Don’t Forget My Old Shipmates

Scottish Traditional Ballad


Safe and sound at home again, let the waters roar, Jack.
Safe and sound at home again, let the waters roar, Jack.

Long we’ve tossed on the rolling main, now we’re safe ashore, Jack.
Don’t forget yer old shipmate, faldee raldee raldee raldee rye-eye-doe!

Since we sailed from Plymouth Sound, four years gone, or nigh, Jack.
Was there ever chummies, now, such as you and I, Jack? (Chorus)

We have worked the self-same gun, quarterdeck division.
Sponger I and loader you, through the whole commission. (Chorus)

Oftentimes have we laid out, toil nor danger fearing,
Tugging out the flapping sail to the weather earring. (Chorus)

When the middle watch was on and the time went slow, boy,
Who could choose a rousing stave, who like Jack or Joe, boy? (Chorus)

There she swings, an empty hulk, not a soul below now.
Number seven starboard mess misses Jack and Joe now. (Chorus)

But the best of friends must part, fair or foul the weather.
Hand yer flipper for a shake, now a drink together. (Chorus)

Song Notes

“Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmate” is a naval traditional song that was sung by British Royal Navy sailors in the Napoleonic Era.  It is not a sea shanty!  It is important to note that because shanties were often seditious they were disallowed in the Royal Navy.  Crewmen coordinated their activity through the calling of numbers, instead.

In the August 2020 Whitby@Home Interview, created by Whitby Folk Week and hosted by Derek Schofield, it was revealed by Jim Mageean that he discovered this song in his research and gave it a thorough modernization treatment.  He put this song on his second album, Ships and Men, which was heard by Jerry Bryant, who consulted with filmmaker Peter Weir on the film Master and Commander.  Weir was looking for naval songs from 1805 and Jerry, not know the severe editing that Mageean had made, offered the song to Weir.  It made it into the film as presented – which shocked Mageean when viewing it at his local theater!  He laments that he was not credited for the song.

It was also recorded by Jerry Bryant and the Starboard on their collection, Roast Beef of Old England.  Other groups that have recorded this piece were The Hardtacker Shanty Crew, Rapsquillion, The Tenants & Friends, among others.  It was one of the songs anachronistically included by the studio band for the video game,  Assassin’s Creed Rogue.

Reference:  Firth, Charles Harding, Naval Songs and Ballads Vol. XXXII, “Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmate” (Navy Records Society: 1908), pp. 337-8