> The Watersons > Songs > Hog-Eye Man
> Cyril Tawney > Songs > Hogs Eye Man

Hog-Eye Man

[ Roud 331 ; Ballad Index RL401 ; trad.]

Ian Campbell and chorus sang the capstan shanty Hog-Eye Man in 1964 on the Topic album of sea songs and shanties, Farewell Nancy. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

Though familiar to British seamen, this song, used mainly for capstan work, was probably made in America. It’s still a favourite there, evidently, for the folklorist Vance Randolph found several versions current among Missouri hill-folk nearly a thousand miles from the sea. Alas, Randolph’s versions remain in manuscript, locked away in a Sex Research Institute in Indiana. The version here—melody, at least—was taken down in the 1860s.

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

Sara Grey sang Sally in the Garden in 1982 on her Fellside album of songs and tunes from North America, A Breath of Fresh Air.

The New Scorpion Band sang The Hogseye Man in 2004 on their CD Out on the Ocean. Tim Laycock noted:

It seems likely that this lusty pumps shanty started life as a Negro work song, maybe amongst railroad navvies in the United States. Stan Hugill traces its history from navvies to river boat sailors on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, to cotton hoosiers in the Gulf ports, and finally out onto the deep water vessels. Our arrangement is influenced by the sounds and instruments of the Caribbean.

Waterson:Carthy sang the capstan shanty Hog-Eye Man in 2006 on the double CD Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys. On this album they also sang The Mermaid, and Eliza Carthy sang Rolling Sea. The sleeve notes commented:

A hog-eye was apparently a type of barge used in the canals and rivers of America from the 1850’s onward. Thus, “hog-eye man” was used in derogation by the deep water sailors who used this chantey at the capstan. Many of the original verses to this chantey were for too obscene to have ever found their way into print.

John Roberts sang Hog-Eye Man in 2007 on his solo CD Sea Fever.

Cyril Tawney sang Hogs Eye Man live at the Holsteins folk club in Chicago on 31 May 1981. This concert was published in 2007 on his CD Live at Holsteins.

Jackie Oates and chorus sang Hog-Eyed Man on the 2012 anthology of sea songs of Watchet sailor John Short collected by Cecil Sharp, Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 3. The project notes commented:

This is one of the Shanties where authors seem to be obsessed about obscenity. Whall: “much of this shanty is unprintable”; Terry: “Of the infinite number of verses to this fine tune hardly one is printable”; Colcord: “None of the versions can be printed in anything like their entirety”; Hugill: “Many other shanties were just as obscene, and even worse.” A lot of note-space is expended—leading nowhere, for example: Terry: “There has been much speculation as to the origin of the title. As a boy my curiosity was piqued by reticence, evasion, or declarations of ignorance, whenever I asked the meaning of the term. It was only in later life that I learnt it from Mr. Morley Roberts. His explanation made it clear why every sailor called it either ‘hog‑eye’ or ‘hog’s‑eye,’ and why only landsmen editors ever get the word wrong” and Hugill: “I rather think Terry got his words mixed—he was thinking of ‘Dead-eye’ and not ‘Hog-eye’, the former having both a nautical and an obscene significance.” Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, then! Short’s text may be sexually based—but even slightly expanded it is not obscene, although it is in line with the theme of other versions. We have commented elsewhere on whether Short self-censored—we rather like him getting his own nickname into the text!

Whall dates the shanty to 1849/1850 and points out that “until the roads were made, there was great business carried on by water, the chief vehicles being barges called ‘hog-eyes’.” The general consensus is that the shanty is of Negro origin, probably from river boatmen—the men who worked the hog-eyes (although one version does refer to a ‘railroad navvie’), and all agree that, at sea, it was a windlass/capstan shanty.

Regarding the location of Whitemore Lane, Sharp’s notes give “In Cardiff but now done away with.”

The Andover Museum Loft Singers conducted by Paul Sartin sang The Hog’s Eye Man in 2012 on their WildGoose CD The Bedmaking, and Faustus—Benji Kirkpatrick, Saul Rose and Paul Sartin—sang Og’s Eye Man in 2013 on their Navigator CD Broken Down Gentlemen. They noted:

Paul learnt this from his late friend John Prince in the early 2000s. It may refer to a specialist in a particular type of sailing knot. Or not.

Benji wrote the accompanying melody, Ring Her Bell.

FatDog sang Hog-Eye on their 2014 CD New Found Land.

The Jeremiahs sang Hog Eye Man in 2014 on their eponymous first album, The Jeremiahs. They noted:

One could go on all day about the origins [of] a song like Hog Eye Man.This version began life as a sea shanty and has many many variations, most often too rude to print on any album sleeve. It appears that the Hog Eye Man in this scenario would have been a type of labourer, navvy or roustabout if you will, usually in these songs a man of negro origins, who being in the right place at the right time was looked upon amourously by the unchaste Sally or Sally Jane, much to the dismay of her lover. We’ll leave the rest up to your imagination…


Waterson:Carthy sing Hog-Eye Man

Oh, hand me down my riding cane,
I’m off to meet my darlin’ Jane.

Chorus (after each verse):
And a hog-eye!
Railroad navvy with his hog-eye,
Steady on a jig with a hog-eye, oh,
She wants the hog-eye man!

Oh, the hog-eye man is the man for me,
Sailin’ down from o’er the sea.

Oh, he came to the shack where Sally did dwell,
He knocked on the door, he rung a bell.

Oh, who’s been here since I been gone,
Railroad navvy with his sea-boots on.

If I catch him here with Sally once more,
I’ll sling me hook, go to sea once more.

Oh, Sally’s in the garden sifting sand,
Her hog-eye man sittin’ hand in hand.

Oh, Sally’s in the garden, punchin’ dough,
The cheeks of her arse go chuff, chuff, chuff!

Oh, I won’t wear a hog-eye, damned if I do,
Got jiggers in his feet and he can’t wear shoes.

Oh, the hog-eye man is the man for me,
He is blind and he cannot see.

Oh, a hog-eye ship and a hog-eye crew,
A hog-eye mate and a skipper too.