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Paddy West

[ Roud 3092 ; Ballad Index Doe113 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang Paddy West in 1957 on his and Ewan MacColl's Tradition Records album Blow Boys Blow. He commented in the sleeve notes:

Mr West is a redoubtable figure in the folklore of the sea. He was a Liverpool boarding-house keeper in the latter days of sail, who provided ship captains with crews, as a side-line. He would guarantee that every man he supplied had crossed the Line and been round the Horn several times. In order to say so with a clear conscience, he gave greenhorns a curious course in seamanship, described in this jesting ballad. It was a great favourite with “Scouse” (Liverpool) sailors.

Timothy Walsh of Devonport, Devon, sang Paddy West on April 5, 1960 to Cyril Tawney. This BBC recording was released on the anthology Sailormen and Servingmaids (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 6; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1970). The album's booklet commented:

The sea literature of the nineteenth century is larded with tales of shanghaied seamen and corrupt boarding-house masters, who sent many a green hand to sea, swearing that they were experienced sailors. The most notorious was Paddy West, a Liverpool Irishman, who hat his fake seamen step across and old rope and walk around a cow's horn so that he could claim that they had “crossed the line and rounded the horn.”

Louis Killen sang Paddy West in 1970 on the South Street Seaport Museum album 50 South to 50 South, and in 1995 on his CD Sailors, Ships & Chanteys. He commented in the latter's notes:

This popular forebitter / capstan chantey tells about one boarding-house master who trained farmers and mill-hands to be seamen at his establishment in Great Howard Street, Liverpool. His training scheme, which took a few days, is aptly described in this song. His “able seamen” were soon demoted once they were at sea. The term “Paddy Wester” is still a term of derision for useless seamen.

Dan Milner, accompanied by Louis Killen and Mick Moloney, sang Paddy West on his 1998 Folk-Legacy album Irish Ballads & Songs of the Sea.

Danny Spooner sang Paddy West on his 2009 CD Bold Reilly Gone Away. He noted:

Growing up near the docks in the East End of London, I was fascinated by the endless activity. Stevedores and dockers loaded and unloaded the great ships from distant lands, into wharves, barges, trains, trucks and small cargo vessels. Smells of timber, rubber, wine, spices and a host of unknown aromas filled the air.

“…the jumble of sounds as you pass the dock blends in anything but sweet concourse. The sailors are singing boisterous songs from the Yankee ship just entering. The cooper is hammering… Lifting chains loosed of their weight rattle and fly up again. Ropes splash in the water, some captain shouts his orders through his hand, a goat bleats… And empty casks roll along the streets with a hollow drumlike sound.”
(Henry Mayhew, Morning Chronicle Survey Vol 1, 1859-50)

Through this cacophony of sounds the crew of an outward-bounder would make their way aboard their ship. Most would have been to sea before, but others would be dragged aboard senseless having spent their pay on rotgut booze or having been drugged by some unscrupulous boarding house master, and those would awake at sea wondering what had happened. However, some might have spent a brief time in the company of Paddy West and his wife on Great Howard Street in Liverpool, and there they would have got the very basic rudiments of seafaring. Paddy West was used as both a forebitter and a capstan shanty.

Arthur Knevett sang Paddy West on his 2016 CD Simply Traditional. He commented in his liner notes:

Paddy West was a boarding house master in Liverpool and he also acted as a kind of agent recruiting sailors for ships that needed to make up a crew. For more experienced sailors Paddy would be paid a higher fee and so he took to training them himself! His practices are reminiscent of those of some modern and unscrupulous private training establishments who fudge assessments to ensure that candidates succeed. In so doing they ‘short-changed‘ the funding agency, their trainees and prospective employers.

Lyrics

Timothy Walsh sings Paddy West

Now, as I took a walk down Grand Street, I stepped into Paddy West's house,
He gave me a feed of American hash and he called it English scouse.
He said, “Cheer up, my hearty, you just came in in time
To put your name upon the book as quickly as you can sign.”

Chorus (after each verse):
Put on your dungaree jacket and give the boys a rest,
Think of the cold nor-wester that we had in Paddy West's!

As I went in to Paddy West's house, the gale began to blow.
He sent me up in the garret, the main-royal for to stow.
As I went up in the garret, no main-royal could I find,
So I slewed around to the window and I furled the window blind.

Paddy's wife stood in the kitchen, a bucket of water in her hand.
Paddy pipes all hands upon deck, all the stays'ls for to man.
Paddy's wife left hold that bucket and the water flew each way,
Saying, “Clew up your fore to-gant-s'ls, boys, we're taking in the say.”

If there's any other young man that wishes to go to sea,
Let him step in to Paddy West's house, he'll sign you right away.
He'll swear you you are a sailor from the hour that you were born.
If he'll ask you, “Were you ever at sea?”, tell him, “Three times around Cape Horn!”

A.L. Lloyd sings Paddy West

Oh, as I was a-walkin' down London Road, I come to Paddy West's house,
He gave me a feed of American hash and he called it Liverpool scouse.
He said, “There's a ship that's wantin' hands, and on her you quickly sign.
The mate is a bastard, the bosun's worse, but she will suit you fine.”

Chorus (after each verse):
Take off your dungaree jackets and give yourselves a rest,
And we'll think on them cold nor'westers that we had at Paddy West's.

Well, when I'd had a feed, my boys, the wind began to blow;
He sent me up in the attic, the main-royal for to stow.
But when I got up in the attic, no main-royal could I find,
So I turned around to the window and I furled the window blind.

Now Paddy he piped all hands on deck, their stations for to man.
His wife stood in the doorway with a bucket in her hand;
And Paddy sings out, “Now let 'er rip!” and she flung the water our way,
Sayin', “Clew up your fore t'gan'sl, boys, she's takin' in the spray!”

Now seein' we're off to the south'ard, boys, to Frisco we was bound,
Old Paddy he called for a length of rope and he laid it on the ground.
And we all stepped over and back again, and he says to me, “That's fine,
Now when they ask if you've been to sea you can say you've crossed the Line.”

“Now there's only one thing for you to do before you sail away,
That's to step around the table, where the bullock's horn do lay.
And when they ask you, ‘Were you ever at sea?’, you can say, ’Ten times 'round the Horn.’
And Bejesus, you're a sailor since the day that you was born.”

Last chorus:
Put on your dungaree jacket, and walk out lookin' your best,
And tell 'em you're an old sailor man that's come from Paddy West's.

Louis Killen sings Paddy West

As I went walkin' down London Road, I come to Paddy West's house,
He gave me a meal of American hash and he said it was Liverpool scouse,
He said, “There's a ship, she's wantin' hands, and on her you must sign,
Oh, the mate's a bastard, the bosun's worse, but she will suit you fine.”

Chorus (after each verse):
So take off your dungaree jacket, and give yourselves a rest,
And we'll think on them cold nor'westers that we had at Paddy West's.

And it's when the meal was over, boys, the wind began to blow.
Paddy sends me to the attic, the main-royal for to stow,
But when I got to the attic, why, no main-royal could I find,
So I turned myself 'round to the window, boys, and I furled the window blind.

Now Paddy he calls all hands on deck, their stations for to man.
And his wife she stood in the doorway with a bucket in her hand;
Paddy sings out, “Now let 'er rip!” and she flings the water our way,
Sayin', “Clew in the fore t'gan'sl, boys, she's takin' in the spray!”

Now that seein' we're bound for the south'ard, boys, to Frisco we was bound;
Paddy he calls for a length of rope, and he lays it on the ground,
We all stepped over, and back again, and he says to me, “That's fine,
Now if ever they ask were you ever at sea you can say you crossed the line.”

And there's one more thing that you must do before you sail away,
Just step around the table, boys, where the bullock's horn do lay.
And if ever they ask, “Was you ever at sea?” you can say, “Ten times 'round the Horn.”
And Bejesus but I'm an old sailor man since the day that I were born.

Last chorus:
So put on yer dungaree jacket and walk up lookin' yer best,
And just tell 'em that you're an old sailor man that's come from Paddy West's.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: Paddy West.