> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Bold Riley O

Bold Riley

[trad.]

The origins of Bold Riley O appear to be shrouded in mystery; it does not appear in Stan Hugill's 1961 shanty “bible” Shanties from the Seven Seas or any earlier collections. Its first appearance seems to A.L. Lloyd singing it in 1962 on the Prestige album A Sailor's Garland, where he commented in the sleeve notes:

Shellbacks manning the windjammers of the West Indies trade brought back to Liverpool and Bristol more than sugar, bananas and rum; they also brought back many songs. Some of these they kept to themselves, some they handed on to vessels sailing in other waters. Thus the fine hexatonic tune of Bold Riley O, which started life as a Tobago reel, was sung at the halyards of many an East Indiaman bound for Bombay and the Bengal ports.

According to Fred McCormick in the Mudcat Café thread Bold Riley Roud Number?, Lloyd's version seems to be based on a worksong from the Georgia Sea Islands just called Riley (Roud 18160), which can be found on the 2006 Smithsonian Folkways anthology The Friends of Old Time Music: The Folk Arrival 1961-1965.

Lloyd also sang Bold Riley O in 1974 on the Topic anthology Sea Shanties. His four verses are all “floaters” that also appear in other shanties, such as Bound for the Rio Grande, Goodbye, Fare Thee Well and Leave Her, Johnny, and present-day singers often choose to sing them in a different order; in the chorus some sing “sweetheart” in the first line and “darling” in the third, while others reverse the order. Likewise, the “boom-a-lay” in the first refrain is nowadays often replaced by another “Bold Riley”, so it is quite rare for any two versions to have exactly the same words in exactly the same places.

Bold Riley was later recorded by Jeff Warner on the 1976 Collector album Steady As She Goes.

The Oyster Band sang Bold Riley on the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster Fund charity album 3.06: A Roots Album for Liverpool.

Kate Rusby learned Bold Riley from the singing of Jim Mageean. She recorded it in 1997 for her first solo album, Hourglass, and in 2002 for her 10th anniversary album, 10.

Tim van Eyken and Rob Harbron learned Bold Riley from Graham O'Callaghan and sang it in 2001 on their Beautiful Jo album One Sunday Afternoon.

The Teacups recorded Bold Riley in November 2012 for their Haystack CD One for the Pot, referring to A.L. Lloyd's album as their source.

Danny Pedler and Rosie Butler Hall sang Bold Riley on their 2015 EP Bold.

Peter Knight's Gigspanner sang Bold Riley on their 2017 CD The Wife of Urban Law.

Kim Lowings & the Greenwood sang Bold Riley in 2017 on their CD Wild & Wicked Youth.

Lyrics

Goodbye My Riley O

from Lydia Parrish: Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands (Creative Art Press, 1942; University of Georgia Press, 1992)

Riley, Riley, where were you?
    O Riley, O man!
Riley gone an' I'm goin' too
    Goodbye my Riley O

Riley, Riley, where were you?
    O Riley, O man!
Riley gone to Liverpool
    Goodbye my Riley O

You Democrat Riley
    O Riley, O man!
You Democrat Riley
    Goodbye my Riley O

Riley, Riley, where were you?
    O Riley, O man!
When I played that nine spot through
    Goodbye my Riley O

A.L. Lloyd sings Bold Riley

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Goodbye, my darling, goodbye, my dear O,
    Bold Riley O, boom-a-lay
Goodbye, my sweetheart, goodbye, my dear O,
    Bold Riley O, gone away

The anchor is weighed and the rags we've all set,
    Bold Riley O, boom-a-lay
Them Liverpool judies we'll never forget,
    Bold Riley O, gone away

Alternate chorus:
Goodbye, my darling, goodbye, my dear O,
    Bold Riley O, boom-a-lay
Goodbye, my darling, goodbye, my dear O,
    Bold Riley O, gone away

The rain it is raining all the day long,
    Bold Riley O, boom-a-lay
The northerly winds they blow so strong,
    Bold Riley O, gone away

Cheer up, Mary Ellen, and don't look so glum,
    Bold Riley O, boom-a-lay
On Whitestocking Day you'll be drinking hot rum.
    Bold Riley O, gone away

We're outward bound for the Bengal Bay,
    Bold Riley O, boom-a-lay
Get bending, my lads, it's a hell of a way.
    Bold Riley O, gone away

The Teacups sing Bold Riley

Oh the rain it raineth all day long,
    Bold Riley O, Bold Riley,
And them northern wind, are blowing strong
    Bold Riley O has gone away.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Goodbye my sweetheart, goodbye my dear O
    Bold Riley O, Bold Riley,
Goodbye my darlin', goodbye my dear O,
    Bold Riley O has gone away.

Oh the anchor's aweigh and the sails are set
    Bold Riley O, Bold Riley,
And them Liverpool Judies we'll ne'er forget
    Bold Riley O has gone away.

We're outward bound for the Bengal Bay,
    Bold Riley O, Bold Riley,
Keep rowing boys, it's a bloody long way
    Bold Riley O has gone away.

Cheer up Mary Ellen, don't be so glum,
    Bold Riley O, Bold Riley,
Come White-stocking Day we'll drink hot rum
    Bold Riley O has gone away.

Links

See also the Shantypedia song archive (from where I got most of the text above) and the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Bold Riley (chantey).