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Chicken on a Raft

[Cyril Tawney]

Cyril Tawney's song is the title track of the Young Tradition's nautical EP of 1967, Chicken on a Raft. The sleeve notes commented:

This is not a shanty, though it could well have been had it been made a hundred years ago, but followers of the group would never have forgiven them if they had not included it on this record. It was compiled by Cyril Tawney, in traditional shanty fashion, from verses that made themselves inside his head while he was in the submarine service. In older days Chicken on a Raft, with the barest changes from its form on this record, could easily have been tipped at the capstan bars.

Jim Mageean & Johnny Collins sang Chicken on a Raft on their 1983 album Strontrace!.

Cyril Tawney's own version can be found on his Neptune cassette Sally Free and Easy (1989) which was reissued in 2003 with two bonus tracks as the CD Navy Cuts: The Songs of Cyril Tawney.

Jiig sang Chicken on a Raft in 2005 on their eponymous album Jiig. They noted:

Cyril Tawney spent much of his working life as a Royal Navy submariner, and many of his songs derive their colour from that career. Inconstant love seems to have been a favourite theme in Tawney’s songs, and certainly flavours this raucous offering.

“Chicken on a Raft” is naval slang for a fried egg on toast. “Dabtoes for’ard and the dustmen aft” refers to the seating order (and no doubt pecking order) at table. According to most naval slang dictionaries, “dustmen” are stokers and “dabtoes” are defined as “surface sailors”. The latter definition seems to disqualify submariners like Cyril, whose position at table was presumably “below the salt” in more ways than one.

Corncrow sang Chicken on a Raft in 2013 on their EP So Brightly Shining.

Sound Tradition sang Chicken on a Raft in 2014 on their CD Blackbird. They commented in their liner notes:

A shanty-like song from the submariner days of the great Cyril Tawney. It's full of Navy slang and is a right rollicking laugh—he could have called it Fried Egg on Toast but it doesn't quite have the same ring, now does it?

By the way, chicken on a raft means fried egg on toast. For more explanations see the Mudcat Café thread Help: Meaning of “Chicken on a Raft”.

Lyrics

Cyril Tawney's Chicken on a Raft The Young Tradition sing Chicken on a Raft

Skipper in the wardroom drinking gin,
    Hey-o, chicken on a raft!
I don't mind knocking, but I ain't a-going in!
    Hey-o, chicken on a raft!
Jimmy's laughing like a drain,
    Hey-o, chicken on a raft!
Been lookin' at my comic cuts again,
    Hey-o, chicken on a raft!

Skipper in the wardroom drinking gin,
    Hey-o, chicken on a raft!
I don't mind knocking, but I ain't a-going in!
    Hey-o, chicken on a raft!
Jimmy's laughing like a drain,
    Hey-o, chicken on a raft!
Been lookin' at my comic cuts again,
    Hey-o, chicken on a raft!

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Chicken on a raft on a Monday morning,
Oh, what a terrible sight to see,
Dabtoes forrard and the dustmen aft,
Sittin' there a-pickin' at a chicken on a raft!
Hey-o, chicken on a raft!
Oy-o, chicken on a raft!
Hey-o, chicken on a raft!
Oy-o, chicken on a raft!

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Chicken on a raft on a Monday morning,
Oh, what a terrible sight to see,
Dabtoes forrard and the dustmen aft,
Sittin' there a-pickin' at a chicken on a raft!
Hey-o, chicken on a raft!
Oy-o, chicken on a raft!
Hey-o, chicken on a raft!
Oy-o, chicken on a raft!

They gave me the middle and the forenoon too,
Now I'm pullin' in a whaler's crew.
There's a seagull wheelin' overhead,
Oh to be floatin' in a feather bed!

Well, they gave me the middle and the forenoon too,
So now I'm pullin' in a whalin' crew.
There's a seagull wheelin' overhead,
I oughter be sleepin' in a feather bed!

Well, I had a little girl in Donny B
And did she make a fool of me.
Her heart 'twas like a pusser's shower,
From hot to cold in a quarter of an hour!

We kissed goodbye on the midnight bus
She didn't cry, she didn't fuss.
Am I the one that she loves best
Or am I just a cuckoo in another man's nest?

So we kissed goodbye on the midnight bus
But she didn't cry and she didn't fuss.
So am I the man what she loves best
Or am I just a cuckoo in another man's nest?

An Amazon girl lived in Dumfries,
She only had her kids in twos and threes;
Her sister lives in Maryhill,
She says she won't but I think she will!

An Amazon girl lived in Dumfries,
She only had her kids in twos and threes;
And her sister lives in Maryhill,
She says she won't but I think she will!

I had another girl in Donny B
And did she make a fool of me.
Her heart was like a pusser's shower,
From hot to cold in a quarter of an hour!

Glossary

chicken on a raft: fried egg on toast
Jimmy: Jimmy-the-One, i.e. 1st lieutenant
comic cuts: orders (originally WWI British Army jargon for Divisional Orders)
dabtoes: seamen (not specialist ratings)
dustmen: engine room specialist ratings (originally stokers)
middle, forenoon: watches
whalin' crew: whaler's crew
whaler: ship's boat
pusser: purser, i.e. notoriously tight-fisted