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Admiral Benbow

[ Roud 227 ; Ballad Index PBB076 ; VWML AGG/7/269 , COL/6/51 ; trad.]

Admiral Benbow was a British Navy hero who was wounded in action in 1702 and later died of this wound.

Anne Gilchrist collected Admiral Benbow in Southport, Lancashire, in December 1905 from W. Bolton [VWML AGG/7/269] .

Admiral Benbow is commemorated in a song from the The Copper Family Song Book. Bob Copper sang it on April 3, 1952 on the BBC recording 17987 made by Seamus Ennis [VWML COL/6/51] , and in 1971 on the Copper Family's 4 LP box set, A Song for Every Season. Jon Copper sang it in 1998 on the CD Coppersongs 3: The Legacy Continues.

Danny Spooner sang Admiral Benbow on the 1968 album Soldiers and Sailors (Folksingers of Australia Volume 2). He noted:

This song refers to the action of August 19-24, 1702, between Benbow and the French squadron under Admiral du Casse off the coast of Santa Maria in the West Indies. Benbow, deserted by two of his ships, the Greenwich and Defiance, engaged and defeated the French. Severely wounded, he returned to his base where he caused Captains Kirby and Wade to be shot for desertion. He later died from the wounds he received. Benbow was affectionately known to his men as the ‘Brother Tar’ because of his service before the mast as an ordinary seaman before his promotion.

Tundra sang Admiral Benbow on their 1981 Greenwich Village album Songs from Greenwich. They commented in their sleeve notes:

Admiral John Benbow was famous among the British Navy, not only for such courageous exploits as this but for the fact that he rose through the ranks to become an Admiral, an achievement unheard of in his time. While he was in lodgings in Greenwich, Benbow was taken to court by his landlord and ordered to pay damages for persisting in his morning habit of firing a cannon at the garden and thus ruining the hedges.

Stan Hugill sang Admiral Benbow at “Fêtes du chant de marin”, Paimpol, in 1991. This recording was included in 1992 on his and Stormalong John's Le Chasse-Marée CD Chants des Marins Anglais.

Cyril Tawney sang Admiral Benbow in 1992 on his cassette Seamen Bold: Songs of Voyages, Battles and Shipwrecks, Volume 1. He noted:

It has been suggest that the dark hand of politics lay behind the treachery of Captains Kirby and Wade who deserted Admiral Benbow in the face of the French Fleet under Du Casse off the West Indies in 1702. Though they were brought home to Plymouth and shot for cowardice, they were not cowards by nature, and I was intrigued to discover by chance in the mid-60's that both had been given a surprisingly honourable burial beneath the floor of Charles Church.

Laura Smyth and Ted Kemp sang Brave Benbow on their 2017 CD The Poacher's Fate. They noted:

This fantastically gory sea song, recounting the admiral’s heroic death in a naval battle during the war of the Spanish Succession, was collected by Anne Gilchrist in Southport from retired sailor, W. Bolton. In his book, A Song for Every Season, Bob Copper recalls his grandfather singing this to him as a lullaby!

See also the related Admiral Benbow [Roud 3141].

Lyrics

Bob Copper sings Admiral Benbow

Come all you seamen bold, landed here, landed here.
It is of an Admiral brave called Benbow by his name,
How he ploughed the raging main you shall hear, you shall hear.

Last Tuesday morning last, Benbow sailed, Benbow sailed.
What a sweet and pleasant gale when Benbow he set sail
And the enemy they turned tail in a fright, in a fright.

Great Reuben and Benbow fought the French, fought the French.
See the boats go up and down and the bullets whizzing round
And the enemy they knocked down, there they lay, there they lay.

Oh, Benbow lost his legs, by chain shot, by chain shot.
Down on his stumps did fall and so loud for mercy called,
“Oh, fight on my British tars, it is my lot, it is my lot.”

When the doctor dressed his wounds Benbow cried, Benbow cried,
“Oh, pray pick me up in haste to the quarter deck my place
That the enemy I might face until I die, until I die.”

Last Tuesday morning last, Benbow died, Benbow died.
What a shocking sight to see when they carried him away;
Oh, they carried him to Se'm's'on church, there he lays, there he lays.

Tundra sings Admiral Benbow

Come all you seamen bold and draw near and draw near,
Come all you seamen bold and draw near.
It's of our admiral's fame and Brave Benbow was his name,
Ho he fought all on the main you shall hear, you shall hear.

Brave Benbow he set sail for to fight, for to fight,
Brave Benbow he set sail for to fight.
Brave Benbow he set sail in a fine and pleasant gale
But his captains they turned tail in a fright, in a fright.

Says Kirby unto Wade, “We shall run, we shall run,”
Says Kirby unto Wade, “We shall run,
For I value not disgrace nor the losing of my face
But the enemy I'll not face with a gun, with a gun.”

'Twas Ruby and Benbow fought the French, fought the French,
'Twas Ruby and Benbow fought the French.
They fought them up and down till the blood came trickling down,
Till the blood came trickling down where they lay, where they lay.

Brave Benbow lost his legs by chain shot, by chain shot,
Brave Benbow lost his legs by by chain shot.
Brave Benbow lost his legs and all on his stumps he begs,
“Fight on my English lads, 'tis our lot, 'tis our lot.”

The surgeon dressed his wounds, cried Benbow, cried Benbow,
The surgeon dressed his wounds, cried Benbow:
“Let a cradle now in haste on the quarterdeck be placed
That the enemy I may face till I die, till I die.”

And there bold Benbow lay crying out, crying out,
And there bold Benbow lay crying out,
“Let us tack about once more we will drive them to the shore,
For I value not a score nor their noise, nor their noise.”

Laura Smyth and Ted Kemp sing Brave Benbow

Oh come good people all young and old, young and old,
Oh come good people all young and old.
It's of an Admiral brave called Benbow by his name,
How he fought on the raging main you shall hear, you shall hear.

Brave Benbow he set sail for to fight, for to fight,
Brave Benbow he set sail for to fight.
Brave Benbow he set sail in a sweet and pleasant gale
But his captains they turned tail in a fright, in a fright.

Says Kirby unto Wade, “I will run, I will run.”
Says Kirby unto Wade, “I will run,
For I value no disgrace, even losing of my place,
But the enemy I won't face nor their guns, nor their guns.”

So Brave Benbow gave the signal for to fight, for to fight,
So Brave Benbow gave the signal for to fight.
The ships boxed up and down and the shots they flew all around
And the men came tumbling down, there they lay, there they lay.

Admiral Benbow lost his legs by chain shot, by chain shot,
Admiral Benbow lost his legs by chain shot.
He down on his stumps did fall and so bitterly he did call,
“Fight on my British tars, 'tis my lot, 'tis my lot.”

While the surgeon dressed his wounds, oh he cried, oh he cried,
While the surgeon dressed his wounds oh he cried.
“Let my cradle now in haste on the quarter deck be placed
That the enemy I may face 'til I'm dead, 'til I'm dead.”

'Twas on Tuesday morning last Benbow died, Benbow died,
'Twas on Tuesday morning last Benbow died.
'Twas a shocking sight to see, Admiral Benbow carried away,
He was buried in Kingston church, there he lay, there he lay.