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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

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Book TitleAuthorDateNotes
Song TitleGuilty sea captain
Roud No.478
Collected FromUnknown
Collected ByWilliams, Alfred
Alternative Title
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 5 - Miscellaneous: Williams, A: MS collection No Mi 586
Source SecondaryUnpublished
Song Lyrics
Verse 1

It was our good ship the Lady Lee,
And thirty days we'd been at sea;
Our voyage we deemed it nearly o'er,
Bound from Jamaica to old England's shore.

Verse 2

As our captain all in his cabin lay,
A voice spoke to him, and thus did say -
'Prepare yourself, with your ship's company,
For tomorrow night you shall lie with me.'

Verse 3

Our captain awoke in a terrible fright,
It being the first watch of the night,
Then aloud for the boatswain he did call
And to him he told his secrets all.

Verse 4

'Boatswain,' said he, 'it grieves me to the heart,
To think I've acted a villain's part;
To take what is not my lawful due,
And to starve my passengers and my ship's crew.

Verse 5

Another thing I have thee to tell -
When I in Liverpool did dwell;
I murdered my master dear,
All for the sake of his lady fair.

Verse 6

I killed my wife and my children three,
All for that cursed jealousy;
And on my servant I laid the blame,
And he was hanged all for the same.'

Verse 7

'Captain,' said he, 'If this be so,
I pray, let none of the ship's crew know;
But keep the secret within your breast,
And pray that God may give you rest.'

Verse 8

Early the next morning a storm did rise,
Which did our seamen much surprise;
The boatswain he did then declare,
That the captain he was a murderer.

Verse 9

The wind it made a dreadful sound
As on the deck we gathered round;
We held a conference and lots we drew
And overboard the captain threw.

Verse 10

By five o clock that very day,
The hurricane had died away:
Our cruel captain as you will understand,
Had meant to starve us ere we got to land.

Verse 11

The sun went down like fire so red,
And the moon stood up in the east instead:
Our sails being hoisted and our passage found
We soon came riding into Plymouth Sound.
Print Song Lyrics
Packet 4 Wiltshire songs contains a note -

'Published in Folk songs of the Upper Thames p 265. M/S can be found in Packet 17 on the reverse of the last foolscap sheet, and is identical to the published version.'

However, the manuscript starts at Verse 3 of the published text. In the context of the manuscript in Packet 5 Miscellaneous this raises a difficult issue for as Williams says in his note, 'Only heard once' and yet the texts are quite different.

The typescript in the file refers to the full text being found on the reverse of the 'Hackney Coachman' Wt 377. This text differs from that collected from David Sawyer, Wt 445 and published in Folk songs of the Upper Thames p 265.

Verses 1, 9 and 10 differ textually and there is, in addition a Verse 11. There are also minor textual differences in the other verses.

So there is a difficulty with the two texts and Williams' statement, 'Only heard once' which appears in Wt 445 and the published version of the song.

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2007.



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