It's of a fine frigate, La Pique was her name,
All in the West Indies she bore great fame.
For cruel bad usage of ev'ry degree,
Like slaves in the galley we ploughed the salt sea.
Derry down, down,
Down, derry down.
Now at four in the morning our work does begin,
In our 'tween decks and cockpit a bucket might swim;
Our main and top foreman so loudly do bawl
For sand and for holystone both great and small.
Now Mr McKeever we know him too well,
He comes up on deck and he cuts a great swell;
It's "Up on them yards, boys, and open your eyes,
I've a pump handle here to trim down your size."
And now, my brave boys, comes the best of the fun,
It's hands about ship and reef tops'ls in one;
It's lay aloft topmen and the hellum goes down,
And clew up your tops'ls as the mainyard comes round.
[Now your quids of tobacco, I'd have you to mind,
If you spit on the deck, that's your death-warrant signed;
If you spit over bow, over gangway, or starn,
You're sure of three dozen by way of no harm.
So now, brother sailors, where'er you may be,
From them West India frigates I'll have you keep free,
For they'll haze you and work you till you ain't worth a damn
And send you half-dead to your dear native land.]
Singing Together, Summer 1979, BBC Publications
The Singing Together
set is taken from Seeger and MacColl, The Singing Island
, London: Mills Music, 1960, p 68. The tune has been transposed up a tone, and the time signature changed from 6/4 to 3/4. The version in the Singing Together
booklet omitted two verses. These have been added and are indicated by the [ ]
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