> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Whup Jamboree

Whip Jamboree

[ Roud 488 ; Ballad Index Br3230 ; VWML CJS2/10/2923 , CJS2/10/3053 ; Bodleian Roud 488 ; DT WHIPJAMB , WHIPJAM2 ; Mudcat 46744 , 161950 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang Whup Jamboree in 1957 on his and Ewan MacColl’s Tradition Records LP Blow Boys Blow (reissued in 1967 in the UK by Transatlantic Records). He noted:

Whup Jamboree is one of the wildest and most exultant of homeward-bound shanties. The progress through the English Channel and into London River goes as a fast clip, and all hand are looking forward eagerly to what the girls ashore have to offer. From its references to Blackwell Dock, this shanty, used for work at the capstan, apparently rose among sailors in the Far East run.

The Liverpool Spinners sang Whip Jamboree on their 1962 Topic EP Songs Spun in Liverpool. Hughie Jones recorded it again in 1999 for his Fellside CD 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. This particular version resembles most that collected by Cecil Sharp in 1914.

Martyn Wyndham-Read, Danny Spooner, Gordon McIntyre and Peter Dickie sang Whip Jamboree in 1966 on their Australian album A Wench, a Whale and a Pint of Good Ale.

Danny Spooner sang Whip Jamboree on his 2009 CD Bold Reilly Gone Away. He noted:

Stan Hugill gives the shanty Whip Jamboree as a homeward-bounder sung at the windlass or capstan. From my point of view the crew are warping the ship up the dock and into her berth, checking out the dockside talent and waiting for the moment they can start enjoying some shore time. And good luck to ’em.

Tom Brown and chorus sang Whip Jamboree [VWML CJS2/10/2923, RoudFS/S225607] in 2011 on the CD of songs by Watchet sailor John Short collected by Cecil Sharp, Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 2. The accompanying notes said:

Whip Jamboree is another shanty published only by Sharp (“I know of no other version of this chantey except one”) and Terry (“I have never heard this shanty from anyone save Mr. Short”) and, of course, Hugill (“many of my verses I had from… a Welsh mate who served in many sailing ships”). Whall prints a version slightly different in structure but with a variant of the same tune. The text is however, distinctly different as is Sharp’s other published version (from George Conway [VWML CJS2/10/3053, RoudFS/S225610] ). Sharp’s second tune is, again, a variant on the same tune as before.

Sharp acknowledges ‘a negro influence’ on the words of the chorus, and Whall also claims a minstrel origin for the song. The minstrel song Whoop Jamboree (as sung by Daniel Emmett’s Virginia Minstrels, circa 1850, and published in Christy’s Panorama Songster) is an ‘imitation of the Mississippi riverboatmen’ and bears no textual similarity to collected shanty versions, although it may have some claim to being an influence on the sea song. Both Sharp and Terry comment on the ejaculative ‘Whoop’ or ‘Whup’ in the singing of the chorus.

It has sometimes been claimed that ‘get your oat cakes done’ was a euphemism or substitution for something decidedly more bawdy—it may be a euphemism, like ‘fire down below’ or ‘seeing the promised land’ and, if so, would be understood as such and not as alternative nor bowdlerization. Hugill seems obsessed with the bawdiness, and the camouflage of it, of the chorus of this shanty—and therefore follows Whall—claiming that the words were ‘unprintable’. There is no evidence that Short is camouflaging text in his version [see also notes to Hanging Johnny] and, indeed, ‘getting your oatcakes done’ (or more often ho-cakes) is not uncommon in stage minstrelsy (e.g. American Negro Folk Songs, by Newman I. White). The longer I think about it, the more likely it seems that Jenny getting her oat-cakes done derives from a misunderstanding, a mishearing or (more perversely) a deliberate mis-reading of getting her ho-cakes done. Ho-cakes are in origin, I am informed, corn-bread cakes that were cooked over a fire on a hoe (or similar implement). Whatever the origin, we have no reason to think that Short’s version needs ‘restoring’ in any way—although we have substituted ‘sailor’ for ‘black man’ in the chorus in deference to modern sensibilities, and the ‘me’ has been dropped after ‘behind’ in the chorus just to get all the words in!.

In view of the above, it seems that ‘come and get your oats my son’, as an alternative last line in the chorus, is solely a modern revival attempt to introduce a more bawdy euphemism. Although there were undoubtedly bawdy and downright filthy versions of many shanties, we cannot go along with the notion that this was the inevitable norm. There are some shanty singers and collectors who seem to be obsessed with ‘dirty’ versions—and with not publishing them. It may say more about them than the material they deal with.

Sharp’s notes read: “the Rock Light is in Cheshire, at the mouth of the Mersey. ‘Old Dan Lowrie’s,’ Mr. Short said, was a popular playhouse in Paradise Street, Liverpool, near the Waterloo Dock, much frequented by sailors.” Short gave Sharp three verses and those plus an additional one to Terry. The entire text, therefore, comes from Short.

This video shows Rachel Bridge singing Whup Jamboree, accompanied by her father Richard Bridge, at Lower Stoke session in January 2010:


John Short sings Whip Jamboree

Now Cape Clear it is in sight,
We’ll be off Holyhead by tomorrow night,
And we’ll shape our courde for the Rock Light;
O Jenny get your oat-cake done.

Chorus (after each verse):
Whip Jamboree, whip jamboree,
O you long-tailed black man poke it up behind me,
Whip Jamboree, whip jamboree,
O Jenny get your oat-cake done.

Now my lads, we’re round the Rock,
All hammocks lashed and chests all locked;
We’ll haul er into the Waterloo Dock,
O Jenny get your oat-cake done.

Now, my lads, we’re all in dock,
We’ll be off to Dan Lowrie’s on the Spot;
And now we’ll have a good roundabout,
O Jenny get your oat-cake done.

A.L. Lloyd sings Whup Jamboree

The pilot he looks out ahead
With a hand in the chain, heaving on the lead,
And the old man roars to wake the dead,
Come and get yer oats, me son!

Chorus (after each verse):
Whup Jamboree, whup jamboree
A long-tailed black man come up behind
Whup Jamboree, whup jamboree
Jenny get yer oats, me son

Oh, now we pass the Lizard lights
And the Start, me boys, will heave in sight.
Soon we’re abreast of the Isle of Wight,
Come and get yer oats, me son!

Oh when we get to the Blackwell Docks.
Them pretty young girls come down in flocks,
With their short-legged drawers and long-tailed frocks,
Come and get yer oats, me son!

Danny Spooner sings Whip Jamboree

Well now my lads be of good cheer
For the Irish Coast it do draw near
Soon we’ll sight the old Cape Clear
Jinny get your ring-tail warm

Chorus (after each verse):
Whip jamboree, whip jamboree
Oh you pig-tailed sailors shove it up behind
Whip jamboree, whip jamboree
Jinny get your ring-tail warm

And soon we’ll see old Holyhead
No more salt beef, no more salt bread
I catch my Jinny and off to bed
Jinny get your ring-tail warm

And now the bar-ship is in sight
We’re picking up the old Rock Light
And I will clean our flue tonight
Jinny get your ring-tail warm

And now we’ll be hauling up the dock
And Liverpool tarts to the pier do flock
There’s my Jinny in a new yellow frock
Jinny get your ring-tail warm

But when we’ve had two weeks ashore
We pack our gear for sea once more
Bid farewell to my Liverpool whore
Jinny keep your ring-tail warm