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The (Poor) Smuggler's Boy

[ Roud 618 ; Ballad Index RcTSmBy ; Bodleian Roud 618 ; trad.]

The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs Vaughan Williams in Norfolk Volume 2

Harry Cox sang The Poor Smuggler's Boy to Peter Kennedy on 9 October 1953 (BBC recording 21479). Another recording, made by Leslie Shepard om 9 October 1965, was included in 2000 on his Topic anthology The Bonny Labouring Boy. Steve Roud noted:

A popular theme in 19th century songs was the poor orphan begging for food and shelter (compare, for example the ubiquitous Farmer’s Boy), and the Poor Smuggler’s Boy follows the usual pattern. It was only reported a few times by collectors, and in recent years recordings by Walter Pardon, Angela Brazil, and Bob Roberts have been published. Catnach is the earliest known broadside printer, thus dating it to at least the first third of the 19th century, and it is unlikely to be much older. It is interesting to note that there seems to be no stigma attached to the father's occupation in the eyes of the song's author, despite its illegality.

Angela Brazil sang The Poor Smuggler's Boy at Blairgowrie to Peter Kennedy in 1955. This recording was included in the 1960s (as The Smuggler's Child) on the Prestige album Folksongs & Music from the Berryfields of Blair, in 1994 on the Saydisc album of “music of the tinkers, gipsies and other travelling people of England, Scotland and Ireland”, Songs of the Travelling People, and in 2007 on the Brazil Family's Musical Traditions anthology Down By the Old Riverside. Rod Stradling noted in the accompanying booklet:

Songs about orphans wandering the world in search of succour are pretty common, but this is quite a rare example, with only 42 Roud instances, all from the south of England. It appeared in several broadsides, and probably dates from the first third of the 19th century. It may well have been published without a suggested tune, since all the versions I've heard use different ones; Angela employs the Long Lamkin tune here—maybe because her family had been travelling in Scotland for most of her early life. Her final stanza may well be unique.

Biggun Smith sang My Ship Lost Her Rigging to Peter Shepheard in The Fisherman bar at Beachley Ferry, Gloucestershire, on 3 January 1967. This recording was included in 2000 on the Musical Traditions anthology of Wiggy Smith and other Smith Family members, Band of Gold. Rod Stradling noted in the accompanying booklet:

This is in fact a version of The Poor Smuggler’s Boy […] A song unknown outside England, it would seem. Roud has 32 references, but only 7 other recorded singers, of whom only Angela Brazil was from outside East Anglia.

The tune is basically the same as Wiggy uses for The Deserter and which, when Biggun gets into the extended second verse, you realise is also the same one Margaret Barry uses for Londonderry on the Banks of the Foyle.

John Goodluck sang The Smuggler's Boy on his 1976 Sweet Folk and Country album Speed the Plough.

Bob Roberts sang The Smuggler's Boy on his 1981 album Breeze for a Bargeman. This song was also included in 1994 on the Saydisc anthology of “traditional English sea songs and shanties from the last days of sail” mostly from Roberts, Sea Songs and Shanties.

Walter Pardon sang Poor Smuggler's Boy on his 1983 album Bright Golden Store. This was also included in 2000 on his Musical Traditions anthology Put a Bit of Powder on It, Father.

Lyrics

Harry Cox sings The Poor Smuggler's Boy

One cloudy cold morning as abroad I did steer
By a wide rolling ocean that run swift and clear.
I heard a poor creature in sorrow did weep,
Saying, “Oh, my poor father he’s lost in the deep.”

My father and mother once happy did dwell
In a neat little cottage that reared me so well.
My father did venture all on the salt sea
For a keg of good brandy for the land of the free.

From Holland we steered while the thunder did roar
And the lightning was vivian [vivid, and] when far far from shore,
Our ship’s mast and rigging was blown to the waves
And with it went father to a watery grave.

So I jumped overboard in the troublesome main
To save my poor father but all was in vain.
I grasped his cold form and drew it to me,
His form it was lifeless sank down in the sea.

So I clung to a plank and then gained the shore
With bad news to mother, “Poor father’s no more.”
Poor mother did grieve; broken-hearted she died,
So I'm left to wander, so pity poor I.

A lady with a fortune she heard him complain.
I will shelter that orphan from wind and from rain,
For I have employment; no parents have I,
And I’ll think of that orphan the day that I die.

He well done his duty and gained a good name.
This lady she died and he master became.
She left himtwo thousand bright pounds and some land,
So be you ever so poor you may live to be grand.
No more will he roam nor weep for employ,
Nor tell the misfortune of a poor smuggler’s boy.

2nd tune:
My father and mother once happy did dwell
In a neat little cottage that reared me so well
My father did venture all on the salt sea
For a keg of good brandy for the land of the free.
“Oh pity I pray; oh give me employ
All forlorn I must wander,“ cried a poor smuggler's boy.

Angela Brazil sings The Poor Smuggler's Boy

“My father and mother once happy did dwell
In a neat little cottage not far from the shore
My father had to venture his life on the sea.
For a keg of good brandy, he was bound for folly.
The night had been dark and the wind it blew high,
And lightning flashed round us; we was far from the shore.

“Our main mast riggings it blew into the waves,
And causes my father a watery grave.
I jumped overboard in the midst of the sea;
I clapped his cold hands and more lively was he.
I was forced for to leave him sinking in the salt sea.

“I swum to a plank and I gained my shore;
Sad news to my mother, my father's no more.
My mother brokenhearted, with sorrow she died.
For I'm now left to wander,” cried the smuggler's poor boy.
“I will build up a boat, and I'll keep up his trade,
Until it does cause me a watery grave.”

Biggun Smith sings My Ship Lost Her Rigging

Oh my ship lost her rigging, got blown to away,
Which it found my father a cold watery grave;
Oh sad news to dear mother, father no more,
I’m left here to wander across the wild moor.

Sure some lady of fortune, she heard me complain,
She took me and sheltered me from the cold winds and rain;
So I well did my duty, I beared her [a] good name,
My missus she died and master I came;
Sure she left me five thousand, both houses and land;
If you’re ever so poor boys you might live to be grand.

No more shall I wander and I’ll sign no employ,
And I’ll tell of misfortune till the day that I’ll die.

Bob Roberts sings The Smuggler's Boy

On one cloudy morning abroad I did roam,
Where the sea breaketh white on the beaches with foam.
When I heard a poor boy who in sorrow did weep,
Crying, “Alas my poor father lies out in the deep.

“My father and mother so happy did dwell
In a trim little cottage by the River Orwell,
But me father would venture out on the salt sea
For a keg of good brandy from the land of the free.

“From Holland we steered but the tempest did roar,
And the lightning flashed round us when far from the shore.
The mast and the rigging were thrown to the wave,
And with them went father to a watery grave.

“So I jumped overboard in the wild raging main,
For to save my poor father, but all was in vain.
I clasped his cold form but quite lifeless was he,
And swept from my arms he sank down in the sea.

“Then I clung to a plank and was soon washed ashore,
With the sad news to tell them that he was no more.
When she heard it poor mother of grief she did die,
And all alone left me—so pity poor I.

“But a lady of fortune she heard me complain,
And she gave me shelter from wind and from rain.
She said, “I've no child for all that I've tried,
So this poor smuggler boy in my bosom shall bide.” ”

Walter Pardon sings The Poor Smuggler's Boy

One cloudy cold morning abroad I did steer
By the wide rolling ocean so deep and so fair
I met a poor boy, who in sorrow did weep
“Alas, my poor father was lost in the deep.

“Mast, sails and rigging, all sunk in the wave
And found, with poor father, a watery grave.
I jumped from the wreck and clasped him to me
But his form it was lifeless—sank into the sea.

“I clung to a plank and swam for the shore
Bad news for poor Mother, dear Father no more.
She died broken-hearted, nor heeded the moan
Of the poor smuggler's boy left to wander alone.”

A fine wealthy lady who heard him complain
Took him in for shelter from the cold and the rain
“I will care for this orphan, 'til the day that I die
No more shall he wander with his sad lonely cry.”

The lady did die—he the Master became
She left everything in her will to his name
And she kept her promise 'til the day she did die
To care for the orphan with this sad lonely cry.

“Poor Father did venture, all on that salt sea
With a cask of good whiskey to the land of the free.
The lightning did flash and the thunder did roar
Our ship it was wrecked while far off from the shore.”
“Oh pity, I crave—won't you give me employ
Alone I must wanders,” cries the poor smuggler's boy.