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Gibb Sahib Origins: 'The Shaver' (10) RE: Origins: 'The Shaver' 26 Feb 16


Let's add some perspective. Terry, writing in 1920 (and having perhaps only been interested in chanties for the previous 5 years or so), says he learned "The Shaver" from James Runciman, who died in 1891. So Terry was 16 or younger when he learned this obscene and homoerotic song from his uncle. The uncle (James) in turn, is supposed to have told Terry back then (before 1891) that he in turn had learned it from his (James') great-uncle. Well, that's what he says in 1920. In his 1926 work it says James learned it from an unnamed (and evidently unknown to Terry) great-uncle of Terry.

It sound to me like we're talking about a song from a time before the Terrys/Runcimans knew chanties. A Navy song, perhaps. Terry is making a chanty connection due to the "Paddy On the Railway" tune.

Hugill goes to sea 1922-1945 and at some point during that time meets "Spike Sennit" of Liverpool. In the 1950s he works on SfSS, reads Terry's writing.

He does not read Terry all that well -- "Terry vouches for the antiquity of this next shanty and claims that his great-uncle often sang it." No, he doesn't. No claim of antiquity, no "often." "He thinks that the Christy Minstrels 'pinched' the tune of Poor Paddy from this earlier capstan song." No, Terry did not say it was a capstan song. All Terry did was assume it was a chanty.

Hugill goes on, "From an old Irish seaman, Spike Sennit, I learnt that this was one of the very few shanties in which the obscenity took a homosexual form." (p.339, SfSS). So, oddly, he does not directly say that he learned this from Sennit. Technically, he could have presented the song (e.g. via Terry's work) to Sennit and gotten Sennit's comment. Not that I think that's what happened. But there is this pattern of vague language being used by Hugill that obscures, rather than reveals, his source.

While we're at it: Why did Hugill need to learn from Sennit that this was "one of the very few shanties...homosexual form"? Hadn't Hugill done his own survey of the chanty repertoire so as to come to a conclusion on this, or did he believe he should voice that conclusion in the mouth of Sennit?

Hugill pairs "Railway" and "Shaver," as Terry did, in his presentation. Why, I wonder, does Hugill produce the same "Railway" tune in F major?

What of the "additional" verses? Didn't Hugill add verses to any/all the chanties he presented, at the time of writing SfSS, to flesh them out as needed? When an additional verse is, "An' when we lollop'd around Cape Horn / I wisht to hell I'd niver been born" (verse nabbed by Bert Lloyd for his "South Australia") does that sound like a fixed verse or an improv? I say improv.

So Lighter, I disagree that, "The preponderance of evidence seems to be that Hugill's version is not simply his own recollection of Terry's." All I see are vague implications by Hugill, through his shifty language, that he had heard the song independently of Terry. Whatever additional info might have been provided by that hearing is terribly compromised in SfSS.


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