> The Young Tradition > Songs > Hanging Johnny

Hanging Johnny

[ Roud 2625 ; Ballad Index Doe031 ; trad.]

The Young Tradition recorded four sea shanties, Fire Maringo, Hanging Johnny, Bring 'em Down, and Haul on the Bowline, for their 1967 EP Chicken on a Raft. Royston Wood sang lead on the first and third shanty, Peter Bellamy on the second and fourth. All tracks from the EP were included in the compilation album The Young Tradition Sampler and CD Galleries / Chicken on a Raft / No Relation. They also sang Hanging Johnny on 17 November 1968 at their concert at Oberlin College, Ohio, that was published in 2013 on their Fledg'ling CD Oberlin 1968. The EP sleeve notes commented:

Hanging Johnny is a good example of a shanty that was ready made for stringing out, a trick used by the shantyman for lengthening a song to suit the job in hand. Anyone could be a candidate for Hanging Johnny's rope until he had enough verses to finish the job.

Thames barge skipper Bob Roberts sang Hanging Johnny in a Peter Kennedy recording from the 1950s on the Saydisc anthology CD Sea Songs and Shanties: Traditional English Sea Songs and Shanties from the Last Days of Sail.

Clark Branson from San Jose sang Hanging Johnny on the 1979 Folkways album Sea Songs Seattle.

Jon Boden sang Hanging Johnny as the 11 February 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Finn Collinson sang Hanging Johnny in 2019 on his album Call to Mind. He noted:

A traditional halyard shanty which I have given a full band treatment and a new chorus. The subject is not quite what it seems—the hanging Johnny was in fact the boy who climbed the main mast to haul up the sails.


The Young Tradition sing Hanging Johnny

They call me Hanging Johnny
    Away, boys, away!
But I never hanged nobody
    So hang, boys, hang!

They says I hanged my graddy
And then I hanged my family

They says I hanged my mother
It is they and my brother

I hanged a rotten liar
But I hanged a bloody friar

They tells I hang for money
But hanging's so bloody funny

We all will hang together
It's all for better weather