The Handsome Cabin Boy / The Female Cabin Boy

English Traditional Maritime-themed Song


It’s of a pretty fair maid, as you shall understand
She had a mind for roving unto a foreign land
Attired in sailor’s clothing she boldly did appear
And engaged with the captain for to serve him for a year.

She engaged with the captain a cabin boy to be
The wind it was in favor, they soon put out to sea
The captain’s lady being on board she seemed it to enjoy
So glad the captain had engaged a handsome cabin boy.

So nimble was that pretty maid and done her duty well
But mark what followed after, as she herself can tell
The captain with that pretty maid did often kiss and toy
For he soon found out the secret of the handsome cabin boy.

Her cheeks appeared like roses and with her side-locks curled
The sailors oft-times smiled and said, he looks just like a girl
But eating captains biscuit her color did destroy
And the waist did swell of pretty Nell the handsome cabin boy.

As through the Bay of Biscay their gallant ship did plough
One night among the sailors there was a pretty row
They bundled from their hammocks, it did their rest destroy
And they swore about the groaning of the handsome cabin boy.

O doctor, O doctor, the cabin boy did cry
The sailors swore by all that’s good the cabin boy would die
The doctor ran with all his might and smiling at the fun
For to think a sailor lad should have a daughter or a son.

The sailors when they heard the joke they all began to stare
The child belonged to none of them they solemnly did swear
The lady to the captain said, my dear I wish you joy
For it’s either you or I betrayed the handsome cabin boy.

So they all took up a bumper and drank success to trade
And likewise to the cabin boy, though neither man nor maid
And if the wars should rise again the sailors to destroy
We’ll ship some other sailors like the handsome cabin boy.

Song Notes

This endearing maritime story has been performed and recorded by many notable musicians in this genre: A.L. Lloyd, Cyril Tawney, Louis Killen, Ewan MacColl, Danny Spooner, among others.  

Outside of the maritime music genre, notable musicians like Frank Zappa and Kate Bush have added this song to their repertoire, as well.