phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

'Bout ship

Posted by SR on October 19, 2004

In Reply to: 'Bout ship posted by Henry on October 19, 2004

: : : : About sea shanties

: : : : There are many famous sea shanties (going back to the days of steamers and clippers) one such song is 'Paddy, Get Back' also known as "The Liverpool Song", "Paddy, Lay Back", "Mainsail Haul" and "Valparaiso Round the Horn". Since The Panama Canal was opened to general traffic in 1914. Therefore, this shanty (the second one which sings of rounding the horn) dates before that time. At least to the time of the Liverpool-New York packet ships (mid 1800s).

: : : : Lyrics

: : : : I was broke and out of a job in the city of London;
: : : : I went down to the Shadwell Docks to get a ship.

: : : : Paddy, get back, take in the slack!
: : : : Heave away your capstan, heave a pawl,
: : : : Heave a pawl!
: : : : Bout ship and stations, there, be handy,
: : : : Rise tacks 'n sheets, 'n mains'l haul!
: : : : And here is
: : : : The Liverpool Song
: : : : Traditional - Lyrics from Capstan Bars, by David Bone

: : : : 'Twas in th' cold month of December,
: : : : When all my money I had spent,
: : : : I shipped in the Clipper ship "Defender,"
: : : : An' away to the west-ard I went.

: : : : An' it is "Get ye back." Ho!
: : : : "Take in yer slack." Ho!
: : : : Heave away th' capstan. Heave a pawl.
: : : : Heave a pawl!
: : : : 'Bout ship: stations, boys, be handy.
: : : : Raise tacks, sheets, an' mains'l haul!

: : : : The chorus is similar in many of these shanties, I am familiar with some of the nautical terms but there is one I don't get at all:

: : : : 1) 'Bout ship: stations,

: : : : It was also used by Herman Melville in 'Typee' and Alastair Crawley in 'Not the life and adventures of Sir Roger Bloxham'.

: : : : I would accept any reasonable explanation 'bout the meaning or origin.

: : : : Thanks

: : : I've looked in my two nautical expression reference and couldn't find the above.

: : The last time I served on a clipper, the order "about-ship" meant to tack, or get ready to tack. If you were already tacking it meant to tack in the opposite direction. That is, if you were tacking to starbpard, you would start tacking to the port. I could be wrong, but that's my impression. SS

: 'Bout ship-stations, boys, be handy.
: Get to your positions quickly?

Being a sailor and a singer of song myself, I am very familiar with this song, having sung many renditions over the years. The line 'Bout ship' should be connected to the next word 'stations' to understand the meaning. It is a 'make ready' call to all the ship's stations, as in all stations 'ready about' or 'prepare to tack,' when the ship is about to make a change in sail configuration or direction. Another version of the chorus is "All ship's stations, boys, be handy!" Or, all stations about the ship, be handy!
Pay attention! Something is about to happen!
For any sailing vessel to to work efficiently and safely, a defined system of communication or 'calls' is necessary, so that all on board know exactly what is about to happen.
I hope this helps!