> Folk Music > Songs > Stormalong


[ Roud 216 ; Ballad Index Doe082 ; Mudcat 39676 , 145806 ; trad.]

Paul Clayton sang Old Stormalong in 1956 on his Tradition album Whaling and Sailing Songs From the Days of Moby Dick. He noted:

This fine old capstan shanty captures the feeling a sailor has for a great seaman. A version not unsimilar to the one I sing may be found in Charles Nordhoff’s The Merchant Ship (1856), and republished the following year in Nine Years a Sailor.

Ewan MacColl and chorus sang Stormalong on his and A.L. Lloyd’s 1957 Topic album The Black Ball Line. This track was also issued in 1957 on their French Le Chante du Monde album Chants de Marins Anglais No 2 and on their Australian Wattle album Singing Sailors, and in 1958 on their American Stinson album Off to Sea Once More. A.L. Lloyd tersely noted on the first album:

A shanty for manning the capstan or pumps.

And Gibb Sahib commented in the Mudcat Café thread Lloyd & MacColl’s Sea Song LPs :

So close to Hugill’s Shanties From the Seven Seas, and no other versions found. Earmarks suggest Hugill taught [them] this.

Bob Roberts sang Mister Stormalong in a Peter Kennedy recording made in between 1950 and 1960 on the 1994 Saydisc anthology of traditional English Sea Songs and Shanties.

Redd Sullivan sang Stormalong at a midnight folk concert recorded in London in May 1963. This recording was included in the same year on Louis Killen, Bob Davenport and his Decca EP Sea Shanties.

Hughie Jones sang Stormalong John in 1999 on his Fellside CD Seascape. He noted:

Hugill once told me that his uncle used to lullaby him with Stormalong John.

The Mollyhawks sang Mister Stormalong on the 2004 Lancaster Maritime Festival anthology Beware of the Press-Gang!!.

Roy Clinging sang Mister Stormalong in 2005 on his and Neil Brookes’ WildGoose CD Another Round. He noted:

Hard as a sailors life could be he always had respect for a fair and good captain, often represented by some incarnation of the Mr Stormalong character, a major figure in sailors’ folklore. The version here is something of an amalgam based on the singing of Bob Roberts but with verses and variations from other sources, most notably Stan Hugill’s Shanties From the Seven Seas and Joanna Colcord’s Roll and Go.

Jim Mageaan sang Stormalong John (Stormy Along, John), with Barbara Brown and Keith Kendrick as chorus, on the 2011 anthology of sea songs collected from John Short by Cecil Sharp, Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 1. The CD notes commented:

One of many shanties that celebrate, or at least refer to, the archetypal sailor Stormy, or Stormalong. Short’s version is a beautiful example of the fact that a tune does not have to have musical bars all the same length in order to give a consistent working rhythm.

and the project notes said:

This is the version of Stormalong that Colcord, in her notes to Mister Stormalong, gives as “Another version, differing somewhat both in words and tune, [which was] was used for pumping.” Terry lists this version as one of a dozen or more shanties which mourn Stormy. L.A. Smith believes it to be the oldest of the ‘Stormy’ shanties—and the best. Hugill merely includes it in the series, without further comment. It has also been pointed out to me by Charley Noble that Stormalong may also derive from a minstrel source in the form of Stormy Along Stormy (White’s New Ethiopian Song Book. Peterson & Bros., Philadelphia. 1854.)

Our additional verses have been chosen to avoid duplicating the verses we’ve used for Short’s Old Stormey ~ in practice the shantyman would use either for both, as it were!

And Barbara Brown sang Old Stormey (Mister Stormalong), with tom and Keith Kendrick as chorus, on the 2012 third volume of this series, Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 3. The project notes commented:

The verses provided by Short (and found in many other versions) are the familiar ones concerning Stormy’s death and burial which, nowadays, are most commonly used for the General Taylor shanty. L.A. Smith and Whall both give it as a ‘favourite’ shanty and the collectors note its solemnity or its seriousness, with Whall calling it ‘stately’. This, they attribute to the subject matter: as Bullen explains: “It embodies all the admiration that a sailor used to feel for a great seaman: gives it expression as it were, though I have never been able to learn who the antitype of Stormalong could have been. I suspect he was just the embodiment of all the prime seamen the sailor had ever known, and in the song he voiced his heart’s admiration.”

There does appear to be some contradiction over its function. It is the only one of Short’s shanties that Sharp does not note a function for—all the others say ‘capstan’, ‘windlass’, ‘pulling’ etc. Hugill claims that both Sharp and Terry publish it as a halyard shanty—they both publish it in the ‘pulling’ section of their books, although Terry does not publish Short’s version. Among the other collectors, Tozer gives it for pumps, Colcord for capstan, Doerflinger gives it in his capstan, windlass and pumps section, and Fox Smith gives it as pumps and capstan. You pays your money, and you takes your choice!

Maz O’Connor sang Stormalong on her 2012 album Upon a Stranger Shore.


Ewan MacColl sings Stormalong

Stormy’s gone, that good old man
    Way, Stormalong John
Stormy’s gone, that good old man
    Way, hay, Mister Stormalong

They dug his grave with a silver spade
    Way, Stormalong John
His shroud of finest silk was made
    Way, hay, Mister Stormalong

An able sailor bold and true
A good old bosun to his crew

I wish I was Old Stormy’s son
I’d build a ship of a thousand ton

I’d fill it with New England rum
Where shellbacks they would all have some

Old Stormy’s dead and gone to rest
Of all the sailors he was best

Hughie Jones sings Stormalong

O Stormy’s gone, that good old man
    Stormy along, boys, Stormalong John
O Stormy’s gone, that good old man
    Way, hay, come along, get along, Stormy along John

His heart was gold and kind and soft
    Stormy along, boys, Stormalong John
And now he’s gone way up aloft
    Way, hay, come along, get along, Stormy along John

When Stormy died he made a will
Who gives us sailors neat gin to swill

He slipped his anchor round Cape Horn
Rose to the place where he was born

We dug his grave with a silver spade
And marked a place where he was laid

(repeat first verse)