> Frankie Armstrong > Songs > The Sailor Laddie
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The Sailor Laddie / Rolling Sea

[ Roud 29468 ; Mudcat 141779 ; trad.]

Frankie Armstrong sang The Sailor Laddie in 1973 on the Topic theme album The Valiant Sailor: Songs & Ballads of Nelson’s Navy which accompanied Roy Palmer’s same-named book. Frankie’s five songs on this album were included in 2000 on the Fellside CD reissue of her Topic LP Lovely on the Water. The album’s liner notes commented:

Despite her pride in the sailor lad’s valour, his sweetheart still longs for peace, so that he will come home. A version of this song was heard at Gosport as early as 1781. Our text comes from John Aston’s Real Sailor Songs (1891) and the tune from Stokoe and Reay, who give it in their Songs and Ballads of Northern England, under the title of O the Bonny Fisher Lad.

Christine Kydd sang Sailor Laddie in 1993 on her Fellside album Heading Home; this track was also included in 2006 on the Fellside anthology Landmarks: 30 Years of a Leading Folk Music Label.

Eliza Carthy sang this song as Rolling Sea in 2006 on the double CD Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys. The liner notes commented:

This song is from the perspective of a woman ashore, waiting for her sailor (or any sailor) to return home (with prize money). The lyrics are from the Napoleonic period. Some verses are the voice of a wife or sweetheart. The verse that compares sailors and soldiers is a well known whore’s ditty of the time.

On the same album Eliza also sings, as part of Waterson:Carthy, the two songs The Mermaid and Hog-Eye Man.

Tom & Barbara Brown sang Bonnie Sailor Laddie in 2008 on their WildGoose CD Beyond the Quay. They commented:

Bonny Sailor Laddie is a happy marriage of tune and words that was contrived by Roy Palmer for his book (and the LP) The Valiant Sailor back in 1973: he took the tune O The Bonny Fisher Lad from Stokoe & Reay’s Songs and Ballads of Northern England and the words from Ashton’s Real Sailor Songs.

Maggie Sand and Sandragon sang Sailor Laddie in 2009 on their WildGoose CD Susie Fair. She noted:

This song dates from the Napoleonic wars in the early part of the 19th century. A girl is pondering the benefits and drawbacks of having a sailor for a boyfriend—he makes more money than the humble fisherman, but there’s a good chance that he might get killed doing it.

Said the Maiden sang Rolling Sailor in 2013 on their EP Come Hither.


Frankie Armstrong sings The Sailor Laddie

Oh my bonny sailor laddie,
Oh my bonny sailor he;
Well I love my sailor laddie,
Blithe and merry may he be.

Sailor lads have gold and silver,
Fisher lads have nought but brass.
Well I love my sailor laddie
Because I am a sailor’s lass.

How can I be blithe and merry
When my true love’s so far from me?
When so many pretty sailors
They are pressed and sent to sea?

How I wish the press was over
And the war was at an end.
Then every bonny sailor laddie
Would be merry with his friend.

Some delight in jolly farmers,
Some delight in soldiers free;
But my delight’s in a sailor laddie,
Blithe and merry may he be.

How I wish the war was over,
Peace and plenty come again.
Then every bonny sailor laddie
Would come sailing o’er the main.

Don’t you see the ship a-coming?
Don’t you see she’s in full sail?
Don’t you see the Britannia coming
With the prizes at her tail?

(repeat first verse)

Eliza Carthy sings Rolling Sea

Don’t you see the ships a-coming?
Don’t you see them in full sail?
Don’t you see the ships a-coming
With their prizes at their tail?

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Oh my little rolling sailor,
Oh my little rolling he;
How I love my rolling sailor
When he’s on a rolling sea;
When he’s on a rolling, rolling,
When he’s on a rolling sea.

Sailors they get all the money,
Soldiers they get none but brass.
How I love my rolling sailor,
Soldiers they can kiss my …

How can I be blithe and merry
With my true love far from me?
All those pretty little sailors,
They’ve been pressed and tanged to sea.

How I wish the press were over
And the wars were at an end.
Then every sailor laddie
Would be happy with his friend.

When the wars they are all over
Peace and plenty come again;
Every bonny sailor laddie
Will come sailing on the main.

Oh, the wars will soon be over
And the sailors once come home;
Every lass will get a lad,
She won’t have to sleep alone.