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Jack Robinson

[ Roud 1794 ; Ballad Index CrNS040 ; trad.]

Tim Laycock sang Jack Robinson in 1999 on his WildGoose CD Fine Colours. He noted:

This gentle parody of The Sailor’s Return was in the repertoire of Sam Cowell (1820-1864) [VWML RoudBS/B148690] , one of the early music hall stars who included a lot of British folk songs in his performances. The melody is a variant of the Dorsetshire Hornpipe.

Ye Mariners All (John Roberts, John Rockwell and Larry Young) sang Jack Robinson on their 2003 CD Songs of the Sea. John Roberts noted:

The broadside ballad Jack Robinson is found in John Ashton’s Real Sailor Songs. It comes to us from the singing of Tim Laycock, who remarks that it was in the repertoire of Sam Cowell, an early music hall star.

Danny Spooner sang Jack Robinson in 2014 on his CD Sailor’s Consolation. He noted:

I got this from John Roberts, a wonderful singer from England long domiciled in Schenectady in New York State. It is certainly a music hall song and was in the repertoire of one Sam Cowell around the 1840s. John got it from Tim Laycock. It can be found in John Ashton’s Real Sailor Songs (1891).


Ye Mariners All sing Jack Robinson

With the perils and the dangers of the voyage past
Our ship at Portsmouth arrived at last
The sails all furled and the anchors cast
The happiest of the crew was Jack Robinson.
For his Polly he had trinkets and gold galore
Besides prize money, a weight of store
Along with the crew he went on shore
As bosun to the boat did Jack Robinson.

Well he met with a man and he says, I say
Perhaps you know me sweetheart, the lovely Polly Gray
Does she live somewhere hereabout? the man says, Nay,
I don’t know her at all, Jack Robinson.
Says Jack to him, I’ve left my ship
All of my messmates have given the slip
Perhaps you’d like to join me for a decent can of flip
For you’re a handsome fellow, says Jack Robinson.

In a public house, well, they both sat down
The talked of admirals of high renown
They drank as much grog as would cost half a crown
This here fellow and Jack Robinson.
Jack he called out the reckoning to pay
The landlady came in, in fine array
Damn ye! says Jack, it’s me own Polly Gray,
Who’d have thought of meeting here? says Jack Robinson.

Well the landlady staggered back against the wall
Says she, Young sailor lad, I don’t know you at all.
Shiver me, says Jack, here’s a pretty squall,
Damn ye, don’t you know me, I’m Jack Robinson!
Don’t you see the handkerchief that you gave to me
Three years ago, me love, before I went to sea,
Every time I blew my nose it made me think of thee.
On me soul it did, said Jack Robinson.

Says the lady, says she, I have changed my state.
What! You don’t mean you’ve got another mate?
You know you promised me. She says, I couldn’t wait,
No tidings could I gain of you, Jack Robinson.
Someone, somewhere, someday said
Someone else had somewhere read
In some almanac as how you was dead.
I ain’t been dead at all! says Jack Robinson.

Well, he turned his quid and he finished off his glass
He hitched up his trousers, alas, alas,
That ever I should come to such a pass
To be bilked by a woman, says Jack Robinson.
But to fret and stew about it much would be in vain
I shall get a ship and go to Holland, France or Spain
But to Portsmouth Harbour I shall never come again.
He was off before they could say ’Jack Robinson.’