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The real thing has gone forever.

August 24, 2010

Sea Songs & Shanties, collected by W.B.Whall, Master Mariner

I found this book in the Britten room recently. It was published byJames Brown & Son (Glasgow) Ltd in 1926. The frontispiece is of HMS Victory going into battle at Trafalgar.

Whall writes:

  I was intended for the Church, not for the sea, and during my early years at Oxford I received a fairly thorough musical training under the late Sir John Stainer, afterwards organist at St Paul’s Cathedral. Going to sea then, in 1861, in the old passenger-carrying East Indiamen, these Sailor Songs and Shanties struck me as worthy of preservation. During my eleven years in those ships, I took down the words and music of these songs as they were actually sung by sailors, …

Since 1872 I have not heard a Shanty or Song worth the name. Steam spoilt them. A younger generation of seamen took place of the old sea-dog. (In my first year or two at sea, I was shipmates with old men-of-war’s men who had served at sea before 1815, the year of peace, and who were of the old school.) With the new generation, true Sea Songs and Shanties practically disappeared. Echoes of them, it is true, still exist, but that is all. The real thing has gone forever.


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