> Folk Music > Songs > Lowlands Low

Lowlands Low

[ Roud 8286 ; Ballad Index Hugi070 ; VWML RoudFS/S214348 ; trad.]

Ian Campbell and chorus sang Lowlands Low on Topic’s 1964 anthology of sea songs and shanties, Farewell Nancy, and on its 1993 expanded CD reissue Blow the Man Down. A.L. Lloyd noted:

The tune of this halyard shanty derives from the well-known Miller of Dee, which became widely current after its appearance in Bickerstaff’s opera Love in a Village in 1762. Sharp head a version from a seaman in Cornwall [VWML RoudFS/S214348] , and Hugill gives one from a Tobago Negro [Bosun’s Locker (2006) p.85]. The present version mainly follows Hugill. The ‘Lowlands’ refrain is probably an echo of the Golden Vanity ballad.

Bryan Ferry sang Lowlands Low on the 2006 album of pirate ballads, sea songs and chanteys, Rogue’s Gallery.

The Exmouth Shanty Man sang Lowlands Lowlands Low in 2022 on their WildGoose album Tall Ships and Tavern Tales. They noted:

Stan Hugill says this was a halyard song of West Indian origin. Cecil Sharp also collected it in Bristol, which had many ships and seamen of the Caribbean trade. The tune can be traced back to a comic opera of 1762.


Ian Campbell sings Lowlands Low

Our packet is the Island Lass,
      Lowlands, lowlands, lowlands low!
There’s a maddie howling at the main topmast,
      Lowlands, lowlands, lowlands low!

The Old Man hails from Barbados,
      Lowlands, lowlands, lowlands low!
He’s got the name Old Hammertoes,
      Lowlands, lowlands, lowlands low!

He gives us bread as hard as brass,
Our junk’s as soft as Balaam’s ass.

The monkey’s rigged in the sojer’s clothes,
Where he got them from God only knows.

We’ll haul ’em high and let ’em dry,
We’ll trice ’em up into the sky.

It’s up aloft that yard must go,
Up aloft from down below.

Lowlands, my boys, and up she goes,
Git changed, my boys, to your shore-going clothes.