> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > General Taylor
> Louis Killen > Songs > General Taylor
> Steeleye Span > Songs > General Taylor

General Taylor / Carry Him to His Burying Ground

[ Roud 216 ; Ballad Index Hugi078 ; trad.]

This halyard or capstan shanty is known as either Walk Me Along Johnny, Walk Him Along John or General Taylor. The American General Zachary Taylor beat the Mexican General Santa Aña at the battle of Molina del Rey (Buena Vista) in February 1847. He later became the 12th President of the United States from March 1849 until his death in July 1850.

Stan Hugill notes in his book Shanties from the Seven Seas, p. 70:

[R.R.] Terry and [Cecil] Sharp, both of whom had it from the same shantyman, [John] Short of Watchet, Somerset, call it “halyards”, but although I also give it as a halyard song, I am inclined to believe that it must have been used as a capstan song or pump shanty at some time or other, since the last two solos and refrains suggest that they were once sung as a full chorus.

A.L. Lloyd sang General Taylor in 1962 on his and Ewan MacColl's Prestige album A Sailor's Garland. He commented in his liner notes:

The Mexican War threw up some good shanties. British seamen, many of whom jumped ship to fight on the Mexican side, sometimes sang it as if General Santy Ana had been victorious at the decisive battle of Molina del Rey. The present shanty restores history to a truer perspective, for surely enough, “General Taylor gained the day”. Yet still there is confusion, for somehow Taylor's figure has merged with that of the legendary Stormalong, and the general is given the ceremonial funeral that is usually accorded to old Stormy. Cecil Sharp noted this intricate tune with its melismatic “hitches” from a shantyman named [John] Short of Watchet in Somerset.

Louis Killen sang General Taylor in 1970 on the South Street Seaport Museum album 50 South to 50 South: Louis Killen sings on the Cape Horn Road.

Steeleye Span sang General Taylor with Tim Hart in lead in 1971 during the recording sessions for Ten Man Mop or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again but the track not included in this album. It was first released on the compilation album Individually and Collectively, and therefore subsequently on the 2 LP set Time Span which contains this album as its second LP. It was also added as bonus track to the 2 CD collection The Lark in the Morning, a compilation of the first three Steeleye Span LPs. And it was finally included in the 2006 reissue of Ten Man Mop.

Steeleye Span also sang General Taylor live on September 15, 1971 for the BBC radio programme “Peel's Sunday Concert”. This programme was included as bonus CD on the 2006 reissue of Ten Man Mop.

General Taylor was also in the repertoire of Fairport Convention; a live performance from the University of Chicago in 1970 leading into The Mason's Apron was included in 2003 on the Dave Swarbrick anthology Swarb!. They finally recorded it in 1977 for their album The Bonny Bunch of Roses.

Folly Bridge sang General Taylor in 1992 on their second WildGoose cassette, Unabridged.

Sam Lee sang this shanty as Carry Him to His Burying Ground in 2011 on the most excellent anthology CD Short Sharp Shanties: Sea Songs of a Watchet Sailor Vol. 1. The sleeve notes commented:

Another shanty that refers to Stormy. Despite its popularity in recent years, this is a rare shanty in the collections. The extraordinary melodic lines of the shantyman's lead, in what might be regarded as “chorus”, were, with difficulty, meticulously notated by Sharp, and are virtually impossible to replicate in performance—Sam [Lee] has followed the style rather than the exact notation. Other shantymen tend to sing a very simplified version—or give it all to the crew as chorus.

Lyrics

Steeleye Span sing General Taylor Folly Bridge sing General Taylor

General Taylor gained the day
    Walk him along, John, carry him along
Oh, General Taylor gained the day
    Carry him to his burying ground

General Taylor gained the day
    Walk him along, John, carry him along
Oh, General Taylor gained the day
    Carry him to his burying ground

Chorus (after each verse):
To me way hey, you Stormy
    Walk him along, John, carry him along
To me way hey, you Stormy
    Carry him to his burying ground
Chorus (after each verse):
To me way hey, you Stormy (Stormy)
    Walk him along, John, carry him along
To me way hey, you Stormy (Stormy)
    Carry him to his burying ground

Oh I wish I was old Stormy's son
I'd build a ship ten thousand tons

I wish I was old Stormy's son
I'd build a ship ten thousand ton

I'd load her down with ale and rum
And every shellback should have some

We'd load her down with ale and rum
And every shellback will have some

Oh we dig his grave with a silver spade
And his shroud of the softest silk is made

We'll dig his grave with a silver spade
His shroud of the softest silk to be made

And we lower him down on a golden chain
On every link we'll carve his name

We'll lower him down on a golden chain
And on every link we'll carve his name

General Taylor's dead and gone
General Taylor's dead and gone

General Taylor's dead and gone
Oh, General Taylor's dead and gone

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Abby Sale for information and for correcting an embarrassing error.