> Folk Music > Songs > Susan’s Adventures in a Man-of-War / Young Susan on Board of a Man-of-War

Susan’s Adventures in a Man-of-War / Young Susan on Board of a Man-of-War

[ Roud 1533 ; Master title: Susan’s Adventures in a Man-of-War ; G/D 1:179 ; Henry H556 ; Ballad Index GrD1179 , HHH556 ; Bodleian Roud 1533 ; Mudcat 27046 ; trad.]

Dianne Dugaw sang Susan’s Adventures on her 2001 CD Dangerous Examples which is a companion to her 1996 book Warrior Woman and Popular Balladry 1650-1850.

Tom and Barbara Brown sang Young Susan in 2008 on their WildGoose album Beyond the Quay. They noted:

We like songs of strong-willed women (well, Barbara does, anyway) which is why we sing this version of Young Susan—who, unlike the other Young Susan to the same tune, goes of to sea with her bloke instead of wimping it on shore—serves her right that she got shot, then (says Tom)! This Young Susan also comes from Ashton’s Real Sailor Songs although, mostly, of course, they aren’t! We’re beginning to think that “her life was not insured”, in v.4, is not a misreading of “’her life was not ensured”—because there was a period when, for voyages to China, John Company could indeed not get insurance! This may come as a disappointment to everyone who’s heard us introduce the song over the last twenty years.

Jack Rutter sang Young Susan on Board of a Man-of-War on his 2017 CD Hills and in 2022 on the Topic anthology Sea Song Sessions. He noted on his album:

I found this song in Frank Kidson’s Traditional Tunes while looking in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. The song was “much thought of among the seafaring classes round about Hull”. The melody is from the song Young Waters that I’ve heard sung by June Tabor.


Jack Rutter sings Young Susan on Board of a Man-of-War

Young Susan was a blooming maid, so valiant, true and bold,
And when her sailor went to sea, young Susan, we are told,
She put on a jolly sailor’s clothes, and daubed her hands with tar,
To cross the raging seas for love, on board of a man-of-war.

When in the Bay of Biscay, she aloft like lightning flew,
Respected by the officers and all of the jovial crew;
In battle she would boldly run, not fearing wound nor scar,
And do her duty by the gun, on board of a man-of-war.

She faced the walls of China, where her life was not insured,
And little did young William think his Susan was on board;
But by a cruel cannon ball she did receive a scar,
And she got dreadfully wounded, on board of a man-of-war.

When on the deck young Susan fell, of all of the whole ship’s crew,
Her William was the very first to her assistance flew;
She said, “My jolly sailor bold, I’ve for you received a scar,
Behold your faithful Susan bold, on board of a man-of-war.”

Then William on his Susan gazed with wonder and surprise,
He stood some moments motionless, while the tears rolled from his eyes,
He cried, “I wish instead of you I had received that scar,
O, love, why did you venture thus on board of a man-of-war?”

At length to England they returned, and quickly married were.
And the bells did ring, and they all did sing, and banished every care!
They often think upon that day when she received the scar,
And Susan followed her true love on board of a man-of-war.