> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Sally Brown

Sally Brown

[ Roud 2628 ; Ballad Index Doe074 , Hugi167A ; VWML CJS2/9/1899 , CJS2/10/2028 ; DT SALBROWN , SALBRWN2 ; Mudcat 72584 ; trad.]

Inglis Gundry Canow Kernow Joanna C. Colcord Songs of American Sailormen Nick Dow et al Southern Songster

Paul Clayton sang Sally Brown in 1956 on his Tradition album Whaling and Sailing Songs From the Days of Moby Dick. He noted:

This was a favorite shanty for heaving up the anchor. It dates at least to the early 1830s and was sung at the capstan of the Western Ocean packet ship that brought Captain Marryat from England to America in 1837, as he tells in his A Dairy in America (1839).

A.L. Lloyd sang Sally Brown in 1962 on his and Ewan MacColl’s Prestige album A Sailor’s Garland. The album was released in the UK in 1966 on Transatlantic. He also sang Sally Brown in 1974 on the Topic anthology Sea Shanties where he noted:

Cecil Sharp got this striking shanty, with its fluctuating thirds, sixths and sevenths, from an ex-seaman, Charles Robbins, who at the age of 65 had landed in the Marylebone Workhouse [VWML CJS2/9/1899] . We’ve added a bit to his words, lifting a phrase or two from other versions of Sally Brown. Mr Robbins had it as a halyard shanty, two pulls to each refrain, but most collectors give it as a capstan song. Stan Hugill speaks of ‘many obscene verse’ dealing with Miss Brown, the bright half-caste. Possibly the capstan versions are dirtier than the hauling versions, because of the dreariness of the job. Some versions have a very West Indian (presumed Jamaican) sound; others, like our version, less so. In the refrain, ‘roll’ is to be understood in the sense of ‘work steady’.

Sweeney’s Men sang Sally Brown in 1968 on their eponymous Transatlantic album Sweeney’s Men. Sweeney’s Men’s Andy Irvine returned to it in 1980 when he sang it with Planxty live at the Abbey Tavern. A video of this was included in 2016 on Planxty’s CD+DVD retrospective Between the Jigs and the Reels.

The Shanty Men led by Johnny Collins sang the capstan shanty Sally Brown in 1978 on their Greenwich Village album The Shanty Men.

Graham Shaw sang Sally Brown in 1978 on his Traditional Sound album I Am the Minstrel.

Hughie Jones sang Sally Brown in 1999 on his Fellside album Seascape. He noted:

Many books have appeared over the years about sailors worksongs, the best being Stan Hugill’s Shanties From the Seven Seas. Sally Brown turns up in most, as does Whip Jamboree.

The New Scorpion Band sang Sally Brown on their 2004 CD Out on the Ocean.

Teddy Thompson sang Sally Brown in 2006 on the anthology of pirate ballads, sea songs and chanteys, Rogue’s Gallery.

John Conolly sang Sally Brown on his 2010 CD The Grumpy Old Men of Old England.

Heidi Talbot sang Sally Brown in 2010 on her Navigator album The Last Star.

Roger Watson sang Roll and Go (Sally Brown) accompanied on chorus by Tom and Barbara Brown, Keith Kendrick and Doug Bailey, on the 2011 anthology of sea songs collected from John Short by Cecil Sharp, Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 2. The accompanying notes commented:

Not to be confused with Spent My Money on Sally Brown. L.A. Smith, Terry, Colcord and Hugill all list Roll and Go as a Capstan shanty, Colcord observing that it is “one of three prime favourites for heaving and hauling which were in the authentic form of the halliard shanty, but which were never used in hoisting sail” (Sally Brown, Shenandoah, Santy Anna). Hugill also says (as does Terry) that “The shape of this shanty is undoubtedly that of a halyard song, but only one collector, Cecil Sharp, gives it as such”—Sharp (as advised by Short) actually publishes it as a capstan shanty!

Although, by Hugill’s time, ‘this shanty had only one theme—Sally and her daughter’, Short’s text is not on this ‘one theme’—it is based around a less overtly sexual relationship. Short gave Sharp more text than he actually published. It is always possible that Short may be self censoring—but there is no indication that this is the case, and from other textual evidence in Sharp’s field notebooks (e.g. see the notes to Hanging Johnny), rather the reverse. We have added just two floating verses at the end.

Tim Radford sang Sally Brown in 2012 on his Forest Tracks album From Spithead Roads. He noted:

Collected from James G. Bounds aged 52, in Portsmouth Workhouse [on] 15 August 1907, local manuscript No H885 and Roud No. 2628. Gardiner’s notes say: This tune is very similar to Smith’s Music of the Waters p. 48, to Bradford & Fagge No. 7. It is almost identical with Tozer No. 22.


A.L. Lloyd sings Sally Brown

I shipped on board of a Liverpool liner.
    Way ho, a-rollin’ go.
And we shipped on board of a Liverpool liner.
    For I spent my money long with Sally Brown.

Now up aloft this yard must go, boys. (×2)

Now we sailed three days when a storm arose, boys. (×2)

We screw in cotton by the day, boys (×2)

Oh, Sally Brown she’s a bright mulatto,
And she drinks rum and chews tobacco.

Oh, Sally she’s me queen of aces,
She’s schooner-rigged in silks and laces.

We’ll spread her wings and away we’ll sail, boys.
Aye, we’ll spread her wings and away we’ll sail, boys.

Tim Radford sings Sally Brown

Sally Brown she’s a gay old lady
    Weigh heigh roll and go
Sally Brown she’s a gay old lady
    Spend my money on Sally Brown

Sally Brown she’s a matelot’s daughter
Sally Brown she is a fine daughter

Mrs. Brown I love your daughter
Oh, Sally Brown I’m a-going for to leave you

Good-bye Sally, good-bye darling
While I’m away Sally won’t you write me?

Yes, I’ll write to you my darling
When I return I’ll marry your daughter

And we’ll have a great big supper
After the supper we’ll have a dancing

There’ll be dancing and singing the whole night
The bands they will play and the bones they will rattle

Shan’t I be glad when I marry my Sally.
Oh shan’t I be glad when I marry Sally.