The Female Smuggler

Maritime-themed Song

Traditional, but sometimes attributed to Lesley Nelson-Burns.

To the tune The Gallant Soldier

O come list a while, and you shall hear,
By the rolling sea lived a maiden fair.
Her father had followed the smuggling trade,
Like a war-like hero.
Like a warlike hero that never was afraid.

Now, in sailor’s clothing young Jane did go,
Dressed like a sailor from top to toe
Her aged father was the only care
O this female smuggler.
Of this female smuggler who never did despair.

With her pistols loaded she went aboard.
And by her side hung a glittering sword,
In her belt two daggers; well armed for war
Was this female smuggler,
Was this female smuggler, who never feared a scar.

Now they had not sail-ed far from the land,
When a strange sail brought them to a stand.
“These are sea robbers,” this maid did cry,
But the female smuggler,
But the female smuggler will conquer or will die.

Alongside, then, this strange vessel came.
“Cheer up,” cried Jane, “we will board the same;
We’ll run all chances to rise or fall,”
Cried this female smuggler,
Cried this female smuggler, who never feared a ball.

Now they killed those pirates and took their store,
And soon returned to old Eng-a-land’s shore.
With a keg of brandy she walked along,
Did this female smuggler,
Did this female smuggler, and sweetly sang a song.

Now they were followed by the blockade,
Who in irons strong did put this fair maid.
But when they brought her for to be ter-ied,
This young female smuggler,
This young female smuggler stood dress-ed like a bride.

Their commodore against her appeared,
And for her life she did greatly fear.
When he did find to his great surprise
‘Twas a female smuggler,
‘Twas a female smuggler had fought him in disguise.

He to the judge and the jury said,
“I cannot prosecute this maid,
Pardon for her on my knees I crave,
For this female smuggler,
For this female smuggler so valiant and so brave.”

Then this commodore to her father went,
To gain her hand he asked his consent.
His consent he gained, so the commodore
And the female smuggler,
And the female smuggler are one for evermore.

Song Notes

From our friend Laura Harron regarding this song:

This broadside ballad was as popular on land as sea. On some broadsides it was directed to be sung to the tune The Gallant Soldier. Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould collected several versions of the ballad. (See the Bodleian Library for a great many copies of Female Smuggler broadsides.)

The ballad is similar to The Female Warrior, which was popular in many parts of Britain and America.*

The ballad recalls the exploits of female sailors like Mary Read and Anne Bonny.

Printed in collections by John Ashton in REAL-SAILOR SONGS (1891) and W.B. Whall’s SEA SONGS AND SHANTIES (1910).

This song was recorded by Loreena McKennitt.