Mudcat Café message #3272762 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #65990   Message #3272762
Posted By: radriano
12-Dec-11 - 04:54 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Billy Boy
Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
This is one of those songs that went to sea and became a capstan shanty:

Billy Boy        capstan
Stan Hugill, Shanties from the Seven Seas


Where have ye bin all the day, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Where have ye bin all the day, me Billy Boy?
I've bin walin' on the quay, with me charmin' Nancy Lee
An' sweet Nancy tickled me fancy, oh, me charmin' Billy Boy!

Is she fit to be yer wife, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Is she fit to be yer wife, me Billy Boy?
Aye, she's fit to be me wife as the fork is to the knive

Can she cook a bit o' steak, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
She can cook a bit o' steak, aye, an' make a gridle cake

Can she make an Irish stew, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
She can make an Irish stew, aye, an' a Cornish pasty too

Does she sleep close unto thee, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Aye, she sleeps close unto me, like the bark is to the tree

Can she make a feather bed, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
She can make a feather bed, fit for any sailor's head

Can she darn and can she sew, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Aye, she can darn and she can sew, there is nought she cannot do

Can she wash and can she clean, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Aye, she can wash and she can clean, an' she plays the tambourine

Can she heave the dipsy lead, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
[She can heave the dipsy lead an' she loves to roll in bed]

Can she strop a block, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
[Aye, she can strop a block an' she'll be waiting on the dock]



Notes from the book: " Billy Boy is given by Terry as a Northumbrian capstan shanty, and he gives it in the Northumbrian dialect, but I rather fancy it had a wider field than Northumberland. I have met many seamen from London, Liverpool, and South Wales who also knew this shanty. Like Terry states, it had many unprintable stanzas not lending themselves to easy camouflage. There are two main versions, the well known one and one in a minor key. Of course they have both stemmed from similar shore songs of which there are many. At times two shantymen would sing, one for the questions and one for the answers. Bill Fuller, who had sailed in Sunbeam I, told me that Sir Walter Runciman would often sing it at the windlass aboard that vessel.