14 March 2012

#107-108 Tommy’s on the Tops’l Yard / What is in the Pot A-boiling?

More chanties here that seem to have been cut from the same cloth as the “Sally Brown” framework—that is, they have similar melody shapes and “roll and go” in the refrains.

First is “Tommy’s on the Tops’l Yard.” This was a chanty that Hugill “picked up in the West Indies.” It seems to have been a short, quick chanty, for Hugill said it was used for the lighter royal halyards, or for tack and sheets.

Hugill gives an alternate second refrain, which is simply the same “roll and go” as the first. I wonder if that points to any more similarity to this historically noted chanty (already described in my “Sally Brown” post):

The Taskar [name of whaleship] is the thing to roll
     O ee roll & go
Her bottom’s round as any bowl!
     O ho roll & go

The only other author to print a version of this chanty was John Masefield in 1906, who called it “Roll and Go.”

There was a ship—she sailed to Spain,
     O. Roll and go;
There was a ship—she sailed to Spain,
     O Tommy's on the topsail yard.
There was a ship came home again,
What d'ye think was in her hold?
There was diamonds, there was gold,
And what was in her lazareet?
Good split peas and bad bull meat,
Many sailormen gets drowned,

In fact, even though Stan Hugill, in Shanties from the Seven Seas, said he learned his version from Tobago Smith, he used mostly these verses.

The other related chanty is a tidbit presented, under the name of its first line, “What is in the pot a-boiling?”,  by Cecil Sharp. It appeared in a 1916 article; collected from Robert Ellison in 1914. One verse only was given.

What is in the pot a-boiling?
     O row, heave and go.
Two sheep’s spunks and an apple dumpling,
     O row, heave and go.

Hugill reproduced it in his work. I fleshed out my rendition with more lyrics that I improvised.

That’s all there is of the odds and ends for now.

Boiling sheep’s spunks and dumplings,


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