> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Heave Away, My Johnny
> Louis Killen > Songs > Heave Away My Johnny

Heave Away My Johnny

[ Roud 616 ; Ballad Index Doe063 ; Mudcat 162762 ; trad.]

Cecil Sharp collected the windlass shanty Heave Away My Johnnie from Captain Vickery of Minehead, Somerset, on 8 August 1904 [VWML CJS2/10/275] and on 21 August 1907 [VWML CJS2/9/1315, CJS2/10/1432] , and from the Watchet sailor John Short on 21 April 1914 [VWML CJS2/10/2888, RoudFS/S207947] .

Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd sang Heave Away, My Johnny in 1957 on their Riverside album of whaling ballads and songs, Thar She Blows. Kenneth S. Goldstein commented in the sleeve notes:

A favourite shanty for windlass work, when the ship was being warped out of harbour at the start of a trip. A log rope would be made fast to a ring at the quayside and run round a bollard at the pierhead and back to the ship’s windlass. The shantyman would sit on the windlass head and sing while the spokesters strained to turn the windlass. As they turned, the rope would round the drum and the ship nosed seaward amid the tears of the women and the cheers of the men. This version was sung by the Indian Ocean whalers of the 1840s. ‘Kingston’ is another name for Hull.

Louis Killen and chorus sang Heave Away My Johnny in 1964 on the Topic anthology of sea songs and shanties, Farewell Nancy. This track was also included in 1993 on the Topic CD Blow the Man Down. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

A capstan stands upright and is pushed round by trudging men. A windlass, serving much the same function, lies horizontally and is revolved by means of bars pulled from up to down. So windlass songs are generally more rhythmical than capstan shanties. Heave Away is usually considered a windlass song. Originally, it had words concerning a voyage of Irish migrants to America. Later, this text fell away. The version sung here was “devised” by A. L. Lloyd for the film of Moby Dick.

The Young Tradition sang Heave Away, My Johnny at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, on 17 November 1968. This concert was published in 2013 on their Fledg’ling CD Oberlin 1968.

Bernard Wrigley sang Heave Away, My Johnny in 1974 on the Topic album Sea Shanties.

Danny Spooner sang All Bound to Go on his 1988 album We’ll Either Bend or Break ’Er.

Barbara Brown sang Heave Away My Johnny (We’re All Bound to Go), accompanied on chorus by Keith Kendrick and Jackie Oates, in 2012 on the anthology of sea songs collected from John Short by Cecil Sharp, Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 3. The accompanying notes commented:

This is another shanty where, with the tune and structure fairly consistent, different texts were used over time. Sharp had only three verses from Short—but they immediately show his text to have been the folksong Banks of the Sweet Dundee. Colcord also notes the use of Banks of the Sweet Dundee to this tune and notes that “this version was seldom or never sung on American ships.” Other texts used for this shanty include, as Colcord notes, Mr Tapscott—which Short used to the New York Girls tune. Hugill quotes both Mr Tapscott and The Banks of Newfoundland texts as sung to Heave Away Me Johnny.

Whall and Colcord both surmise an 1850s’ origin to the shanty, but this assumption seems to be based on the fact that their texts are both Mr Tapscott versions. Hugill says that the most popular way of singing this shanty in the latter days of sail was with the “Sometimes we’re bound for Liverpool” set of words. Perhaps we have an evolution here where the form, tune and chorus remains fairly consistent, but the texts used move from Banks of the Sweet Dundee to Mr Tapscott to Sometimes we’re bound for Liverpool. Short, once again, gives us an early version and it may indicate that the shanty started life on the English side of the pond rather than the American.

From Short’s three verses we have expanded the text from the closest broadside versions of Banks of the Sweet Dundee. The full text would take too much time for even the longest of tasks so we have exercised some précis skills without, hopefully, destroying the story!

Tony Hall recorded Heave Away, Me Johnny Boys during the sessions for his 1977 Free Reed album Fieldvole Music. The track was left out, however, and had to wait until 2007 to be included onto the album’s CD reissue.


Louis Killen sings Heave Away My Johnny

There are some that’s bound for New York Town and some that’s are bound to France,
   Heave away, my Johnny, heave away,
And there’s some that’s bound for the Bengal Bay to teach them whales a dance,
   Heave away my Johnny boy, we’re all bound to go.

Our pilot he is awaiting for the turning of the tide,
And then, my girls, we’ll be gone again with the good and westerly wind.

So farewell to you, my Kingston girls, farewell St Andrews Dock,
If ever we come again we’ll make your cradles rock.

So come all of you hard weather sailing men who round the cape of storms,
O be sure your boots and oilskins on or you’ll wish you’ve never been born.

Danny Spooner sings All Bound to Go

There’s some is bound for New York town and others is bound for France,
   Heave away me Johnnies, heave, heave away;
And there’s some is bound for the Bengal Bight to teach the whales to dance,
   And away me bully boys, we’re all bound to go.

An advance note in our pockets, boys, it’s bound to take us far,
We’ll cruise along old Lime Street, and straight in the American Bar.

In two days time we’ll put to sea down the Mersey we will slip;
And the flash gals will be waiting, boys, when we gets back next trip.

Our pilot he is a-waiting the turning of the tide,
And soon we will be sailing with a good and a westerly wynd.

And when we’re homeward bound again, our pockets lined once more,
We’ll spend it wiv them flash gels in then go to sea one more.

So merrily let yer voices ring, me bullies, heave and bust,
It ain’t no use caterwallin’, growl ye may but go ye must.

Barbara Brown sings Heave Away My Johnny (We’re All Bound to Go)

It’s of a farmer’s daughter, so beautiful, I’m told,
   Heave away, my Johnny, heave away,
Her parents died and left to her five hundred pounds in gold,
   Heave away my bonny boys, we’re all bound to go.

Now there was a wealthy squire who oft her came to see,
But Mary loved a ploughboy on the banks of the sweet Dundee.

Her uncle and the squire rode out one summer’s day,
“Young William he’s in favour,” her uncle he did say.

“Indeed it’s my intention to tie him to a tree
Or to bribe the press gang on the banks of the sweet Dundee.”

Now the press gang came for William when he was all alone,
He boldly fought for liberty, but they were six to one.

The blood did flow in torrents, “Pray, kill me now,” says he,
“I would rather die for Mary on the banks of the sweet Dundee.”

This maid one day was walking, lamenting for her love,
When she met the wealthy squire down in her uncle’s grove.

And he put his arms around her, “Stand off, base man,” said she;
“For you vanished the only man I love from the banks of the sweet Dundee.”

And young Mary took his pistols and the sword he used so free,
But she did fire and shot the squire on the banks of the sweet Dundee.

Her uncle overheard the noise and he hastened to the sound,
“Since you have shot the squire I’ll give you your death wound!”

“Stand off!” then cried young Mary, “undaunted I will be!”
She the trigger drew and her uncle slew on the banks of the sweet Dundee.

He willed his gold to Mary who fought so valiantly,
Then he closed his eyes, no more to rise, on the banks of the sweet Dundee.