)
3. We sailed away to Mobile Bay. (twice)
4. But now we're bound for Portsmouth Town. (twice)
5. And soon we'll be ashore again. (twice)
6. I kissed my Kitty upon the pier
And it's oh to see you again my dear.
7. We're homeward bound, and I hear the sound. (twice)
Finally, Hugill notes that there was one other melodic form he’d heard. This is it:
Then come non-English versions, two Norwegian and two French. They retain English-language choruses.
The first Norwegian fragment was lifted from the Norwegian songs section of L.A. Smith’s The Music of the Waters.
The second comes from Brochmann’s 1916 Norwegian shanties collection.
The first French version keeps the usual form, but replaces the second chorus with a “hourra oh Mexico!” This was the first full French chanty I recorded, and the pronunciation is particularly shoddy, as I was still getting used to the even-more-ridiculous-than-English French orthography!
The second French version is well known. Evidently it became popular after being spruced up and presented in Capt. Armand Hayet’s 1927 Chansons de Bord collection. As soon after as 1932, it had been recorded by popular French singer Lys Gauty.
There is much to wonder about here, with regards to how authentic this form may have been. It appears to fuse “Goodbye, Fare you well” with melodic phrases of “Blow the Man Down.” Incidentally, this is one of the few (only?) foreign songs I’ve heard on recordings of Stan Hugill (here).
Here’s my go at it—a great melody, and the French really just rolls off the tongue nicely!
For a last, comparable version, see “Those Girls from Bermuda,” sung by the whalefishers of Barrouallie and documented in Roger Abrahams’ Deep the Water, Shallow the Shore (1974).