> Cyril Tawney > Songs > In Frisco Bay (Noah's Ark Shanty)

In Frisco Bay / Noah's Ark Shanty (A Long Time Ago)

[ Roud 318 ; Ballad Index Doe037 ; trad.]

Stan Hugill sang A Long Time Ago at the Seattle Chantey Festival during the American Sail Training Association's 1978 Tall Ships Pacific. This recording was published a year later on the Folkways album Sea Songs Seattle.

Swan Arcade recorded Noah's Ark Shanty in Workington in August 1991 for the Fellside anthology of English traditional songs, Voices. Paul Adams commented in the album's notes:

Shanties were work songs and finding an example was not difficult. Which one was much more difficult. This one is interesting because (a) as an aetiological work song it is probably unique in the English tradition, (b) it was collected by the greatest of the folk song collectors, Cecil Sharp on the 3rd June, 1914 from Capt. Hole of Watchet, Somerset (the famous Watchet sailor!) and (c) Swan Arcade are not usually associated with the singing of sea shanties. Their dramatic, hard hitting harmony style coupled with their uninhibited repertoire makes them great favourites in folk song circles. They are Dave and Heather Brady and Jim Boyes. Dave does his damnedest to make this a Yorkshire song.

But even if Swan Arcade were not usually associated with the singing of sea shanties, they did record Blood Red Roses a year earlier for their CD Full Circle.

Cyril Tawney sang In Frisco Bay (Noah's Ark Shanty) in 1992 on his cassette Little Boy Billee: Sea Songs for Children.

Jon Boden sang Noah's Ark Shanty as the September 4, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Pete Coe sang Noah's Ark Shanty in 2011 on his CD Tall Tailes.

Fay Hield learned this song from Swan Arcade's recording and sang it in 2016 on her third album, Old Adam.

Lyrics

Swan Arcade sing Noah's Ark Shanty Fay Hield sings A Long Time Ago

In Frisco Bay there were three ships
    To me way, hey, hey-oh
In Frisco Bay there were three ships
    A long time ago

In Frisco Bay there were three ships
    To me way, hey, hey-oh
In Frisco Bay there were three ships
    A long time ago

And one of them ships was Noah's old ark
All covered all o'er wi' hickory bark

And one of them ships was Noah's old ark
Covered all o'er wi' hickory bark

Chorus (repeated after every other verse):
It's a long long time and a very long time
A long time ago

They took two animals of every kind
They took two animals of every kind

He took two animals of every kind
The great big stag and his heathery hind

The bull and the cow they started for t' row
The bull and the cow they started for t' row

The cat bit the rat with a howl and a yowl
The bull and the cow they started t' row

Then said old Noah with a flick of his whip
“Come stop this row or I'll scuttle the ship”

“Ah now,” said Noah with a flick of his whip
“Come stop this row or tha'll scuttle the ship”

But the bull struck his horn through the side of the ark
And the little black dog he started fer t' bark

But the bull struck his horn through the side of the ark
The little black dog he started t' bark

So Noah took the dog, shoved its nose up the hole
And ever since then dogs' nose has been cold

Noah took the dog, shoved its nose up the hole
Ever since then dogs' nose has been cold

It's a long, long time and a very long time
A long, long time and a very long time

It's a long, long time and a very long time
A long, long time and a very long time

Acknowledgements and Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Songs of Animal Mariners?

Thank you to Georgina Boyes for correcting an embarrassing mondegreen.