The Dreadnought

A Forebitter; a Fo’c’sle Song


Here’s of a packet a packet of fame,
She sails from New York and the Dreadnought’s her name.
‘Cross the wild western ocean she’s bound for to go;
She’s the Liverpool packet, oh Lord, let her go!
Derry down, down, down derry down

Oh, the Dreadnought is lying in the river Mersey,
Waiting for the Independence to tow her to sea.
All around that rock light where the salt tides do flow,
Bound away in the Dreadnought to the westward we’ll go. (Chorus)

Now the Dreadnought’s a-howling down the wild Irish Sea,
Her passengers merry, and the drink is so free;
The sailors, like lions, walk the decks to and fro.
Bound away in the Dreadnought to the westward we’ll go. (Chorus)

The Dreadnought’s a-sailing the Atlantic so wide,
Where the high, rolling seas roll along her black sides.
The sails tightly set for the Red Cross to show,
She’s the Liverpool Packet, oh Lord, let her go! (Chorus)

Now the Dreadnought is sailing by the banks of Newfoundland,
Where the water’s so green and the bottom is sand;
The fishes all sing as they swim to and fro,
Saying: “God bless the Dreadnought where ‘ere she may go!” (Chorus)

Here’s health to the Dreadnought and all her brave crew;
To old Captain Samuels and his officers true.
Talk about your flash packets, Swallowtail and Black Ball,
But the Dreadnought’s the ship that can out-sail them all. (Chorus)


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Song Notes

Once again we refer the reader to Mainly Norfolk:  English Folk and Other Good Music for important notes on the origin and evolution of this song.

The Dreadnaught was a flash American clipper packet launched in 1853 and she was famous for her many smart passages across the Atlantic. As Hugill notes, she was the Liverpool packet, not a Liverpool packet, meaning she did not hail from Liverpool, but traded there. She was shipwrecked in 1869 while rounding Cape Horn.” — Stan Hugill, Shanties from the Seven Seas

We were introduced to this song by the inimitable Kat Eggleston, notably on the recording of the Gazebo Singers from the Bristol Renaissance Faire from 1997.

The River Mersey remains very active even today.