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> Louis Killen > Songs > A Hundred Years Ago
> Steeleye Span > Songs > A Hundred Years Ago

A Hundred Years Ago

[ Roud 926 ; Ballad Index San485 ; VWML CJS2/10/2878 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang the halyard shanty A Hundred Years Ago on his and Ewan MacColl's albums The Black Ball Line (1957), Haul on the Bowlin' (1958), and A Hundred Years Ago (1958). This track was also included in 1971 on the Topic Sampler No 7, Sea Songs and Shanties, and in 2004 on the CD Sailors' Songs & Sea Shanties. Lloyd sang this shanty in another recording on his and Ewan MacColl's 1967 Tradition / Transatlantic album Blow Boys Blow. He commented in the second album's sleeve notes:

English and American folklorists fail to agree whether this shanty was first made under the Stars and Stripes or the Red Ensign. It has close associations with the Baltimore clippers, yet John Masefield heard it on British ships in his seafaring days, and the singer who gave it to Cecil Sharp knew it as an English sailors' song. It may be a seaman's remake of the mid-nineteenth century minstrel song called A Long Time Ago. Whatever it is, it made a good nostalgic-sounding shanty for the long pulls on the halyard.

Ewan MacColl sang lead on this shanty in 1962 on the B-side of the musical score from the film Whaler Out of New Bedford.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group—with Dave Swarbrick in lead—sang A Hundred Years Ago in 1962 on their Topic EP Ceilidh at the Crown.

Gordon Norman sang A Hundred Years Ago live at Folk Union One in 1969. This recording was issued privately in the same on the album Blue Bell Folk.

Peter Bellamy and Louis Killen sang the three shanties Won't You Go My Way?, A Hundred Years Ago, and The Alabama on June 22, 1971 live at the Folk Studio, Norwich, with the audience cheerfully joining in on the chorus. This concert was published on their LP Won't You Go My Way?.

Steeleye Span sang the shanties Bring 'Em Down and A Hundred Years Ago in a “Top Gear” BBC radio session on March 27, 1971. This recording was included as a bonus track on the 2006 CD reissue of their album Please to See the King.

The Cecil Sharp Centenary Collective sang 100 Years Ago in 2003 on their Talking Elephant CD As I Cycled Out on a May Morning.

Jeff Warner sang A Hundred Years on the Eastern Shore in 2011 on the WildGoose album of shanties collected by Cecil Sharp from John Short, Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 1: Sea Songs of a Watchet Sailor. The accompanying website commented:

An interesting paucity of versions in the early collections—certainly Sharp knew of only one variant which was published by Tozer. Colcord links her version to Sharp’s, so we decided to use her ‘additional’ verses. She also comments that this shanty “is chiefly remarkable as being the only shanty which can be identified with the Baltimore clippers.” Hugill’s words are simply an aggregation of Colcord and Tozer! He says that: “I believe this to be the shanty mentioned by Dana which he calls Time for Us to Go, although it is possible that he may have been referring to a version of Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her, often called Time for Us to Go.”

Jeff uses the style of singing, remarked upon by several collectors, whereby the solo and chorus are hugely overlapped. This applies to many, if not most, short haul shanties and is probably as close as we get to ‘authentic’ in this collection—see also Ranzo, Billy Riley etc. The similarities between this tune and that for Tommy’s Gone Away are worthy of note.

Kate Young sang 100 Years on Carthy Hardy Farrell Young's 2013 album, Laylam. She commented:

I found this song in Shanties from the Seven Seas (Stan Hugill), and decided to make my own version of the melody, coupled with a piece of a song from Finland, which I learned from Suvi Oskala while studying at Newcastle University.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings A Hundred Years Ago
on The Black Ball Line
A.L. Lloyd sings A Hundred Years Ago
on Blow Boys Blow

A hundred years on the Eastern Shore,
  Oh, yes, oh!
A hundred years on the Eastern Shore,
  A hundred years ago

A hundred years on the Eastern Shore,
  Oh, yes, oh!
A hundred years on the Eastern Shore,
  A hundred years ago

Oh, when I sailed across the sea,
My girl said she'd be true to me.

Oh, when I sailed across the sea,
My girl said she'd be true to me.

I promised her a golden ring,
She promised me that little thing.

I promised her a golden ring,
She promised me that little thing.

Oh, Bully John was the boy for me,
A bucko at land and a bully at sea.

It's up aloft this yard must go,
For mister mate has told us so.

Oh, up aloft this yard must go,
For mister mate has told us so.

I thought I heard the skipper say,
Just one more pull and then belay.

I thought I heard the old man say,
That we was homeward bound today.

A.L. Lloyd sings A Hundred Years Ago
on Whaler Out of New Bedford
Louis Killen and Peter Bellamy sing
A Hundred Years Ago

A hundred years on the Eastern Shore,
  Oh, yes, oh!
A hundred years on the Eastern Shore,
  A hundred years ago

A hundred years on the Eastern Shore
  Oh, yes, oh!
A hundred years on the Eastern Shore
  A hundred years ago

Oh, when I sailed across the sea,
My girl said she'd be true to me.

Oh, when I sailed away to sea
My girl she said she'd be true to me

I promised her a golden ring,
She promised me that little thing.

Oh, I promised her a golden ring
And she promised me that little thing

I wish to God I'd never been born,
To go rambling round and round Cape Horn

Around Cape Stiff where the wild winds blow,
Around Cape Stiff through sleet and snow.

Around Cape Horn with frozen sails,
Around Cape Horn to fish for whales.

Oh, Bully John from Baltimore,
I knew him well on the Eastern Shore.

Oh, Bully John was the boy for me,
A bucko on land and a bully at sea.

Now it's Bully John is the boy for me
He's a bucko on land and a bully at sea

Oh, Bully John, I knew him well,
But now he's dead and gone to hell.

Now it's up aloft this yard must go
Oh it's mister mate has told us so

I thought I hear the skipper say
Just one more pull and then belay

Kate Young sings 100 Years  

A hundred years on the Eastern Shore,
  Oh, aye, oh!
'Tis a hundred years on the Eastern Shore,
  A hundred years ago

A hundred years have passed an' gone,
'Tis a hundred years since I wrote this song.

They used to think that pigs can fly,
Can you believe that bloody lie?

They thought the stars were set alight
By a bunch of angels every night.

They thought the moon was made of cheese;
You can believe it if you please.

They thought the world was flat or square,
But old Columbus he never got there.

A hundred years here we go;
That's a hundred years through ice and snow.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Reinhard Zierke except for the lyrics of the Whaler Out of New Bedford version which were copied from the album's sleeve notes.