> Folk Music > Songs > The Jolly Roving Tar

The Jolly Roving Tar

[ Roud 913 ; Laws O27 ; Henry H670 ; Ballad Index LO27 ; Bodleian Roud 913 ; DT JOLROVTR ; Mudcat 96582 ; trad.]

Gale Huntington: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People Frank Purslow: The Wanton Seed

Len Graham sang The Jolly Roving Tar in 1983 on his Claddagh album Do Me Justice. He noted:

Mick Hoy of Derrygonnelly, County Fermanagh, was my primary source for this song. To complete the text I augmented it with extracts from Folksongs From Southern New Brunswick no. 12 and the Sam Henry’s Songs of the People no. 670. The Chinese War, mentioned in the final verse of the song, more commonly referred to as The Opium War, commenced in 1839 and ended with the ceding of Hong Kong to Britain in 1844.

Nick Dow sang her Jolly Roving Tar on his 2013 album Old England’s Ground. He noted:

Henry Hammond got Mrs. Seale to sing a few songs in Dorchester workhouse in 1906 including this one. Frank Purslow later filled out the song from another version with verses that in my opinion do not scan too well. I have sung the orginal three here, just changing the action from Liverpool to her local port of Weymouth, where there is actualy a beach to walk as the lady does in the song. I learned this to sing it in the Weymouth Folk Club, that looks out over Weymouth Harbour, and is an old stomping ground of mine.


Len Graham sings The Jolly Roving Tar

As down by Derry Harbour, as I carelessly did stray,
There I beheld a sailor lad, likewise a lady gay.
She appeared to me like Venus bright or some superior star
As she walked the beach lamenting for her jolly roving tar.

Oh, many’s a pleasant evening my love and I did pass,
With many’s a jovial sailor lad and many’s a gay young lass;
With the fiddlers sweetly playing and whiskey in the jar,
She walked hand in hand together with her jolly roving tar.

If you had seen young Willie, all dressed in sailor’s clothes,
With his cheeks as red as roses, and his eyes as dark as sloes;
His hair hung down in ringlets fine, no blemish did him mar;
And her heart lies in the bosom of her jolly roving tar.

Pretty Susan boarded a long boat and they rowed her to shore.
She’s gone to her father’s ships to see if they’re well stored.
Saying, “Adieu you maids of Derry town, I’m going from you afar
To sail the wide world over,” says her jolly roving tar.

“Oh, Willie, lovely Willie, why must you go away?
When I arrive at twenty one, sure I’m a lady gay.
I’ll man one of my father’s ships and I’ll brave the Chinese War.”
For her heart lies in the bosom of her jolly roving tar.