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Goodbye Fare Thee Well

[ Roud 927 ; Ballad Index Doe087 ; trad.]

Thames barge skipper Bob Roberts sang the capstan shanty Home'ard Bound in 1960 on his Talking Book / Methuen EP Windy Old Weather. The album's booklet commented:

This is a capstan shanty used when getting up anchor for the last time in a foreign port. (Windlasses replaced capstans about 1860). Sometimes a ceremony rather like “The Dead Horse” was carried out the night before sailing. A blazing tar barrel was hoisted aloft and the homeward bound vessel serenaded the others with singing and cheering. The following day this shanty was sung and on a sailing ship it might be a year or more before the sailors finally reached home.

Louis Killen and chorus sang Goodbye Fare Thee Well by Dave Swarbrick on fiddle in 1964 on the Topic anthology Farewell Nancy: Sea Songs and Shanties. This album was reissued with bonus tracks in 1993 as the CD Blow the Man Down: A Collection of Sea Songs and Shanties. A.L. Lloyd commented on the album's liner notes:

Traditionally, this one was sung at the capstan when the anchor was raised for the homeward run, a big moment for men who might have been away for a year or more. W.M. Doerflinger says that when the shantyman led the gang in this song, “cheering from other vessels in port rang across the water to wish the homeward-bounders luck.” There are countless verses to this song. Those sung here are mostly from Stan Hugill's Shanties from the Seven Seas.

Waterson:Carthy sang the less raunchy verses of Goodbye Fare You Well with Eliza in lead on their fifth album, Fishes & Fine Yellow Sand. This track was also included on the anthology Evolving Tradition 4. The original album's notes commented:

The album is topped and tailed by Goodbye Fare You Well and Twenty-One Years on Dartmoor. Liza put the former together from the mountain of verses to be found in Stan Hugill's master collection Shanties from the Seven Seas and had to leave out some beautiful verses otherwise we would have been at it all night. It's the one song on this CD which has no baddies in it and instead has singing fishes. Who needs Walt bloody Disney I say. (OK, Finding Nemo was fun).


Bob Roberts sings Home'ard Bound

We're home'ard bound across the blue sea,
    Good-bye fare-you-well, we wish you well,
We're home'ard bound to the old counterie,
    Good-bye fare-you-well, we're home'ard bound!

Oh did you not hear the old man say,
We're home'ard bound this very day.

So good-bye to Sally and good-bye to Sue,
And you married ladies good-bye to you.

The topsails are loosed and the anchors a-weigh,
She heels to the breeze as the gathers her way.

Louis Killen sings Goodbye Fare Thee Well

Oh, we're homeward bound to Liverpool town,
    Goodbye fare the well, goodbye fare the well,
Well them Liverpool judies they are welcome down,
    Hurrah, me boys, we're homeward bound!

Them gals there on Lime Street we soon hope to meet,
And soon we'll be a-rolling both sides of the street.

We'll meet those fly girls and we'll ring the old bell,
With them judies we'll meet there we'll raise bloody hell.

Then I'll tell me old women when I gets back home,
The gals there on Lime Street won't leave me alone.

We're homeward bound, to the gals of the town,
So stamp up, me bullies, and heave it around.

Oh, we're homeward bound, we'll have yiz to know,
And over the water to Liverpool we'll go.

Waterson:Carthy sing Goodbye Fare You Well

Our anchor we'll weigh and our sails we will set,
    Goodbye fare you well, goodbye fare you well,
Our friends we are leaving, we leave with regret,
    Hurrah, me boys, we're homeward bound!

We're homeward bound, oh joyful sound,
Come ready the capstan and turn quick around.

We're homeward bound, we have you know,
And over the water to England must go.

We're homeward bound to Liverpool town,
The boys and the girls to the pier flock down.

Oh, then one to the other you hear them all say,
Here comes I and Jacky with eighteen month's pay.

So heave with a will and heave long and strong,
And sing a good chorus for it's a good song.

So, it's now we come home from the far foreign lands,
Where the bottom's all fishes and fine yellow sand.

And the fishes all sing as they swim to and fro,
She's a Liverpool packet, oh Lord, let her go.

So tell my old mother that I get back home,
The girls upon Lime Street won't leave me alone.


Transcribed by Reinhard Zierke with the help of Roberto Campo. Thank you!