> Peter Bellamy > Songs > Andrew Rose & the Cruel Ship’s Captain

Andrew Rose / Andrew Ross

[ Roud 623 ; G/D 1:6 ; Ballad Index Pea825 ; DT ANDRROSS , ANDRROS2 ; Mudcat 42495 , 106126 ; trad.]

This report of cruel torture of a sailor is known as Andrew Ross in Scotland and as Andrew Rose in England.

Stan Kelly sang Andrew Rose in 1957 on his Topic EP Liverpool Packet: Songs of the Great Seaport. This track was included in 2004 on the anthology CD Sailors’ Songs & Sea Shanties. The latter album’s notes commented:

The trial of Captain James Rogers for cruelly misusing members of his crew took place in 1849. Following the trial, this ballad was made by an unknown London pub poet and issued by the broadside printers A Ryle & Co of Seven Dials. Senseless cruelty was all too common on English ships, even as late as the 1850s.

John and Ethel Findlater of Dounby, Mainland, Orkney sang this ballad as Andrew Ross on the anthology Sailormen and Servingmaids (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 6; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968).

Terry Yarnell and chorus sang Andrew Rose in 1971 on the Critics Group’s Argo album Ye Mariners All.

The Clutha sang Andrew Ross in 1974 on their Topic album Scots Ballads, Songs & Dance Tunes. John Lyons commented in the sleeve notes:

Gilbert Voy learned this song from his mother at Inganess Farm, near Kirkwall, Orkney, about the year 1900. It was well-known and much sung in the Orkneys at that period. There is an English version of the song (Andrew Rose), but no Orcadian would agree that this is anything but a plagiarism of the Orkney version. The sailor Andrew Ross is said to have come from the Orkney island of Stronsay.

Tony Hall sang Andrew Rose in 1977 on his Free Reed LP Fieldvole Music. The album notes commented (with a thank you to Stan Hugill for help):

Andrew Rose is printed in Capt. B. Whall’s fine old book Sea Songs and Shanties. The story it tells is horrible but true. The episode took place around 1845. The ship was called The Martha and Jane which is shortened in the song to make it come in rhyme, and I have the actual ship’s log which relates to this tale. It seems that The Martha and Jane was short of a crewman and a Captain when near the West Indies, so they shipped aboard Andrew Rose and Captain Rogers at Barbados to make up a full complement. The two had despised each other even when on shore, and when on board the hatred grew and Capt. Rogers’ torture and unspeakable degradation of Rose began. Andrew Rose was a deeply religious man who continually sang Methodist hymns during the voyage, aggravating the Captain yet more.

Capt. Rogers was hung for his crimes in Walton Gaol—in fact he was the first to hang in the ‘new’ Walton Gaol, built to replace the old one which had stood down by the docks. The Mates during the voyage were not punished. Stan Hugill also recollects seeing a commemorative wax statue to Andrew Rose during his youth in a Liverpool dockside Waxworks. Tony has given this powerful and torrid story a highly inventive melodeon accompaniment.

Jim Mageean sang Andrew Rose in 1978 on his Greenwich Village album Of Ships…and Men. He commented in his liner notes:

I think the following extract from ‘The Times’ September 1857 tells the horrific story of the death of Andrew Rose far better than I can:

Captain Henry Rogers, of the British ship Martha Jane, the mate Miles, and second mate Seymour, tried at Liverpool assizes for the murder of Andrew Rose, a seaman shipped at Barbadoes, between the 11th May and the 5th June. The cruelties to which Rose had been subjected by the ship’s officers were of the most severe and revolting description—beating him with rods, hanging him with ropes, starving him in a barrel over the ship’s side, bating him with dogs, and finally thrusting his own excrement down his throat. When death relieved the wretched sufferer, he was such a mass of sores that none of the crew would touch him, but dragged the body along the deck with ropes and threw it overboard. These facts were fully proved in all their horrible details by the crew; and a verdict of Guilty was returned against the prisoners. The punishment of the first and second mate was subsequently commuted to transportation for life, but Captain Rogers was executed at Liverpool, on the 11th September, in the presence of a crowd of people calculated at 50,000.

Peter Bellamy sang Andrew Rose & the Cruel Ship’s Captain live at Wensum Lodge in Norwich which was broadcast by the BBC as We Have Fed Our Sea on Folk on 2 in two parts on 28 December 1982 and 15 February 1983. He privately issued these recordings on his 1982 cassette The Maritime England Suite.

Roy Clinging and Neil Brookes sang Andrew Rose in 2005 on their WildGoose CD Another Round. Roy Clinging noted:

Andrew Rose is a rather disturbing song made all the more so by the knowledge that it chronicles an actual event in our not too distant past. In 1856, on board the homeward bound Martha and Jane, Captain Henry Rogers subjected able seaman Andrew Rose (or Ross) to such treatment that he did not survive the voyage back to England. He was beaten more or less on a daily basis and subjected to a constant regime of unnecessary cruelty. When Rose eventually died his body was cast overboard without ceremony but on reaching Liverpool, his shipmates went to the police. After trial at the assizes Captain Rogers was sentenced to death.

Damien Barber and Mike Wilson learned Andrew Rose from the singing of Tony Hall and recorded it in 2008 for their CD Under the Influence.

Doug Eunson and Sarah Matthews sang The Ordeal of Andrew Rose in 2016 on their CD Song and Laughter. They commented:

A true tale of brutality on the high seas, this version is adapted from one collected in Newfoundland in the 1960s.

Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne sang Andrew Rose in 2017 on his WildGoose CD Outway Songster. He commented:

A song I’ve known for longer than I can remember through recordings made by Tony Hall and later Damien Barber and Mike Wilson. A few years ago I rediscovered this song in Roy Palmer’s Oxford Book of Sea Songs and was inspired to learn it. The song tells the true story of Andrew Rose, the sailor from Orkney, who suffered horrific treatment and ultimately died at the hands of his ship’s crew, headed by Captain Henry Rogers.


Stan Kelly sings Andrew Rose

Andrew Rose, the British sailor
Now to you his wrongs I’ll name
’Twas on the passage from Barbados
All on board of the Martha Jane.

And wasn’t that most cruel usage,
Not a friend to interpose?
When they’ve whipped and stripped and mangled
The British sailor, Andrew Rose.

Up aloft the Captain sent him
Naked and with nothing on,
While the mate did follow after,
Flogging till the blood did run.


In in a harness cask they put him;
Seven days they kept him there.
When for mercy he did venture,
None to help him didn’t dare.

So for long they did ill-use him,
Till into Liverpool they lie.
The Judge he heard the shameful story;
“Captain Rodgers, you must die!”

And then his friends and near relations,
Cheered him after all his woes;
Don’t ever treat a British sailor
Like they did poor Andrew Rose.

Tony Hall sings Andrew Rose

Andrew Rose, the British sailor
Now to you his woes I’ll name
’Twas on the passage from Barbados
Whilst on board of the Martha Jane.

’Twas on the quarter-deck they laid him,
Gagged him with an iron bar;
Wasn’t that most cruel usage
To put upon a British tar?

Wasn’t that most cruel usage
Without a friend to interpose?
How they’ve whipped and mangled, gagged and strangled
The British sailor, Andrew Rose.

’Twas up aloft the Captain sent him
Naked beneath the burning sun,
Whilst the mate did follow after,
Lashing him till the blood did run.


The captain gave him stuff to swallow;
Stuff to you I will not name,
Whilst the crew got sick with horror,
Whilst on board of the Martha Jane.


It was in a water-cask they laid him;
For seven long days they kept him there.
When loud for mercy Rose did venture,
The Captain swore no man should go there.


For twenty days they did ill-use him,
Till into Liverpool they arrived.
The Judge he heard young Andrew’s story;
“Captain Rodgers, you must die!”

Come all ye friends and close relations,
And all ye friends to interpose;
Never treat a British sailor
Like they did young Andrew Rose.