Monday, 10 October 2011

27: Liverpool Judies

I've just come back to the UK from Gloucester, Massachusetts, where they have a fantastic Tuesday night shanty session, and so I feel very much in the mood for a shanty. This is a very well known Capstan shanty. Hugill gives several variants of the words and of the tune, and it turns out that the version I'm using is a compilation from a couple of sources; the words are those Hugill gives in Shanties and Sailors' Songs, and the tune is one of the variants (B) that he gives in Shanties from the Seven Seas.

The theme of the song is shanghaiing - that is, kidnapping people to work on ships. In this version, the sailor is drugged by a 'crimp' (the term used for this kind of kidnapper) and wakes up on board a ship bound around Cape Horn. Hugill tells us "In the 1840s, when this shanty probably came into being, New York's sailortown was notorious for its crimps and boarding house masters."

Hugill also offers some explanation of the particular meaning of 'Liverpool Judies' in this song: "The phrase 'The Towrope Girls' was a common one in the days of sail. When a ship was homeward bound with a favourable wind someone would remark 'Aye, the gals 'ave got 'old of our towrope, me hearties!' They were a sort of magnet, supposedly pulling with sailors and their ship twoards the land... In the case of this shanty the common Liverpool word for a young girl was used - 'Judy'.

This song is #928 in the Roud folksong index and different versions are sometimes known by the title 'Liverpool Girls' or 'Row, bullies, row'.


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