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copy of CD cover with link to CD home page - 4578 Bytes

Shay Black kindly loaned me a copy of a cassette tape recorded by Stan Hugill when he was touring with Stormalong John titled A Salty Fore Topman that Shay thought had the shanty Roller Bowler on it sung by Stan. Roller Bowler wasn't on the tape but Roll Boys Roll was.

Roll Boys Roll is one of the best of the "Sally Brown" shanties although the song is no longer about her after the fifth verse. I sing the song now with many more "hitches" and "yelps." It's a great shanty to do with general audiences because the chorus lines are short and easy to remember.

clipper2.jpg - 18903 Bytes I have two explanations for the phrase "with a bone in her mouth, boys" in the second verse.

Explanation 1: The phrase (sometimes worded "with a bone in her teeth") refers to a ship going at speed with white water foaming at the bow. From Royce's Sailing Illustrated's glossary the definition of "bone" is spray at the stem or cutwater of a vessel underway. I found two examples of this phrase in the collection of poems by C. Fox Smith titled Sea Songs and Ballads, 1917-1922. Smith was highly regarded by Stan Hugill and others as an authority on sea life. From the C.F. Smith poem The Tow-rope Girls, third verse:

She's logging sixteen as she speeds from the South,
The wind in her royals, a bone in her mouth,
With a wake like a mill-race she rolls on her way,
For the girls have got hold of her tow-rope to-day.

And from the Smith poem Pictures:

"'Or else racin' up Channel with a sou'wester blow in',
Stuns'ls set aloft and alow, an' a hoist o' flags showin',
An' a white bone between her teeth, so's you can see she's goin'..."

Explanation 2: English singers Dave Webber and Danny & Joyce McLeod tell me that "a bone in her mouth" refers to the "Jimmy Green" or "water" sail that is set on a yard slung below the Bow-Sprit. When this sail is up the ship appears to have "a bone in her mouth" when she is heading directly towards you. Dave Webber says this explanation comes from Stan Hugill and he (Webber) thinks this particular explanation is more likely than just the spray as the yard carrying the "Jimmy Green" sail would look more like a bone than the spray alone.


West Indian halyard shanty

Sally Brown, she's the girl for me, boys
Chorus: Roll boys, roll boys roll
Sally Brown, she's the girl for me, boys
Chorus: Way high, Miss Sally Brown

Oh way down South, way down South boys
Oh bound away, with a bone in her mouth boys

Oh we're rollin' down to Trinidad to see Miss Sally Brown
Oh rollin' down to Trinidad to paint the bleedin' town

She's lovely up aloft, an' she's lovely down below
She's lovely all the way, me boys, it's all you want to know

She's lovely on the foreyard, lovely on the main
She's lovely in the summertime, she's lovely in the rain

Ol' Captain Baker, how do you store yer carga
Some I stow for'ard, boys, an' some I stow arter (arta)

Oh, there's forty fathom or more below, boys
Oh, forty fathom or more below, boys

Oh, way high ya, an' up she rises
Oh, way high ya, the blocks is different sizes

Oh, one more pull, don't ya hear the mate a-bawlin?
Oh, one more pull, that's the end of all the hawlin'

trinidad.jpg - 24576 Bytes
artist's rendition of Trinidad Harbour