> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Bold Riley O

Bold Riley

[ Roud 18160 ; trad.]

The origins of Bold Riley O appear to be shrouded in mystery; it does not appear in Stan Hugill's 1961 shanty “bible” Shanties from the Seven Seas or any earlier collections. Its first appearance seems to A.L. Lloyd singing it in 1962 on the Prestige album A Sailor's Garland, where he commented in the sleeve notes:

Shellbacks manning the windjammers of the West Indies trade brought back to Liverpool and Bristol more than sugar, bananas and rum; they also brought back many songs. Some of these they kept to themselves, some they handed on to vessels sailing in other waters. Thus the fine hexatonic tune of Bold Riley O, which started life as a Tobago reel, was sung at the halyards of many an East Indiaman bound for Bombay and the Bengal ports.

According to Fred McCormick, Lloyd's version seems to be based on a worksong from the Georgia Sea Islands just called Riley (Roud 18160), which can be found on the 2006 Smithsonian Folkways anthology The Friends of Old Time Music: The Folk Arrival 1961-1965.

A.L. Lloyd also sang Bold Riley O in 1974 on the Topic anthology Sea Shanties. His four verses are all “floaters” that also appear in other shanties, such as Bound for the Rio Grande, Goodbye, Fare Thee Well and Leave Her, Johnny, and present-day singers often choose to sing them in a different order; in the chorus some sing “sweetheart” in the first line and “darling” in the third, while others reverse the order. Likewise, the “boom-a-lay” in the first refrain is nowadays often replaced by another “Bold Riley”, so it is quite rare for any two versions to have exactly the same words in exactly the same places.

Bold Riley was later recorded by Jeff Warner on the 1976 Collector album Steady As She Goes.

The Oyster Band sang Bold Riley on the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster Fund charity album 3.06: A Roots Album for Liverpool.

Kate Rusby learned Bold Riley from the singing of Jim Mageean. She sang it with Davy Steele in 1997 on her first solo album, Hourglass. This track was also included in 2002 on her 10th anniversary album, 10.

Tim van Eyken and Rob Harbron learned Bold Riley from Graham O'Callaghan and sang it in 2001 on their Beautiful Jo album One Sunday Afternoon.

Danny Spooner sang Bold Reilly Gone Away as the title track of his 2009 CD Bold Reilly Gone Away. He noted:

Bold Reilly Gone Away, I got from a Danish seaman who worked on the salvage tugs out of the port or Korsør. He said it came from the ships of the East India Company; formed in 1600 it had the monopoly on trade with the East Indies and had many large, armed merchantmen. While these ships were at sea the wives had the right to draw half of the seaman's pay for sustenance. So ‘white-stocking day’ was when they dressed up and headed to the shipping office to collect. If the truth is known they might then go on a spree with their fancy man.

The Teacups recorded Bold Riley in November 2012 for their Haystack CD One for the Pot, referring to A.L. Lloyd's album as their source. This video shows them at The Hothouse Festival, Halsway Manor, in Somerset in 2015:

Danny Pedler and Rosie Butler Hall sang Bold Riley on their 2015 EP Bold.

Peter Knight's Gigspanner sang Bold Riley on their 2017 CD The Wife of Urban Law.

Kim Lowings & the Greenwood sang Bold Riley in 2017 on their CD Wild & Wicked Youth.

Lyrics

Goodbye My Riley O

from Lydia Parrish: Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands (Creative Art Press, 1942; University of Georgia Press, 1992)

Riley, Riley, where were you?
    O Riley, O man!
Riley gone an' I'm goin' too
    Goodbye my Riley O

Riley, Riley, where were you?
Riley gone to Liverpool

You Democrat Riley
You Democrat Riley

Riley, Riley, where were you?
When I played that nine spot through

A.L. Lloyd sings Bold Riley

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Goodbye, my darling, goodbye, my dear O,
    Bold Riley O, boom-a-lay
Goodbye, my sweetheart, goodbye, my dear O,
    Bold Riley O, gone away

The anchor is weighed and the rags we've all set,
    Bold Riley O, boom-a-lay
Them Liverpool judies we'll never forget,
    Bold Riley O, gone away

Alternate chorus:
Goodbye, my darling, goodbye, my dear O,
    Bold Riley O, boom-a-lay
Goodbye, my darling, goodbye, my dear O,
    Bold Riley O, gone away

The rain it is raining all the day long,
The northerly winds they blow so strong,

Cheer up, Mary Ellen, and don't look so glum,
On white-stocking day you'll be drinking hot rum.

We're outward bound for the Bengal Bay,
Get bending, my lads, it's a hell of a way.

Kate Rusby sing Bold Riley

Oh the rain it rains all day long
    Bold Riley O, Bold Riley
And the northern wind, it blows so strong
    Bold Riley O has gone away

Chorus (after each verse):
Goodbye my sweetheart, goodbye my dear O
    Bold Riley O, Bold Riley
Goodbye my darlin', goodbye my dear O
    Bold Riley O has gone away

Well come on Mary, don't look glum
Come white-stocking day you'll be drinkin' rum

We're outward bound for the Bengal Bay
Get bending, my lads, it's a hell of a way

Danny Spooner sings Bold Reilly Gone Away

Our anchor's weighed and the topsail is set
    Bold Reilly O bold Reilly
Farewell to the lasses we'll never forget
    Bold Reilly O gone away

Chorus (after each verse):
Goodbye my darling, goodbye my dear O
    Bold Reilly O bold Reilly
Goodbye my darling, goodbye my dear O
    Bold Reilly O gone away

Oh Nancy my love don't you look so glum
Come white-stocking day you'll be supping up rum

And we're outward bound for the Bengal Bay
Crack on my lads it's a hell of a way

Well growl you may but go you must
You growl too hard well your head they'll bust

Our anchor's weighed and the topsail is set
Farewell to the lasses we'll never forget

The Teacups sing Bold Riley

Oh the rain it raineth all day long,
    Bold Riley O, Bold Riley,
And them northern wind, are blowing strong
    Bold Riley O has gone away.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Goodbye my sweetheart, goodbye my dear O
    Bold Riley O, Bold Riley,
Goodbye my darlin', goodbye my dear O,
    Bold Riley O has gone away.

Oh the anchor's aweigh and the sails are set
And them Liverpool Judies we'll ne'er forget

We're outward bound for the Bengal Bay,
Keep rowing boys, it's a bloody long way

Cheer up Mary Ellen, don't be so glum,
Come white-stocking day we'll drink hot rum

Links

See also the Shantypedia song archive (from where I got most of the text above) and the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Bold Riley (chantey).