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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

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Book TitleAuthorDateNotes
Song TitleGuilty sea captain
Roud No.478
Collected FromSawyer, David [Phoebus]
LocationOgbourne St. Andrew
Collected ByWilliams, Alfred
Alternative Title
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 4 - Wiltshire: Williams, A: MS collection No Wt 445
Source SecondaryWilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 20th November, 1915, p 2, Part 8, No. 5: Williams, A: Folk songs of the upper Thames, 1923, p 265, 266
Song Lyrics
Verse 1

We were all in good health when the ship left the bay,
Our hearts were light and our ship was gay;
Well rigged and painted, just fit for the sea,
Bound for New York and America.

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," he said, "it grieves me to the heart,
To think I have 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 in Liverpool I 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

Our sails were rent, our rigging torn,
Our good ship was almost gone;
We held a conference and lots we drew,
And overboard the captain threw.

Verse 10

Our cruel captain as you will find,
Left a half of our provisions behind;
Our cruel captain, as you shall understand,
Meant to starve us all before we got to land.
Print Song Lyrics
Note 1

Williams, Alfred: WGS: 'An ancient and superstitious piece, relating to early navigation between this country and America. Only heard once in the valley. Obtained of David Sawyer.'

Williams, Alfred: FSUT: 'An ancient and superstitious piece, relating to early navigation between this country and America. Only heard once in the valley. Obtained of David Sawyer. He died in 1918.'

Note 2

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 Mi 586 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, 2010.



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