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The Limejuice Ship / According to the Act

[ Roud 8341 ; Ballad Index FaE042 ; Mudcat 38305 ; trad.]

Roy Palmer printed The Merchant Ship in his 1971 book Room for Company.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang The Limejuice Ship in 1973 on their album Across the Western Ocean.

Hugill prints this song, a tongue-in-cheek eulogy of conditions aboard British ships. Thanks to a series of Merchant Shipping Acts, these conditions became well regulated, eventually reaching the point where sailors were issued rations of limejuice to counteract the scurvy, all too common among deepwater sailors. Their American counterparts, with no such laws, derided this practice as ‘soft’, hence the nickname ‘Limejuicer’ or ‘Limey’ which has stuck to this day. The major proponent of these legal reforms was Samuel Plimsoll, best remembered for the ‘Plimsoll Line’, the loading mark painted on the aide of every ship, another innovation of the period which has stayed with us.

Johnny Collins and Friends sang According to the Act in 1973 on their Traditional Sound album The Traveller’s Rest.

Hughie Jones sang According to the Act as the first track of his 1973 Fellside CD Seascape. He noted:

We get underway with a couple of satirical ditties. According to the Act concerns The Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, known as the ‘Limejuice Act’. Its purpose was to improve conditions for seafarers, notably with an issue of Limejuice ten days out.


John Roberts and Tony Barrand sing The Limejuice Ship

Now if you want a limejuice ship to sail the seas at large,
You’ll not have any trouble if you have a good discharge,
Signed by the Board of Trade, and everything exact,
For there’s nothing done on a limejuice ship contrary to the Act.

Chorus (after each verse):
Shout, boys, shout, I tell you it’s a fact,
There’s nothing done on a limejuice ship contrary to the Act.

Now when you board a limejuice ship you’ll hear your articles read,
They’ll tell you of your beef and pork, your butter and your bread,
Your sugar, tea and coffee, boys, your peas and beans exact,
Oh, your limejuice and your vinegar, boys, according to the Act.

No watch-and-watch the first day out, according to the Act,
Ten days out we all lay aft to get our limejuice whack,
Fetch out her handy billy, boys, and clap it on the tack,
For we’re going to set the mainsail, oh, according to the Act.

It’s up on deck, my bully boys, with many a curse we go,
A-waiting to hear eight bells struck that we may go below,
Eight bells is struck, the watch is called, the log is hove exact,
Oh, relieve the wheel and go below, according to the Act.

So haul, boys, your weather mainbrace, and ease away your lee,
Hoist jibs and topsails, lads, and let the ship go free,
Hurrah, boys, hurrah, we’ll sing this jubilee,
Oh, damn and bugger the Navy, boys, a merchant ship for me!