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The Three Danish Galleys

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 10822 ; probably by Ruth Tongue]

The Three Danish Galleys is a song from Ruth L. Tongue’s book The Chime Child, or, Somerset Singers (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1968). She noted that it was “[s]ung in London 1919 by a sea captain born in Porlock” but Malcolm Douglas commented in the Mudcat Café thread Love and Death on the Shore:

Doubts have been expressed from time to time as to the authenticity of the songs contained in this book; almost all of them are unusual in musical structure and unknown anywhere else. Certainly it would be unsafe to assume that this song is of any antiquity, or even traditional at all; even if Miss Tongue wrote it herself, though (which is not impossible, particularly as so many of these songs, supposedly from different sources, are so similar in style), it’s a fine piece and worth knowing.

Nancy Kerr, with James Fagan and Rob Harbron on chorus, sang Three Galleys on Methera’s 2010 live album In Concert.

Holly & the Reivers recorded The Three Danish Galleys in 2023 as the title track of their album Three Galleys. They noted:

This is the story of how one young woman’s refusal to marry a Danish lord was the start of a bloody conflict between the Danes and the people of Porlock in Somerset. We found this song in the Chime Child book by Ruth L Tongue and this variation of the tune comes from Nancy Kerr.

This video shows Holly & the Reivers at The Globe, Newcastle, on 14 May 2021:


Ruth Tongue’s The Three Danish Galleys

Three galleys come sailing to Porlock Side,
And stole me away a new-wed bride,
Who left my true love lying dead on the shore,
Sailing out and away.
I never shall see my dear home no more.

Then up to her stepped the Danish King,
And her he would wed with a golden ring,
Who left my true love, etc.

The bride she made answer her tears between,
I never will wed with a cowardly Dene.1
Who left my true love, etc.

Then out of the galley they tossed the Bride,
And laughed as she drowned in the cruel tide.
Who left my true love, etc.

There came three small galleys from Porlock Bay,
They fought with the Danes for a night and a day.
Who left my true love, etc.

They fought till the decks with blood ran red,
And every man of the Danes was dead.
Who left my true love, etc.

Then back into Porlock they towed the bride
And buried her down below the Tide.2
Who left my true love, etc.

1 Dene—Dane. Local pronounciation.
2 In order that her ghost should not walk.