> Folk Music > Songs > The Female Sailor Bold
> John Kirkpatrick > Songs > The Female Sailor Bold

The Female Sailor Bold

[ Roud 1699 ; Laws N3 ; Ballad Index LN03 ; VWML LEB/2/14/1 ; Bodleian Roud 1699 ; trad.]

Roy Palmer: Everyman’s Book of British Ballads

Eddie Butcher of Magilligan, Co. Derry, sang Ann Jane Thornton in July 1969 to Hugh Shields. This recording was included on the 3 CD set that accompanied Shields’ 2011 book on Eddie Butcher, All the Days of His Life.

Dianne Dugaw of the Dept. of English, University of Oregon, sang The Female Sailor Bold on her CD of fighting and sailing women in song, Dangerous Examples. This CD is a companion to Dianne Dugaw’s book Warrior Woman and Popular Balladry 1650-1850 (University of Chicago Press, 1989, 1996).

John Kirkpatrick sang The Female Sailor Bold on the 2003 Fellside anthology of English traditional songs and their Australians variants, Song Links. This track was also included three years later on the 40 years of Fellside Records anthology, The Journey Continues. Paul Adams noted on the original album:

Broadside ballads about women who disguised themselves as men and served as sailors were a commonplace of broadside balladry in the 18th and 19th centuries; they have become known as ‘transvestite ballads’. Other examples of the genre are The Female Drummer and William Taylor. This particular song is not more closely associated in text with the Australian version of The Female Rambling Sailor which it matches, than a number of the others. But then the Australian version of The Female Rambling Sailor, appears to be the only version of that song ever recorded from oral tradition anywhere, so it was difficult to find a closer match. The present song was noted by the collector Lucy Broadwood in 1894 from Henry Burstow of Horsham, Sussex [VWML LEB/2/14/1] . John Kirkpatrick has slightly amended the text and tune.


John Kirkpatrick sings The Female Sailor Bold

Good people, give attention and listen to me song
While I unfold the circumstance that does to love belong.
Concerning of a pretty maid who ventured we are told
All across the briny ocean as a female sailor bold.

She was courted by a captain when scarce sixteen years of age,
And to be bound in wedlock this couple did engage.
But the captain had to leave this land, as I will now unfold,
So she ventured o’er the ocean like a female sailor bold.

She dressed herself in sailor’s clothes, and overcome with joy
She with a captain did engage to serve as cabin boy.
And when that far American shore this fair maid did behold,
She run to seek her lover true, this female sailor bold.

Straight to her true love’s father she hastened there with speed,
Inquiring for her captain, but dreadful news indeed.
Her lover had been sometime dead this pretty maid was told,
And a thousand tears of sorrow wept the female sailor bold.

So far away from parents, from home so far away,
A thousand miles across the sea in far Amerikay.
With no kind friend to comfort her, no kindred to behold,
“My true love’s gone,” in anguish cried the female sailor bold.

So once more as a cabin boy this maiden sailed afar,
And her hands that once were velvet soft were hard from pitch and tar.
She weighed the anchor, heaved the lead, and aloft she went so bold,
And always did her duty, the female sailor bold.

Amongst just one and thirty she fearless did stride
Till back to the port of London her ship at last arrived.
But her secret was discovered, her secret did unfold,
And the captain gazed with wonder on the female sailor bold.

This female was examined by the great both far and near
And in all the public papers her reasons did appear.
Why she left her family, her native land the sold,
To cross the briny ocean as a female sailor bold.

It was to seek her lover she sailed across the main,
Through love she did braved the tempest, the storm and wind and rain.
It was love caused all her troubles, her hardships, we are told,
May she rest at home contented now, the female sailor bold.