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Haul on the Bowline

[ Roud 652 ; G/D 1:1 ; Ballad Index Doe009b ; trad.]

This short-drag shanty was recorded in 1956 by A.L. Lloyd and chorus on his, Ewan MacColl and Harry H. Corbett's album The Singing Sailor. Like most of the tracks from these recording sessions it has been reissued lots of times, e.g. on their albums Row Bullies Row, Singing Sailors (Wattle Records) and Haul on the Bowlin' (Stinson Records), and on the compilation CD Sailors' Songs & Sea Shanties. The latter album's sleeve note comment:

Until the end of the days of sail this shanty remained a favourite song for sheeting home the foresail and for other jobs calling for a few good pulls. The pull came on the word “haul” at the end of each verse.

Ewan MacColl recorded the song a second time in 1957 for his and A.L. Lloyd's album Blow Boys Blow, with the same verses but different accompaniment. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

It has often been said that Haul on the Bowline dates at least from the time of Henry VIII. There is no direct evidence to back up the statement. Yet the shanty may be older than most, for it is a very long time since the bowline was an important rope that required much hauling on. Many a sailor, when he had time to draw breath and think it over, has wondered why this insignificant bowline should be made so much of in this short-drag shanty, which remained a favourite until the last days of sail.

and in the Sailors' Songs & Sea Shanties notes:

Until the end of the days of sail this shanty remained a favourite song for sheeting home the foresail and for other jobs calling for a few good pulls. The pull came on the word “haul” at the end of each verse.

The Young Tradition recorded four sea shanties, Fire Maringo, Hanging Johnny, Bring 'em Down, and Haul on the Bowline, for their 1967 EP Chicken on a Raft. Royston Wood sang lead on the first and third shanty, Peter Bellamy on the second and fourth. Like all tracks from the EP, they were included in the compilation album The Young Tradition Sampler and CD Galleries / Chicken on a Raft / No Relation. They also sang Haul on the Bowline on November 17, 1968 at their concert at Oberlin College, Ohio, that was published in 2013 on their Fledg'ling CD Oberlin 1968. Their EP sleeve notes comment:

Haul on the Bowline was used as a hauling shanty long after the bowline has ceased to be an important rope aboard ship. Peter learned this one from the unlikeliest-sounding source: Dave van Ronk, an American blues singer and guitarist.

Bernard Wrigley sang Haul Away the Bowline on his 1971 Topic album The Phenomenal B. Wrigley. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

One of the commonest shanties in its day. It was a pretty long day, because already by Henry VIII’s time the bowline was ceasing to be a rope of importance, yet somehow the word stuck and the shanty was being raised right to the last days of sail though by now the bowline was so dwindled that it needed no shanty. Since it ceased to be sung at work and became a social chorus song, like most other shanties, it has greatly picked up speed.

Steeleye Span performed Bring 'Em Down and this shanty on September 15, 1971 for the BBC Radio 1 programme “Peel's Sunday Concert”. Tim Hart sang lead on this shanty. This programme was included in the 2006 CD reissue of Steeleye Span's third album, Ten Man Mop or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Haul on the Bowline on the 1974 Topic LP Sea Shanties.

Danny Spooner sang Haul in the Bowline on his 1988 album We'll Either Bend or Break 'Er.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings Haul on the Bowline

Haul on the bowlin', the bully ship's a-rolling,
    Haul on the bowlin', the bowlin' haul!

Haul on the bowlin', Kitty is me darlin'.

Haul on the bowlin', Kitty comes from Liverpool.

Haul on the bowlin', it's a far cry to payday.

The Young Tradition sing Haul on the Bowline

Haul on the bowlin', Kitty is me darlin',
    Haul on the bowlin', the bowlin' haul!

Haul on the bowlin', Kitty comes from Liverpool.

Haul on the bowlin' so early in the mornin'.

Haul on the bowlin' and the old man he's a-growlin'.

Haul on the bowlin' before she starts a-rowlin'.

Haul on the bowlin' but we don't know where we're going.

Haul on the bowlin' and we don't know where we're sailing from.

Haul on the bowlin' and the sooner we're get going.

Haul on the bowlin', well the third we comes homes again.

Haul on the bowlin', it's a weary way to Liverpool.

Haul on the bowlin', it's a far cry to payday.

Steeleye Span sing Haul on the Bowline

Haul on the bowlin', me Kitty comes from Liverpool,
   Haul on the bowlin', the bowlin' haul!

Haul on the bowlin', me Kitty is me darlin'.

Haul on the bowlin', so early in the mornin'.

Haul on the bowlin', another day was dawning.

Haul on the bowlin', the gale it is a howling.

Haul on the bowlin', the cook he is a-growlin'.

Haul on the bowlin', we're leaving altogether.

Haul on the bowlin', we'll bust the chafe in leather.

Haul on the bowlin', we'll all away together.

Danny Spooner sings Haul in the Bowline

Haul in the bowline, me Kitty comes from Liverpool,
    Haul in the bowline, the bowline haul.

Haul in the bowline, Liverpool's a fine town.

Haul in the bowline, the fore and main t'bowline

Haul in the bowline, the fore t'gallant bowline.

Haul in the bowline, me bully ship's a-rolling.

Haul in the bowline, we'll haul fer better weather.

Haul in the bowline, and bust the chafin' leather.

Haul in the bowline, we'll either bend or break 'er.

Haul in the bowline, it's a long day t' payday.

Haul in the bowline, wast 'eavin' the bowline.