Author Topic: Add: The Captain's Apprentice


Posted - 13 Feb 04 - 09:18 am

Come all you men thoughout this nation
I will have you warning take by me
Don't be like me ill-treat your servants
When you sail on the raging sea.

This boy was bound to me apprentice
This boy was bound to me, I say,
From Saint Giles's Workhouse I hailed him
For this poor boy was motherless.

One day this boy he did offend me
But little to him I did say,
To the mizzen-top I hauled him
And kept him there all that long day.

His hands, his feet they were exhausted.
His arms, his legs, they were likewise.
With my marlin-spike I cruelly gagg-ed him
Because I could not bear to hear his cries.

With my log-line I cruelly beat him,
So cruelly I can't deny.
Through my cruel and bad ill-treatment
The very next morning this poor boy died.

So now my men, they do eject me,
To think that I have done so wrong.
In my cabin they closely confin-ed me
And brought me to London in an iron strong.

So now my trial do come over
And here lay I condemned to die.
If I had 'a' been my manners been ruly
I might have saved the poor boy's life and mine.

Source: Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Dec 1958


Recorded by Peter Kennedy, October 9th, 1953. Transcribed by Micheal Bell. BBC Record RPL 21480

The Journal Entry follows:

E. J. Moeran noted this song from Harry Cox and printed the tune (no words) in the Folk Song Journal of 1922 (No 26, p 5). This tune shows certain variations which do not occur in the recording noted above. Several other versions have been printed in the Jounral (No 8, pp 161-2, No 17, pp 355-6, No 26, pp 4-5 and No 27, pp 566-7). Frank Kidson wrote in FSJ No 8 p 162 that 'the ballad was probably called forth by a particulalry brutal case of ill-treatment, similar to that narrated in it, which occurred some twenty or thirty years ago' (i.e. c 1870-90) - S.J.

Details of the incident are given on a broadside. Unfortunately I have lost my reference, but it took place, I think, a good deal earlier, probably about 1810-20, and I believe, off the Suffolk coast - A. L. L.

I have added a time signature of 7/4 at one point in order to make the notes fit the bar. It is possible, but I think unlikely, that the correct course would have been to alter the timing of some of the notes. I have also omitted some variations in the melody given for later verses. As the lyrics were not fitted to the melody in the Journal, I have left this to the reader, rather than impose my interpretation.

Database entry is here.


Posted - 13 Feb 04 - 01:38 pm

The details of the story bear a close resemblance to the Andrew Ross/Rose family of songs, which are based on a real case in the early 19th century. However, I am not aware of any of them being "Goodnights" from the Captain's p.o.v., like this one.

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 13 Feb 04 - 03:28 pm

There have been a couple of studies of this song, which is number 835 in the Roud Folk Song Index. Edgar Samuels discussed it in his unpublished doctoral thesis 'Vaughan Williams and King's Lynn 1905' (University of Uppsala, 1971; copy at Vaughan Williams Memorial Library), and pointed to an earlier song, Captain James (Huntington, Songs the Whaleman Sang, Dover 1970, 54-59; and Palmer, Boxing the Compass, Herron 2001, 131-134) which shows strong points of similarity. The subject is further examined by Elizabeth James, 'The Captain's Apprentice and the Death of Young Robert Eastick of King's Lynn: a Study in the Development of a Folk Song' in Folk Music Journal, EFDSS Vol 7 no 5, 1999, 579-594. Too detailed to summarise here, but essentially it is a discussion of variations of the song and their distribution, and of events "reported in 1857 on a ship based in King's Lynn" which may have influenced local variants. There are a number of such events on record, and the background to Captain Rose has also been quite extensively documented; it isn't related to this song, though there are certainly strong similarities in the separate events that informed the respective songs.

There is a broadside edition of Captain James at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, but the images aren't available, today at any rate:

The cruel captin [sic] ("Come all you noble bold commanders ...")

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