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Jack Tar / Jack Tar on Shore

[ Roud 919 ; Master title: Jack Tar ; Laws K39 ; Ballad Index LK39 ; DT JACKTAR1 , JACKTAR2 ; Mudcat 166253 ; trad.]

Harry Cox sang Jack Tar on Shore to Peter Kennedy at home in Catfield, Norfolk, in October 1953. This recording was included in 1994 on the Saydisc anthology of traditional English Sea Songs and Shanties, and in 2000 on Cox’s Rounder anthology What Will Become of England?. Another recording made by Ewan MacColl in 1955 was included in 2000 too on Cox’s Topic anthology The Bonny Labouring Boy. Steve Roud noted on the Topic album:

Not a commonly reported song—collected only once by Sharp (in London) and Vaughan Williams (Suffolk), but more recently in the repertoires of the other great Norfolk singers Walter Pardon and Sam Larner. Two versions are known from Canada, but no broadside printings have yet come to light, and it it thus difficult to date. The theme of the sailor only being welcome while his money lasts is not unusual though (see also The Green Bed) although in this case Jack appears to bear no grudge, after an understandable tantrum.

Ewan MacColl sang Jack Tar in 1957 his and A.L. Lloyd’s Tradition Records album of songs of the sea, Blow Boys Blow. The album’s sleeve notes commented:

Probably the commonest parable in sailor song is that of Jack in money and made a fuss of, while Jack without money is turned out of doors. The East Indiamen sailing out of London’s Blackwall Docks had Jack Tar as their favourite homiletic ballad. The song, still much sung, has never appeared in any English printed collection, though two Nova Scotian versions have been published. The present set comes from Harry Cox, of Catfield, Norfolk, a living storehouse of folk song.

Steve Benbow sang Jack Tar on Shore on the 1960 HMV album of broadside ballads old and new, A Jug of Punch. It was recorded by Peter Kennedy at Cecil Sharp House.

Derek Sarjeant sang Jack Tar Ashore in 1970 on his album Derek Sarjeant sings English Folk. The album’s sleeve noted:

This song recounts Jack’s misadventures ashore and the version Derek sings here again comes from the repertoire of Sam Larner.

Walter Pardon sang Jack Tar Ashore to Bill Leader and Peter Bellamy at home in Knapton, Norfolk, on 11 May 1974. This recording was released in 1975 on his Leader album A Proper Sort. It was also included in 1998 on the Topic anthology My Ship Shall Sail the Ocean (The Voice of the People Volume 2).

The Old Swan Band sang Jack Tar on Shore on their 1979 Free Reed album Old Swan Brand. Rod Stradling noted:

This Harry Cox song enjoyed a vogue some dozen years ago when I learnt it and, while seldom heard these days, it is still one of my favourite sea songs.

Cyril Tawney sang Jack Tar on Shore on his 1990 cassette Sailor’s Delight.

Danny Spooner sang Jack the Jolly Tar in 2002 on his CD Launch Out on the Deep. He noted:

Said to have been a popular ballad among East-Indiamen, this has not appeared often in print. It tells the common sailor’s story about the welcome while the money flows—but it’s very quickly “Get up Jack, let John sit down” when it’s gone. Hey ho!


Harry Cox sings Jack Tar on Shore

So come all you ladies gay who delights in sailors’ joy,
Come listen while I sing you a song.
When Jack he comes on shore with his gold and silvery store,
There’s no one can get rid of it so soon.

The first thing Jack require is a fiddler to his hand
And likewise the best liquor of every kind,
And a pretty girl likewise with two dark and rolling eyes,
And Jack he is suited to his mind.

The landlady she comes in, dressed all in her Sunday best,
She looked like some bright and morning star.
She is ready to wait on him when she finds he’s plenty of tin,
Chalk him down, two for one behind the bar.

Now Jack all in his rage he threw bottles at her head
And likewise all the glasses he let fly.
And the poor girl in her fright called the watchmen of the night,
Saying, “Take this young sailor away.”

Now Jack did understand that a ship lay wanting hands
And to her went straight down.
With a sweet and a pleasant gale he unfurled his lofty sail,
Bid adieu to the flash girls of the town.

So he laid her on a tack like a cutter or a smack,
As she rolled from the lee to the weather,
And we kept her full and by just close to wind as she would lay,
We were bound for Blackwall in stormy weather.