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Stevebury Lyr Req: Sailors' Alphabet (27) RE: Lyr Req: Sailors' Alphabet 17 May 18


“Windjammers: Songs of the Great Lakes Sailors,” by Ivan H. Walton and Joe Grimm (2002), contains two versions of the Sailor’s Alphabet from the Great Lakes (pp 89-92). The first was sung for Walton by Captain Manus J. Bonner of Charlevoix in 1932, who said that he learned it “when a hand before the mast in the 1870’s.”

A is the anchor of our gallant ship,
B is the bowsprit that in the seas dip,
C is the capstan so merrily goes 'round, and
D is the davits to which our boat's bound.

    So merry, so merry, so merry are we,
    No mortals on earth are as happy as we;
    Hi derry, ho derry, hi derry down,
    Give sailor boys rum and there's nothing goes wrong!

E is the ensign at our masthead,
F is the fo'c'sle where is our bed,
G is the gun'l, against it seas splash,
H is the hawser that holds the ship fast.

I is the iron, without it we're lost,    [compass]
J is the jolly boat that rows us acrost
K is the keelson as I have been told, and
L is the lany'rd that keeps a good hold.

M is the mainmast so stout and so tall,
N is the nettings that hangs our hammocks all.
O is the oars we often do row, and
P is the pennant so lightly does flow.

Q is the quarterdeck on which our good captain stood,
R is the riggin' so stout and so good.
S is the steward that weighs our beef, and
T is the tops'ls we oft have to reef.

U is the union to which our troubles pass,
V is the vang that holds steady the gaff.
W is the wheel by which we do steer, and
X, Y and Z are the rest of the gear.


The second version (to the same melody) is from the days of steam. Walton got it from Walter B. Wright of Oberlin, Ohio, who said he heard it aboard the freighter 'Joseph Sellwood' in 1929.

A is for anchor which is sometimes called hook,
B is for bosun who is often a crook,
C is for captain, a rusty old man, and
D is for deck where the winches are ran.

E is for ensign, high up on the spar,
F is for firemen who throw the splice bar,
G is for galley where the cook does his stuff, and
H is for hatchway where one fall is enough.

I is for iron whose ore the ships carry,
J is for Jane we all love, but ne'er marry,
K is for keel deep down in the sea, and
L is for locks at Sault Ste. Marie.

M is for mattress all full of bed bugs,
N is for navy beans we eat from our mugs,
O is for oiler all greasy and gay, and
P is for pumps which he runs night and day.

Q is for quarterdeck, called the fantail,
R is for rollers that come over the rail,
S is for sailor who does his own patches, and
T is for tarpaulin that covers the hatches.

U is for union that pipe fitters know,
V is for ventilator down which the winds blow,
W is for windlass that pulls up the hook, and
X is the signature of our scholarly cook.

Y is for yells the mate often makes, and
Z is for zero in winter on the Lakes.


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