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The Faithful Sailor Boy / Outward Bound

[ Roud 376 ; Laws K13 ; G/D 1:66 ; Ballad Index LK13 ; VWML COL/1/40 ; Thomas Payne Westendorf, G.W. Persley]

Fred Jordan from Shropshire “appears to heave learnt the song at school” and sang it in 1959 to Fred Hamer. This recording was included in 2003 on Jordan's anthology on the Veteran label, A Shropshire Lad.

George Antrill sang The Faithful Sailor Boy at his home in Fittleworth, Sussex, in 1964 to Mike Yates. This recording was included in 2015 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs and recitations from the Mike Yates collection, I Wish There Was No Prisons. Mike Yates and Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

The Faithful Sailor Boy is believed to have been written by Thomas Payne Westendorf (1848-1923) and G.W. Persley (1837-1894), although no original sheet music has, so far, been discovered. There are a couple of late-19th century broadside texts however.

Few songs have achieved such widespread popularity among country singers and their audiences. Gavin Greig described it as being “Very popular in Aberdeenshire in the early years of the 20th century” and there are sets from all over England, Ireland, North America, Australia and even Tristan da Cuna! At least two American Old-Timey singers, Vernon Dalhart, on Okeh 40487, and Flora Noles, on Okeh 45037, recorded the song, as The Sailor Boy’s Farewell , in the 1920s.

Daisy Chapman from Aberdeenshire sang The Faithful Sailor Boy at the Aberdeen Folk Festival in October 1968. This recording by Peter Shepheard was included in 2000 on her Musical Traditions anthology Ythanside.

Percy Webb from Suffolk sang The Faithful Sailor Boy at the King's Head Folk Club in London on February 18, 1970. This recording was included in 2012 on the Musical Traditions anthology King's Head Folk Club.

Danny Stradling sang The Faithful Sailor Boy in 1971 on Oak's Topic album Welcome to Our Fair: English Country Music and Song. A live recording from Cheltenham Folk Club, Victory Club, on October 24, 1971 was included in 2003 on their Musical Traditions double CD Country Songs and Music.

Bob Hart sang The Faithful Sailor Boy at his home in Snape, Suffolk, in September 1973. This recording by Tony Engle was released a year later on the Topic album Flash Company.

George Spicer sang The Faithful Sailor Boy on his 1974 Topic album Blackberry Fold. Mike Yates commented in the album's sleeve notes:

The Faithful Sailor Boy has seldom appeared in folksong collections,a somewhat surprising fact when one realises its present popularity among older singers. Sam Henry included it in his Irish collection Songs of the People and an almost identical American version appears in volume 2 of Frank Brown's North Carolina Folklore. The Scots collector Gavin Greig, who printed the text in Folk-Song of the North East, had this to say about the song: “Both the sentiment and the language show it to be quite modern. The tune too appears to be modern, although it may be older than it looks.”

Cyril Poacher sang The Faithful Sailor Boy at his home in Grove Farm, Blaxhall, Suffolk, in 1974 to Tony Engle and Keith Summers. This recording was released a year later on Poacher's Topic album The Broomfield Wager: Traditional Songs from Suffolk. Another recording made by Ginette Dunn on October 3, 1974 was included in 2004 on Cyril Poacher's Musical Tradition anthology Plenty of Thyme. Rod Stradling commented in the album's booklet:

Cyril learned this from one Bob Frank— “it was about the only song he did sing.” Either Bob or Cyril have changed the tune slightly, so that the first line ends on the dominant rather than the usual subdominant, and this motif is repeated in other parts of the tune. Like a good craftsman, Cyril doesn't use it at every opportunity, but drops one in now and again just to keep you guessing. This is just one of a number of occasions where he varies a well-known tune.

The Faithful Sailor Boy was written by George W. Persley towards the end of the 19th century. Few songs have achieved such widespread popularity among country singers and their audiences. It turns up again and again in tap-room sing-songs throughout Britain, even through into the 1980s. Gavin Greig described it as being “Very popular in Aberdeenshire in the early years of this century” (and, sure enough, Daisy Chapman had it in her repertoire), and we have heard it in both Donegal and Cork in the last few years. Two versions have been found in the North Carolina mountains (there's a '20s hillbilly recording by Flora Noles, Sailor Boy's Farewell—Okeh 45037), while other other sets have been reported from as far away as Australia and Tristan da Cunha. Healy also prints this one, again without melody, and calls it Your Faithful Sailor Boy. The text is very much as Cyril (and Percy Webb) had it.

The Veteran CD Many a Good Horseman (2009; a re-issue of two cassettes released in 1983), has two Suffolk versions of The Faithful Sailor, sung by Charlie Carver of Tostock and by Stan Steggles of Rattlesden.

Richard Grainger sang The Faithful Sailor Boy in 1984 on his Fellside album Herbs of the Heart. This track was also included in 1999 on the Fellside anthology of shanties and songs of the sea, Rolling Down to Old Maui.

Fred Whiting from Suffolk sang The Faithful Sailor Boy in 1987-89 on the Veteran cassette Songs Sung in Suffolk Volume 2. This recording was also included in 2000 on the Veteran CD re-issue Songs Sung in Suffolk.

Walter Pardon sang Your Faithful Sailor Boy in a recording made by Mike Yates. It was included in 2000 on his Musical Traditions anthology Put a Bit of Powder on It, Father.

Kate Rusby sang this song using the title Farewell in 2007 on her CD Awkward Annie.

Steve Roud included The Faithful Sailor Boy in 2012 in The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Bella Hardy and Brian Peters sang it a year later on the Fellside CD The Liberty to Choose: A Selection of Songs from The New Penguin Book of English Folk Song. Brian Peters commented in the CD booklet:

Cecil Sharp, that great arbiter of what was and was not a true folk song, didn't approve of this kind of thing, with its Music Hall sensibility and tear-jerker words allied to a surprisingly jaunty tune. We think it's fun, though, and so did Sussex's George Spicer who sang it for Mike Yates in 1974.

The Willows sang this song as Outward Bound in 2014 on their CD Amidst Fiery Skies. They commented:

From the very first delve into the wonderful Full English Digital Archive, we found this manuscript, collected by Francis Collinson in [1944 from William Crampton in Smarden,] Kent. Better known as The Faithful Sailor Boy, this is our interpretation of the words we found that day, set to a new melody that endeavours to capture the heartache within the song.

Andy Turner learned The Faithful Sailor Boy from George Spicer and sang it as the March 12, 2016 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

Cyril Poacher sings The Faithful Sailor Boy Fred Jordan sings The Faithful Sailor Boy

It was on one dark and stormy night,
The snow laid on the ground.
A sailor boy stood on the quay,
His ship was outward bound.
His sweetheart standing by his side
Shed many a silent tear,
And as he pressed her to his breast
He whispered in her ear:

One cold and frosty winter’s day,
The snow lay on the ground,
A sailor boy stood on the quay,
His ship was outward bound.
His sweetheart standing by his side
Shed many a bitter tear,
And as he pressed her to his breast
He whispered in her ear:

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
“Farewell, farewell my own true love
This parting gives me pain.
I'll be your own true guiding star,
When I return again.
My thoughts shall be of you, of you,
When the storm is raging high.
Farewell, my love, remember me,
Your faithful sailor boy.”

Chorus:
“Farewell, farewell, my own true love,
This parting gives me pain.
You’ll be my hope and guiding star
Till I return again.
My thoughts shall be of you, my love,
When the storms are raging high.
So farewell, lass, remember me,
Your faithful sailor boy.”

And with the gale the ship set sail,
She kissed her love goodbye.
She watched the craft hie out of sight,
A tear bedimmed her eye.
She prayed for Him in Heaven above
To guide him on his way.
The loving parting words that night
Re-echoed o'er the bay.

It was sad to say the ship returned
Without her sailor lad;
He died whilst on the voyage and
The flag was half-mast high.
And when his comrades came on shore
Told her that he was dead,
A letter she received that night,
The last lines sadly read:

But sad to say when the ship returned
It brought no sailor boy,
For he had died in drownding seas
And the flag was half-mast high.
And as his comrades came on shore
And told her that he was dead,
Tears from her eyes smudged every page
Of his letter that she read.

Final Chorus:
“Farewell farewell my own true love,
On earth we meet no more.
We soon shall be from storm and sea
On this eternal shore.
I hope to meet you in that land,
That land beyond the sky,
Where you will never be parted from
Your faithful sailor boy.”

Final Chorus:
“Farewell, farewell, my own true love,
On earth we’ll meet no more.
But we shall meet in heaven above
On that eternal shore.
My thoughts shall be of you, my lass
When the storms are raging high.
So farewell, lass, remember me,
Your faithful sailor boy.”