> Louis Killen > Songs > The Leaving of Liverpool

The Leaving of Liverpool

[ Roud 9435 ; Ballad Index Doe104 ; LeavLiv at Old Songs ; DT LEAVLIV1 ; Mudcat 66662 ; trad.]
Stephen D. Winick: Sung With Gusto by the Men: A Unique Recording of The Leaving of Liverpool in the AFC Archive, Folklife Center News 30:3-4, 2008

William Main Doerflinger collected The Leaving of Liverpool from Richard Maitland in 1938-40 at Sailors’ Snug Harbor, Staten Island, New York, and from Patrick Tayluer in 1942 at the Seamen’s Church Institute at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan. He published Maitland’s version in his 1951 book Shantymen and Shantyboys. Patrick Tayluer’s less known version is available at the archive of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (AFS 9169 A1 and A2).

Ewan MacColl sang The Leaving of Liverpool in 1962 on his and A.L. Lloyd’s Prestige International album, A Sailor’s Garland. A.L. Lloyd noted:

W. Doerflinger got this nostalgic song from a well-known shanty singer, ‘Captain’ Dick Maitland, who learnt it from a Liverpool man when he was bosun on the General Knox about 1885. It seemed to have disappeared from its own home town, but since Doerflinger printed it, it has taken a new lease of life, and is now not infrequently heard in the city folk song clubs.

Louis Killen sang The Leaving of Liverpool at a midnight folk concert recorded in London in May 1963 that was released in the same year on the Decca album Hootenanny in London. He also sang it in 1970 on his South Street Seaport Museum album 50 South to 50 South: Louis Killen sings on the Cape Horn Road, on the Clancy Brothers’ 1973 album Greatest Hits, in 1995 with the Out-of-Shape Chanteymen on his CD Sailors, Ships & Chanteys, and in 2000 with the Revels on their CD Homeward Bound. He erroneously noted on his 1995 CD:

Collected by Alan Lomax from Captain [Tayluer] in Sailors’ Snug Harbor, Staten Island, NY, this forebitter was a firm favourite with ships’ crews sailing out of the Mersey River, especially if they hailed from the port of Liverpool.

but corrected his error in the Mudcat Café thread William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000:

… At one of the NY Pinewoods Week-ends some year’s ago I had some CDs for sale, among them Sailors, Ships & Chanteys, on which is The Leaving of Liverpool. Bill [Doerflinger] was there and I had to apologise profusely for my sleeve notes regarding the song. I had stated that it had been collected by Alan Lomax, from a Captain [Tayluer] (who, by chance, was also living in Sailor’s Snug Harbor on Staten Island). I realised my error immediately I read the sleeve notes after they had been printed and the CDs duplicated. He just smiled and said, “…as long as you sing the words I collected, then I’ll know where you got it from”. A true and generous gentleman. May he rest in peace.

Rory McEwen, Martin Carthy and Bob Davenport sang Leaving of Liverpool on the Hullabaloo ABC Television programme broadcast on 7 December 1963.

Alex Campbell sang Leaving of Liverpool at a concert on 16 August 1965 in Copenhagen, which was recorded and released in the same year on his Storyville album Alex Campbell in Copenhagen.

The Corrie Folk Trio and Paddy Bell sang The Leaving of Liverpool in 1965 on their Waverley album The Promise of the Day. I do not know when and where this duo performance was recorded:

The Spinners sang The Leaving of Liverpool in 1967 on their Fontana album Another LP by the Spinners. A live recording from Liverpool’s Music Room in May 2018 was released in the same year on their CD Legends.

Matt MacGinn sang The Leaving of Liverpool in 1968 on his Transatlantic album Honesty Is Out of the Fashion.

Colonel Sanderson’s Memorial Concertina Band played The Leaving of Liverpool on the 2002 Free Reed anthology This Label Is Not Removable.

Logic sang The Leaving of Liverpool in 2004 on their album Shades of Ireland.

The New Scorpion Band sang The Leaving of Liverpool in 2004 on their CD Out on the Ocean. Tim Laycock noted:

The “David Crockett” was launched at Mystic, Connecticut, in 1853. From 1863, under the command of Captain John Burgess, she regularly visited Liverpool on voyages to and from California. Burgess was lost overboard in 1874. The song was collected by W.M. Doerflinger from Dick Maitland in [1938 and printed in] 1951.

Steve Tilston sang The Leaving of Liverpool in 2005 on his CD Of Many Hands and a year later on his Sound Techniques DVD Guitar Maestros. The CD track was also included in 2007 on his Free Reed 4 CD anthology Reaching Back.

Maz O’Connor sang Leaving of Liverpool on her 2012 album Upon a Stranger Shore.

Paul Davenport sang The Leaving of Liverpool on his and Liz Davenport’s 2018 album Shadows in the Mist. They noted:

Collected by Doerflinger from two singers in [1938 and] 1942, this is not the popular version from Dick Maitland, recorded by everyone in the 1960s. Instead, this is the ‘other’ version from Patrick Tayluer, a man whose repertoire with the exception of this is found in Doerflinger’s seminal Shantymen and Shantyboys. It is thought that the song is more likely to have been used as a shanty, with its free ranging verse, than as a forebitter.

Jim Moray sang The Leaving of Liverpool on his 2019 CD The Outlander. He noted:

For a song so widely sung in the second folk revival, it’s startling that this song was only collected twice, both times in New York by William Doerflinger. This version is closest to the first, as sung by Captain Richard Maitland in 1938. John Burgess was a real captain and he first sailed a ship called “The David Crockett” out of Liverpool in 1853.

Jon Wilks talked with Jim Moray about The Leaving of Liverpool on 21 June 2020 in Episode 10 of his Old Songs Podcast.

The Exmouth Shanty Man sang The Leaving of Liverpool in 2022 on their WildGoose album Tall Ships and Tavern Tales. They noted:

Our long voyage on a tall ship begins, as did so many, from the premier port of Liverpool. By the late 1800s when American collector [William Doerflinger] learned this song from a Liverpool sailor. Special emigration trains ran directly to Prince’s Landing Stage.


Louis Killen sings The Leaving of Liverpool

Fare-thee-well the Prince’s Landing Stage,
River Mersey fare-thee-well.
I am bound for California.
That’s a place I know right well.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
So fare you well, my own true love,
For when I return united we will be.
It’s not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me
But my darling when I think of you.

Oh I’m bound to California
By way of the stormy Cape Horn.
And I’ll write to you a letter, my love,
When I am homeward bound.

I am bound on a Yankee clipper ship,
Davy Crockett is her name.
And the Captain’s name is Burgess
And they say she’s a floating hell.

It’s my second trip with Burgess in the Crockett,
And I think I know him well.
If a man’s a seaman, he can get along,
But if he’s not then he’s sure in hell.

So fare-well Lower Frederick Street,
Anson Terrace, and Park Lane;
I think it will be some long time
Before I see you again.

Oh I am bound away to leave you,
Goodbye, my love, goodbye.
And there’s but one thing that grieves my mind
And it’s leaving you behind.

Patrick Tayluer’s The Leaving of Liverpool (1942)

Now I’m leaving Liverpool, bound out for ’Frisco Bay,
I’m leaving my sweetheart behind me, but I’ll come back and marry you someday.
Oh, when I’m far away at sea, I’ll always think of you
And today I’m leaving Liverpool and the landing stage for sea.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Singing fare you well, my own true love,
When I return, united we will be.
For it ain’t the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me,
But, me darling, when I thinks of you.

Now I know I’ll be a long time away on this voyage to ’Frisco Bay,
We’re off to California, where there’s lots of gold today.
I’ll bring you back silk dresses, and lots of finery,
I’ll bring you presents of all sorts, and my money I’ll get from the sea.

Well, I wrote a note and dropped it on the landing stage for her,
Telling her that I would pray for her, God knows, when I was at sea.
I’ll go about my duties, always thinking about you
And when I do return, I’ll marry you, my Sue.

And when I’m homeward bound, I’ll write you a letter and let you know that I’m coming home,
And I’ll let you know what I’ve done at sea, when I am bound to you.
I’ll gather all my strings in, and I hope you’ll do the same,
When I’m bound back to Liverpool, you know just what I mean.

Now, a strong Westerly wind, it blows us home around Cape Horn for land,
We’re coming back for Liverpool, and we’ll soon be hand in hand.
When I pass the light ship, oh, this prayer I’ll say for you,
May God bless the two of us and our happy union prove.