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The Watchet Sailor

[ Roud 917 ; Laws P4 ; Ballad Index LP04 ; trad.]

George Withers sang The Watchet Sailor to John Howson in 1995 at Horton, Somerset. This recording was published in 1995 on Withers' Veteran cassette The Fly Be on the Turmut and in 2001 on the Veteran compilation CD When the Wind Blows. John Howson commented in the latter's booklet:

Although Cecil Sharp collected three versions of this song—two in Somerset and one in Sussex—and Helen Creighton found it being sung as far away as Nova Scotia (Traditional Songs from Nova Scotia, 1950), this is not a particularly common song. Freda Palmer, an Oxfordshire singer, sang bits of it, unlike George who, thankfully, knew the song in its entirety.

Tom & Barbara sang The Watchet Sailor in 2007 on their WildGoose CD West Country Night Out and a year later on their CD Beyond the Quay.

Emily Portman sang Watchet Sailor in 2008 on Rubus' CD Nine Witch Knots. She commented in their liner notes:

A song about those notorious jack-tars who come home from sea and steal the hearts of the ladies! Farmer and singer George Withers sang me Watchet Sailor when I asked him for a song from Somerset. Of course, as George said, songs have always moved around and to get caught up in squabbling over their origins can be a thankless task, but as it mentions the town of Watchet we’re going to claim it for Somerset!

James Findlay sang The Watchet Sailor in 2012 on his Fledg'ling CD Another Day Another Story.

Lyrics

George Withers sings The Watchet Sailor

As I was a-walking down Watchet Swain Street
A jolly old ship mate I chanced for to meet.
Said I, “Hello sailor and welcome to home;
In season to Watchet I think you have come.”

“You remember once courting a pretty young maid,
Well, you’ve been so long gone now she’s going to be wed.
Well, tomorrow at Bristol the wedding’s to be
And I am invited this thing for to see.”

Jack went a got a licence that very same night.
And he walked up to Bristol as soon as t’was light,
He sat in the Temple church yard for a while
Till he saw the bride coming which caused Jack to smile..

He went and he took that fair maid by the hand,
“You’re going to be married so I understand.
Well if you’re to marry then you must be mine
So I have come here for to baulk your design.”

“Oh alas,” cried the maiden, “now what can I do?
Yes I know I was solemnly promised to you.
But the sailor's my true love and I’ll be his bride,
There’s none in the world I can fancy beside.”.

Then the sailor he roared like a man who is mad,
“I’m ruined, I’m ruined, I’m ruined.” he said.
Oh you who have sweethearts, get wed while you may
Or else those Jack Tars they will take them away.

Emily Portman sings Watchet Sailor

As I was a-walking down Watchet Swain Street
A jolly old ship mate I chanced for to meet.
I said, “Hello sailor and welcome to home;
In season to Watchet I think you have come.”

“Well, you remember once courting that pretty young maid,
You’ve been so long gone now she’s going to be wed.
And tomorrow at Bristol the wedding’s to be
And I am invited this thing for to see.”

Jack went and got a licence that very same night.
He walked up to Bristol before it was light,
He sat in the Temple church yard for a while
Till he saw the bride coming which caused Jack to smile..

He went and he took this fair maid by the hand,
“You’re going to be married so I understand.
Well if you’re to marry, you must be mine,
And I am come here for to foil your design.”

“Oh alas,” cried the maiden, “what shall I do?
I know I was solemnly promised to you.
But the sailor's my true love, I’ll be his bride,
There’s none in this world I can fancy beside.”.

When the tailor he roared like a man who is mad,
“I’m ruined, I’m ruined, I’m ruined.” he said.
Come you who have sweethearts, get wed while you may
Or else them Jack Tars they will take them away.