> Folk Music > Songs > Smuggler’s Song / Devoran Smugglers

Smuggler’s Song / Devoran Smugglers

[ Roud 3305 ; Ballad Index Gund041 ; Ralph Dunstan]

Inglis Gundry gave just one line and the chorus of the Smuggler’s Song in his 1966 book of songs and dances from Cornwall, Canow Kernow. He noted:

Ralph Dunstan collected this “Smuggler’s Song or Shanty” from Capt. T. Collett of Polglaze, Perrancoombe, 25 December 1929, who learnt it from “Capp’n Jacky”, a bargee working from Devoran, in 1864, who was then about 70. Capp’n Jacky could only remember the verse here given which he repeated over and over again—particularly when on his way home from the “Punch Bowl and Ladle”. Dunstan added other verses and made a song out of it in his Cornish Dialect and Folk Songs (p. 19).

The Claque sang Devoran Smugglers in 2008 on their WildGoose CD Sounding Now. This track was also included in 2024 on Dave Lowry’s WildGoose CD Songs of a Devon Man. They noted:

Devoran Smugglers is a great favourite of ours and we often start a set with it. It was noted from one John Gay in the early twentieth century. He was a former bargeman and it is suggested that he probably would have learned it in Falmouth. Dave [Lowry] has been singing this one for years and when we sang it together, we were delighted with the energy in its shanty idiom.

And Bill Crawford noted on Dave Lowry’s CD:

Canow Kernow gives one verse of this song collected from Capt. T. Collett, in 1929, who learnt it from “Capp’n Jacky” (John Gay), a bargee working out of Devoran in 1864, who was then about 70 years old. Capp’n Jacky could only remember one line. When Dunstan realised his Cornish Dialect and Folk Songs book didn’t have a smuggling song he wrote this and included the original line.


Capp’n Jacky sings the Smuggler’s Song

“Midshipman, search the boat, to see she carries no gin!”
    Ry-tu-lu-ral la-di-dee, Ry-tu-lu-ral lay!

The Claque sing Devoran Smugglers

O for a smuggler’s life, my lads, so gallant and free!
    Ry-tu-lu-ral la-di-dee, Ry-tu-lu-ral lay!

Out on the deep while others sleep, how jolly are we,
    Ry-tu-lu-ral la-di-dee, Ry-tu-lu-ral lay!

What do we care for cutlass’s guard all out on the prowl?

Nothing they find, so let ’em board, and grumble and growl.

“Midshipman, search the boat, to see she carries no gin!”

“Ay, let ’em search the boat”, says we, “Ay, let ’em begin!”

Then in a huff they sling their hook, and empty they go.

While, with a grin, we think of the gin all hidden below.

Here’s to the smuggler bold and free, and all of his kin!

While he can haul or hoist or tack, he’ll smuggle the gin.