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The Faithful Sailor Boy / Outward Bound
; Laws K13
; G/D 1:66
; Henry H543
; Ballad Index
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; Thomas Payne Westendorf, G.W. Persley]
Songs of the Ridings
Fred Jordan from Shropshire “appears to heave learnt the song at school” and sang it in 1959 to Fred Hamer. This recording was included in 2003 on Jordan's anthology on the Veteran label, A Shropshire Lad.
George Antrill sang The Faithful Sailor Boy at his home in Fittleworth, Sussex, in 1964 to Mike Yates. This recording was included in 2015 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs and recitations from the Mike Yates collection, I Wish There Was No Prisons. Mike Yates and Rod Stradling noted in the accompanying booklet:
The Faithful Sailor Boy is believed to have been written by Thomas Payne Westendorf (1848-1923) and G.W. Persley (1837-1894), although no original sheet music has, so far, been discovered. There are a couple of late-19th century broadside texts however.
Few songs have achieved such widespread popularity among country singers and their audiences. Gavin Greig described it as being “Very popular in Aberdeenshire in the early years of the 20th century” and there are sets from all over England, Ireland, North America, Australia and even Tristan da Cuna! At least two American Old-Timey singers, Vernon Dalhart, on Okeh 40487, and Flora Noles, on Okeh 45037, recorded the song, as The Sailor Boy’s Farewell , in the 1920s.
Daisy Chapman from Aberdeenshire sang The Faithful Sailor Boy at the Aberdeen Folk Festival in October 1968. This recording by Peter Shepheard was included in 2000 on her Musical Traditions anthology Ythanside.
Percy Webb from Suffolk sang The Faithful Sailor Boy at the King's Head Folk Club in London on 18 February 1970. This recording was included in 2012 on the Musical Traditions anthology King's Head Folk Club.
Danny Stradling sang The Faithful Sailor Boy in 1971 on Oak's Topic album of English country music and song, Welcome to Our Fair. A live recording from Cheltenham Folk Club, Victory Club, on 24 October 1971 was included in 2003 on their Musical Traditions double CD Country Songs and Music.
Bob Hart sang The Faithful Sailor Boy at his home in Snape, Suffolk, in September 1973. This recording by Tony Engle was released a year later on the Topic album Flash Company.
George Spicer sang The Faithful Sailor Boy on his 1974 Topic album Blackberry Fold. Mike Yates noted:
The Faithful Sailor Boy has seldom appeared in folksong collections,a somewhat surprising fact when one realises its present popularity among older singers. Sam Henry included it in his Irish collection Songs of the People and an almost identical American version appears in volume 2 of Frank Brown's North Carolina Folklore. The Scots collector Gavin Greig, who printed the text in Folk-Song of the North East, had this to say about the song: “Both the sentiment and the language show it to be quite modern. The tune too appears to be modern, although it may be older than it looks.”
Cyril Poacher sang The Faithful Sailor Boy at his home in Grove Farm, Blaxhall, Suffolk, in 1974 to Tony Engle and Keith Summers. This recording was released a year later on Poacher's Topic album of traditional songs from Suffolk, The Broomfield Wager. Another recording made by Ginette Dunn on 3 October 1974 was included in 2004 on Cyril Poacher's Musical Tradition anthology Plenty of Thyme. Rod Stradling noted in the album's booklet:
Cyril learned this from one Bob Frank— “it was about the only song he did sing.” Either Bob or Cyril have changed the tune slightly, so that the first line ends on the dominant rather than the usual subdominant, and this motif is repeated in other parts of the tune. Like a good craftsman, Cyril doesn't use it at every opportunity, but drops one in now and again just to keep you guessing. This is just one of a number of occasions where he varies a well-known tune.
The Faithful Sailor Boy was written by George W. Persley towards the end of the 19th century. Few songs have achieved such widespread popularity among country singers and their audiences. It turns up again and again in tap-room sing-songs throughout Britain, even through into the 1980s. Gavin Greig described it as being “Very popular in Aberdeenshire in the early years of this century” (and, sure enough, Daisy Chapman had it in her repertoire), and we have heard it in both Donegal and Cork in the last few years. Two versions have been found in the North Carolina mountains (there's a '20s hillbilly recording by Flora Noles, Sailor Boy's Farewell—Okeh 45037), while other other sets have been reported from as far away as Australia and Tristan da Cunha. Healy also prints this one, again without melody, and calls it Your Faithful Sailor Boy. The text is very much as Cyril (and Percy Webb) had it.
The Veteran CD Many a Good Horseman (2009; a re-issue of two cassettes released in 1983), has two Suffolk versions of The Faithful Sailor, sung by Charlie Carver of Tostock and by Stan Steggles of Rattlesden.
Richard Grainger sang The Faithful Sailor Boy in 1984 on his Fellside album Herbs of the Heart. This track was also included in 1999 on the Fellside anthology of shanties and songs of the sea, Rolling Down to Old Maui.
Fred Whiting from Suffolk sang The Faithful Sailor Boy in 1987-89 on the Veteran cassette Songs Sung in Suffolk Volume 2. This recording was also included in 2000 on the Veteran CD re-issue Songs Sung in Suffolk.
Walter Pardon sang Your Faithful Sailor Boy in a recording made by Mike Yates. It was included in 2000 on his Musical Traditions anthology Put a Bit of Powder on It, Father.
Mary Humphreys and Anahata played the Waltz for the Valeta and sang The Faithful Sailor Boy in 2003 on their WildGoose album Sharp Practice. They noted:
This we call our ‘East Anglian set’. Percy Brown (whose waltz we play) was a 2-row melodeon player from Norfolk; Percy Webb was a singer from Woodbridge, Suffolk. We first heard the song on an old vinyl recording (autographed by the great man) which we bought in a flea-market in Newmarket when Mary first moved to East Anglia. The song became a ‘maggot’—burrowing into Mary’s brain, just asking to be sung. Once she had it in her repertoire we discovered that it was regarded as the local anthem and so well-known that some clubs used it as their ‘parting-glass’ song.
In Mary’s mind’s eye she sees the sailor and his sweetheart enjoying their last night together at a dance before their sad farewells are sung. So we put the song together with a very appropriate (and possibly contemporary) dance tune best known from Topic’s LP English Country Music from East Anglia. Our thanks to Martin Nail for putting us right on the fine details of the tune.
Kate Rusby sang this song using the title Farewell in 2007 on her CD Awkward Annie.
Steve Roud included The Faithful Sailor Boy in 2012 in The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Bella Hardy and Brian Peters sang it a year later on the Fellside CD The Liberty to Choose: A Selection of Songs from The New Penguin Book of English Folk Song. Brian Peters noted:
Cecil Sharp, that great arbiter of what was and was not a true folk song, didn't approve of this kind of thing, with its Music Hall sensibility and tear-jerker words allied to a surprisingly jaunty tune. We think it's fun, though, and so did Sussex's George Spicer who sang it for Mike Yates in 1974.
The Willows sang this song as Outward Bound in 2014 on their CD Amidst Fiery Skies. They commented:
From the very first delve into the wonderful Full English Digital Archive, we found this manuscript, collected by Francis Collinson in [1944 from William Crampton in Smarden,] Kent. Better known as The Faithful Sailor Boy, this is our interpretation of the words we found that day, set to a new melody that endeavours to capture the heartache within the song.
Andy Turner learned The Faithful Sailor Boy from George Spicer and sang it as the 12 March 2016 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.
|Cyril Poacher sings The Faithful Sailor Boy||Fred Jordan sings The Faithful Sailor Boy|
It was on one dark and stormy night,
One cold and frosty winter’s day,
Chorus (repeated after each verse):
And with the gale the ship set sail,
It was sad to say the ship returned
But sad to say when the ship returned