> Shirley Collins > Songs > I Drew My Ship
> Eliza Carthy > Songs > I Drew My Ship Into the Harbour
> June Tabor > Songs > I Will Put My Ship in Order

I Drew My Ship Into the Harbour / I Will Put My Ship in Order

[ Roud 402 ; G/D 4:792 ; Ballad Index Ord318 ; Mudcat 120478 ; trad.]

J. Collingwood Bruce, John Stokoe: Northumbrian Minstrelsy Katherine Campbell: Songs from North-East Scotland John Ord: Bothy Songs and Ballads Stephen Sedley: The Seeds of Love

Shirley Collins recorded I Drew My Ship in a two day session in London in 1958 for her 1960 LP False True Lovers. This track was later included in her anthologies Within Sound and The Classic Collection. Shirley and Alan Lomax noted on the original album:

I Drew My Ship was collected by John Stokoe in Songs and Ballads of Northern England [1893] with no source mentioned. Though it is similar in form and content to many other aubades or dawn serenades, we have not been able to find another song to which this is precisely akin. The listener who cares to compare the recorded version with that published by Stokoe will see how Miss Collins has breathed life back into the print and made something lovely and alive out of an unimpressive folk fragment.

She recorded it for a second time in London in 1958/59, this time accompanied by Robin Hall. This recording was published in 1964 on her Collector EP English Songs Vol. 1.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang I Drew My Ship in 1966 on the LP A Wench, a Whale and a Pint of Good Ale, in 1978 on his LP Ballad Singer, and in 2013 on his CD Starlit Skies where he noted:

Originally drawn from the North-East of England but my memory of learning this goes back to the early 1960s in Melbourne. In those days there were a great many people arriving in Australia to settle and start a new life. Some of these people would have brought with them folk songs that they had maybe heard in the emerging folk clubs that were springing up in Britain. These were then sung into the general melting pot of song sessions in Australia. I know that Shirley Collins, MBE, sang this song back then, so maybe it was from someone who had learnt it from her and took it out to Australia. I have pulled it out of the pot once again.

The High Level Ranters sang I Drew My Ship on their 1971 Trailer album High Level.

Colin Tucker sang I Drew My Ship on 26 October 1975 at the Blacksmith's Arms, Epping. This recording was included in 2002 on the charity CD Down River Recordings Volume 1.

Danny Spooner, accompanied by Mick Farrell, sang I Drew My Ship in 1978 on their album Limbo. This track was also included in 2007 on his compilation Years of Spooner. He noted:

The belief in ghosts and spirits produced many great folksongs, including the group affectionately known as ‘night visiting songs’. This is one of the loveliest of this group. Coming from the north-east of England, it tells of the visit of a dead lover, but the young lady is too slow to get out of her bed to see him once more.

Tony Cuffe got I Will Set My Ship in Order from John Ord's Bothy Songs and Ballads, set it to his own tune, and sang it in 1984 on Ossian's album Borders. This track was also included in 2020 on the second edition of the anthology The Rough Guide to Scottish Folk.

Eliza Carthy, accompanied by John Reed and Tristan Glover, sang I Drew My Ship Into the Harbour in 1998 on Texas T. Rex and Tristan Chipolata's album The Reality Check, followed by the tune When the Boat Comes In. This track was also included in the “soundtrack” CD to Tim Winton's 2001 novel Dirt Music.

June Tabor recorded this song for her 1999 CD A Quiet Eye with another verse before Shirley Collins' first three (and a few more after them). Consequently her song title is the now first verse's starting stanza, I Will Put My Ship in Order. She was accompanied by her usual partners Huw Warren on piano and Mark Emerson on viola and by a nice brass combo. This track was also included in 2005 on her 4 CD anthology Always and on the two compilations And We'll All Have Tea and The English Collection. June Tabor noted on Always:

It’s a night-visiting-gone-wrong song. Usually as soon as the parents have gone out, the young man is there persuading his young lady that what she should do is let him. This one doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to. When she does go down and opens the door, he’s gone. When she finds him, she asks what happened and he says he’s not interested in her anymore, she’s too easy. Oh, the bastard! I put the last verse about the ripest apples in—which belongs in a song of its own—because it seemed so appropriate that that verse should come at the end. Long after having done that, I found another version of Ship in Order which actually had that verse in it. People think alike over the years. It’s fascinating how it comes back round.

Capercaillie sang I Will Set My Ship in Order on their 2003 CD Choice Language and on the charity anthology Huntingdon Folk 4.

Fiona White sang I Drew My Ship on her 2007 CD Myths of Time.

Pete Wood sang I Drew My Ship Into a Harbour on his 2007 CD Manchester Angel. He noted:

A wonderful night visiting song from Northumberland, sung by many fine singers, but it's hard to resist, and it's my acknowledgement of one of the splendours of the area that has been my home for 33 years, nearly twice the length of time I lived in Lancashire. The only version from oral tradition is in Stokoe and Reay's Songs and Ballads of Northern England.

Bellowhead learned I Drew My Ship Across the Harbour from Shirley Collins' LP and recorded it in 2008 for their album Matachin, all the while turning the first verse into a chorus. And Jon Boden sang I Drew My Ship as the 23 January 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

This video shows Bellowhead at Buxton Opera House in 2008:

The Maerlock sang I Drew My Ship in 2008 on their Fellside CD Sofa.

Graham Pirt sang I Drew My Ship in 2008 on his and his son Sam Pirt's Fellside CD Dance ti' Thee Daddy. He noted:

One of the traditional night visiting songs. It was described in Bert Lloyd's Folk Song in England it was the custom at the time of this song for young ladies to leave a ladder outside her room so that her lover could visit her in her bedroom to court her. It finished by saying that “a better state now prevails”. I often wondered how that system could be improved.

Ewan Robertson sang Ship in Order in 2010 on his Greentrax CD Some Kind of Certainty. He noted:

I was introduced to this song by Rick Taylor and had the pleasure and honour of performing it with him and the Wayward Boys for his ‘New Voices’ commission at Celtic Connections 2009. Thanks Rick!

Elle Osborne sang I Drew My Ship on her 2011 CD So Slowly Slowly Got She Up.

Arthur Knevett sang I Drew My Ship on his 2016 CD Simply Traditional. He noted:

This song is based on a fragment that my mother-in-law used to sing. She was an early riser and would always be singing in the kitchen as she prepared breakfast. She knew, and would sing, all sort of songs, particularly those from musicals. However, she also know a few traditional songs but only three verses to this one, but I like the tune variant she used and have filled out the text from various sources.

Alistair Anderson & Northlands played the tune of I Drew My Ship Into the Harbour in 2017 on their eponymous CD Alistair Anderson & Northlands.

Megson sang I Drew My Ship Into the Harbour on their 2019 CD Con-tra-dic-shun. They give Stokoe's Songs and Ballads of Northern England as their source.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings I Drew My ShipEliza Carthy sings I Drew My Ship Into the Harbour

I drew my ship into the harbour,
I drew it up where my true love lay.
I drew it close by into her window
To listen what my love did say.

I drew my ship into the harbour,
I drew her up where my true love lay.
I drew up close by to the window
To listen what my love did say.

“Who's there that knocks loud at my window?
Who knocks so loud and would come in?”
“It is your true love who loves you dearly,
Then rise, dear love, and let him in.”

“Oh, who is it comes to my window
That knocks so loud and wants to come in?”
“It is your true love that loves you dearly,
So rise, dear girl, and let him in.”

Then slowly, slowly she got up
And slowly, slowly came she down,
But before she got her door unlocked
Her true love had both come and gone.

Oh slowly, slowly she got up
And slowly, slowly came she down,
But before she got the door unlocked
Her true love had both come and gone.

“Come back, come back, my own true lover,
Come back, my own one and ease my pain,
Your voice I heard not, your face I saw not,
Oh John, my heart will break in two [twain?].”

He's brisk and braw, he's far away,
He's far beyond yon raging main,
Where fishers dancing and bright eyes glancing
Have made him quite forget his ain.

𝄆 He's brisk and braw, lads, he's far away, lads,
He's far beyond the raging main,
Where fishers dancing and dark eyes glancing
Have made him quite forget his own [ain?]. 𝄇

(repeat first verse)

June Tabor sings I Will Put My Ship in Order Capercaillie sing I Will Set My Ship in Order

Oh I will put my ship in order
And I will set it to the sea;
And I will sail to yonder harbour
To see if my love minds on me.

Oh, I will set my ship in order,
I will sail her on the sea;
I’ll go far over yonder border
To see if my love minds on me.

I drew my ship into the harbour,
I drew her up where my true love lay.
And I did listen all at the window
To hear what my love did say.

And he sailed East, and he sailed West,
He sailed far, far, seeking land,
Until he cam’ to his true love’s window
And he knocked loud and would be in.

“Who's there, who's there at my bedroom window?
Who raps so loud and would be in?”
“Oh, it is I, your own true lover,
I pray you rise, love, and let me in.”

“Oh, who is that at my bedroom window
Who knocks so loud and would be in?”
“‘Tis I, ‘Tis I, your ain true lover
and I am drenched untae my skin.”

“So go and go, and ask your faither
See if he’ll let you marry me;
And if he says no, come back and tell me
And it’s the last time I’ll trouble thee.”

“My father’s in his chamber writing,
Setting down his merchandise;
And in his hand he holds a letter
And it speaks much in your dispraise.

“My mother’s in her chamber sleeping
And words of love she will not hear;
So you may go and court another
And whisper softly in her ear.”

And slowly, slowly rose she up
And slowly, slowly came she down,
But when she had the door unlocked
Her true love had both been and gone.

Then she arose put on her clothing,
It was to let her true love in;
But e’er she had the door unlockit
His ship was sailing on the main.

“Come back, come back, my own true lover,
Come back, come back, all to my side.
I never grieved you nor yet deceived you
And I will surely be your bride.”

“Come back, come back, my ain dear Johnnie,
Come back, come back, and marry me.”
“How can I come back and marry you, love?
Oor ship is sailing on the sea.”

“The fish will fly, love, the seas will dry, love,
The rocks will melter with the sun,
And labouring men will forget their labour,
Before that I return again.”

“The fish may fly, and the seas run dry,
The rocks may melt doon wi’ the sun,
And the working man may forget his labour
Before that my love returns again.”

Ripest apples are soonest rotten,
Hottest love soonest grow cold.
𝄆 Young man's words are soon forgotten;
Come all young girls, don't you be so bold. 𝄇

She’s turned herself right roun’ aboutm
She’s flung herself intae the sea;
“Farweel for aye, my ain dear Johnnie
Ye’ll ne’er hae tae come back to me.”

Danny Spooner sings I Drew My Ship

I drew my ship into the harbour,
I drew it close, where my love lay;
I drew it close beside her window,
To listen to what my love did say.

“Who is that knocks loud at my window?
Who knocks so loud, yet won't come in?”
“It is your true love, who loves you dearly,
Come down my love, and let me in.”

So slowly, slowly, got she up,
And slowly, slowly come she nigh,
But e'er she had the door unlocked,
Her own true love, was come and gone.

He's brisk and braw, he's noo awa',
Sae far across the raging main.
Where fishes dancing and bright eyes glancing,
Have made him quite forget his ain.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of Eliza Carthy by Garry Gillard. He commented: Eliza sings “two” and “own”, but an earlier version would have had the rhyming words I've supplied.