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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

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Book TitleAuthorDateNotes
Song TitleJohnny, the ship's carpenter
Roud No.15
Collected FromUnknown
LocationSouth Cerney
Collected ByWilliams, Alfred
Alternative Title
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 4 - Wiltshire: Williams, A: MS collection No Wt 318
Source SecondaryUnpublished
Song Lyrics
Verse 1

In Gosport Town a fair damsel did dwell,
For wit and for beauty none could her excel;
'Tis of a young man courted her for his dear,
And he was by trade a ship's carpenter.

Verse 2

The King wanted some sailors to go on the sea,
Which made this young damsel to sigh and to say -
'Oh, Johnny, Oh, Johnny, pray don't go to sea!
Remember the vow that you gave unto me.'

Verse 3

'Twas early next morning, before it was day,
He came to his Polly and thus he did say -
'Oh, Polly, Oh, Polly, you must go with me,
Before we are married, my friends for to see.'

Verse 4

He led her through woods and valleys so deep,
He made this young damsel to sigh and to weep -
'Oh, Johnny, Oh, Johnny, you've led me astray,
Intending my life, my sweet life to destroy.'

Verse 5

'Oh, Polly, Oh, Polly, true words you have said,
For all the last night I was digging your grave.
Oh, Polly, Oh, Polly, there's no time to stand.'
He took a long, large knife in his hand.

Verse 6

'Oh, Johnny, Oh, Johnny, Oh pardon my life,
I'll never covet to be thy wedded wife;
I'll ramble the country and set thee quite free,
If thou wilt pardon my baby and me.'

Verse 7

'No pardon I'll give,' he replied, 'for my part,'
He stabbed her, he stabbed her, he stabbed her to the heart;
All from her left bosom the blood it did flow,
Then into the grave her fair body he threw.

Verse 8

He covered her up, so safe and secure,
That the murder could never be found he was sure;
He went on board ship to sail the world round,
Thinking this vile murder would never be found.

Verse 9

'Twas early one morning before it was day,
Our captain came to us and thus he did say -
'A murder on board has lately been done;
Our ship is in mourning, we cannot sail on.'

Verse 10

The up stepped the first seaman - 'Indeed it's not me,'
Then up spoke the second, the same he did say;
Then up came young Johnny to stamp and to swear,
'Indeed it's not me sir, I vow and declare.'

Verse 11

But while he was turning from the captain with speed,
He met his dear Polly, and she made his heart bleed;
She ripped him, she stripped him, and tore him in three,
Because he had murdered her baby and she.
Print Song Lyrics
Alfred Williams - 'Obtained of Mrs Hancock of Broad Blunsdon. Heard also at South Cerney. The song is of great age. This is evidenced by the reference in the ninth stanza, to the old superstition long held by sailors, that if a murder had been committed by any of the crew bad luck would attend the voyage and the ship would be doomed. Under such circumstances it was common to attempt a discovery of the culprit and if he should be found, to throw his overboard.'

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2007.



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