Bristol Girls

Capstan Shanty

Adapted from Traditional by Dean Calin

Shanghaied in Valparaiso, we fetched-up in Bombay,
They set us afloat in a leasehold boat that steered like a bale of hay.
We know the track to Auckland, the light at the Kinsale Head,
We’ve crept close-hauled while the leadsman bawled the depth of the Channel bed. (Chorus)

And away you Santee, my dear Annie,
Oh, you Bristol Girls, you love us for our money.

We’ve panted in the tropics, while the pitch boiled-up on deck,
We saved our hides, little else besides from an ice-cold, North Sea wreck.
We know the streets of Santos, the river at Saigon,
We’ve had a glass with a Chinese lass in houseboat in Canton. (Chorus)

They’ll pay us off in London then after a spell ashore,
Again we’ll ship on a southern trip in a week or barely more.
So – Goodbye Mistress Quickly, it’s time we were afloat,
With a straw-stuffed bed, an aching head, a knife and an oilskin cloak. (Chorus)

Sing: “Time for us to Leave Her,” sing: “Bound for the Rio Grande,”
As the tug turns back we’ll follow her track for a last long look at land.
As the purple disappears and only the blue is seen,
Commend our bones to Davy Jones, our souls to Fiddler’s Green. (Chorus)


image of album cover for Bounding Main Lost at Sea - click for more info about the album

Song Notes

This song is, of course, based on New York Girls, which I first heard in 1976 on a Steeleye Span album. This was many years before I ever dreamed I’d be singing shanties with Bounding Main. Maddy Prior’s version of the chorus is still the one I prefer today.  I adapted the lyrics slightly to reflect people and things at the Bristol Renaissance Faire where we were performing. — Dean Calin

“This early version (i.e. from before the polka arrived in the New World) is respectfully taken from Stan Hugill’s: SHANTIES FROM THE SEVEN SEAS.” — Tom Lewis

“Santee, ” per Stan Hugill, is a corruption of “our old friend ‘Santi-anna . . . or as it was usually written, ‘Santiana!'” I did finally find a song called Santiana! — Dean Calin

The Kingston Trio did a version of this song that all of the “Old Time Folk Singers” default to.