> Folk Music > Songs > Baltimore


[ Roud 4690 ; Ballad Index Hugi418 ; trad.]

Stan Hill noted in his book Shanties From the Seven Seas on the saucy Baltimore:

Next we have a version of a once well-known shore-song called Baltimore. It was a shanty very popular in German sailing ships, usually sung at the capstan when making sail by leading the halyard to the capstan instead of hauling on the fall. I have taken part in the singing of it myself aboard a German barque, and it was sung as late as 1951 aboard the German four-masted barque Pamir on her passage to Rio. It was never heard in British ships, and it helps to strengthen my theory that German and Scandinavian seamen adapted British and American shore-songs and turned them into shanties long after the art of ‘inventing’ shanties had died out about British and American ships.

The first couple of its full chorus reminds one of the shanty We’ll Go to Sea No More. An almost identical version is given in Knurrhahn. Of course many of the final verses have had to be censored!

Sussex fisherman Johnny Doughty sang Baltimore on 2 November 1976 at his home in Brighton to Mike Yates and Camilla Saunders. This recording was released in the following year on his Topic album of traditional songs from the Sussex coast, Round Rye Bay for More, and it was also included in 1998 on the Topic anthology We’ve Received Orders to Sail (The Voice of the People Series Volume 12). Mike Yates commented in the original album’s sleeve notes:

According to that master of sea lore, Stan Hugill, Baltimore was a once well-known shore song in Britain. Although it was sung as a capstan shanty on board German sailing ships, it was not, he believes, sung this way on British ships. Johnny had the song from his grandmother who, so he now believes, sang it at a slower pace.

Andy Turner learned Baltimore from Johnny Doughty’s album, either directly or via his friend Adrian Russell. He sang it as the 15 July 2016 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week, expanded with a few more verses ranging over the female anatomy that may well have been left out of the printed version of this song.


Johnny Doughty sings Baltimore

And he kissed her on the cheek and the crew begin to roar,
    Oh, oh and up she goes, we’re bound for Baltimore.
And he kissed her on the face and the crew begin to roar,
    Oh, oh and up she goes, we’re bound for Baltimore.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
No more, no more, no more, we’re going to sea no more.
As soon as we reach port tonight we’re heading for the shore.

And then he kissed her on the neck [etc.]
And he kissed her on the face [etc.]

And then he kissed her on the lips [etc.]

And then he kissed her on the arms [etc.]

And he kissed her on the legs [etc.]