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Maggie May

[ Roud 1757 , 5383 ; Ballad Index FaE030 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang Maggie May in 1956 on the Riverside album English Drinking Songs, which was reissued on CD on the Topic label in 1998. He commented in the liner notes:

This is perhaps the last fling of sailor balladry. It is a song that has found its way into every ship but none of the songbooks. The hardbitten text, with its reference to Botany Bay transportation, is older than the melody, which is the familiar 19th century tear-jerker, Darling Nellie Gray, a melody well suited to singing when hearts are suddenly maudlin and beer mugs momentarily empty.

Stan Kelly sang Maggie May in 1958 on his Topic EP Liverpool Packet: Songs of the Great Seaport. This track was also included in 1971 on the anthology Sea Songs and Shanties (Topic Sampler No 7) and in 1984 on the French anthology Chants de Marins IV: Ballads, Complaintes et Shanties des Matelots Anglais.

Bob Roberts sang Maggie May on a recording made by Peter Kennedy which was published in 1960 on the HMV anthology, A Pinch of Salt: British Sea Songs Old and New and in 1994 on the Saydisc CD Sea Songs and Shanties: Traditional English Sea Songs and Shanties from the Last Days of Sail.

Cyril Tawney sang Maggie May on his 1990 cassette, Sailor's Delight: Songs of Seafarers and the Fairer Sex.

Hughie Jones sang Maggie May in 1999 on his Fellside CD Seascape.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang Maggie May in 2000 on their CD Across the Western Ocean: Songs of the North Atlantic Sailing Packets


A.L. Lloyd sings Maggie May

Now come all you young sailors and listen to my plea
And when you've heard my tale you'll pity me.
For I was a god-damned fool in the port of Liverpool,
The very first time I came home from sea.

Now I paid off at the Home, from the port of Sierra Leone;
Three-pound-ten a month it was my pay.
But I wasted all my tin whilst drinking up the gin
With a little girl whose name was Maggie May.

Now well do I remember where I first met Maggie May,
She was cruising up and down in Canning Place,
She was dressed up mighty fine, like a frigate of the line,
So being a rampant sailor I gave chase.

I kept right on her track, she went on the other tack,
But I caught her and I broke her mizzen line.
Next morning I awoke with a head more bent and broke,
No coat, no vest, no trousers could I find.

I asked her where they were, she said, “My good kind sir,
They're down at Park Lane pawn shop number nine.
Now, you've had your cake and bun, and it's time for you to run
Or you'll never make the dockside, lad, in time.”

To the pawnshop I did go, but no trousers could I find,
And the police came and took that girl away.
And the judge he found her guilty of robbing a homeward-bounder;
So now she's doing time in Botany Bay.

Oh Maggie, Maggie May, they've taken you away,
Never more to roam alone down Canning Place
For you robbed too many whalers, and you poxed too many sailors
Now you'll never see old Lime Street anymore.