> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Short Jacket and White Trousers
> Maddy Prior > Songs > Maid That's Deep in Love
> Louis Killen > Songs > Short Jacket and White Trousers
> June Tabor > Songs > Short Jacket and White Trousers

Short Jacket and White Trousers / Maid That's Deep in Love

[ Roud 231 ; Laws N12 ; Ballad Index LN12 ; trad.]

Songs of the Midlands

Cecilia Costello sang I am a Maid That's Deep in Love on 30 November 1951 to Marie Slocombe, then head of the BBC Recorded Programmes Library. This BBC recording 17033 was released in 1975 on her eponymous Leader album, Cecilia Costello. The album's booklet noted:

Although the text is brief, it has most of the essential features of its congeners; in search of her true love a girl crosses the ocean, disguised as a sailor. As she disembarks she reveals her true identity and purpose to the captain who laments his lost opportunity.

The tune belongs to the Irish branch of the Lowlands of Holland family (see Bronson vol. II p. 423).

Published versions can be found in Gardner E.E. / Chickering G.J., Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1933), JEFDSS vol. VII No. 2; Palmer, R. / Bishop, P. / Thompson, K., Songs of the Midlands (Wakefield: EP Publishing, 1972); and there is a broadside printed by Storer, Bristol.

There is a sound recording on BBC 18583 (Lal Smith, Belfast, 1.8.1952).

Lal Smith sang I am a Maid That's Deep in Love on 1 August 1952 to Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle. This BBC recording 18583 was included in 2014 on the Topic anthology of Kennedy and O'Boyle's field recordings of traditional songs, airs and dance music in Ulster, The Flax in Bloom (The Voice of the People Volume 27).

A.L. Lloyd recorded Short Jacket and White Trousers in 1962 for his and Ewan MacColl's LP A Sailor's Garland and sung unaccompanied in 1966 on his own album First Person. The latter version was included in the compilation CDs Round Cape Horn and Classic A.L. Lloyd. Lloyd commented in the first album's sleeve notes:

Girls dressed in male attire, living “man to man” in the fo'c'sle with rough seamen, may find themselves in delicate situations. This song offers an unusual quizzical but characteristically good-natured view of the matter. The song is still known among British seamen in various stages of dilapidation and differing degrees of coarseness. For some reason it has seldom found its way into print. Greenleaf and Mansfield found a good version in Newfoundland, and we've borrowed some of their delicate lines to replace a few rough passages in the song as sung by ex-bosun Ned Close of London.

and in the notes of First Person:

“In culling off my britches to myself I often smiled / To think I lay with a hundred men and a maiden all the while.” So sings the heroine of The Pretty Drummer-Boy, one among the innumerable songs of girls dressed as boys and entering the army or going to sea. It happened in real life too, notably in the eighteenth century, but not so often as it occurs in song. No doubt it's a common dream of groups of men far from feminine company, the fantasy that, by some miracle, one of the bunch might be a girl in man's clothing. Not only soldiers and sailors but also American loggers and Australian shearers have songs about this charming but rare situation. Sometimes the escapade ends badly for the girl (as in The Handsome Cabin Boy) but as often as not the masquerader manages to carry off her impersonation with fine aplomb. I don't find Short Jacket and White Trousers in any of the English printed collections, but Firth of Pocklington (Yorkshire) published a broadside of it beginning “I am a maid in sorrow to complain” a bit longer but perhaps not as good as our version here.

A.L. Lloyd also sang Short Jacket and White Trousers live at the Top Lock Folk Club, Runcorn, on 5 November 1972. This concert was published in 2010 on the Fellside CD An Evening with A.L. Lloyd.

Maddy Prior sang a variant called Maid That's Deep in Love in 1968 on her and Tim Hart's first duo album Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 1. The record's sleeve notes comment:

This version of the well known Female Cabin Boy is from the singing of Lal Smith, a Belfast tinker. It is interesting to note that the maid, in this version, remains undetected which causes the captain to seem homosexual.

Pentangle sang A Maid That's Deep in Love in 1970 on their Transatlantic album Cruel Sister.

Shirley Collins learned Short Jacket and White Trousers from A.L. Lloyd and recorded it in 1970 during the sessions for her and her sister Dolly's album Love, Death & the Lady. But as three other ones, this track was left out and only found its way onto the 1994 and 2003 CD reissues.

Louis Killen sang Short Jacket and White Trousers on his 1970 South Street Seaport Museum album 50 South to 50 South and on his 1995 CD Sailors, Ships & Chanteys. He commented in the former album's sleeve notes:

A recurring theme in many sailor songs is that of young women dressing up as men and signing on board some ship “to seek their own true love across the raging main”. Perhaps much of this was wishful dreaming on the part of men grouped together for months on end without sight of the opposite sex, but there are records of women joining ships—in fact, one ended up commander of a privateer. Usually the “maid” in the story ends up “in the family way”, but here there is a fine twist to the story.

June Tabor sang Short Jacket and White Trousers in a BBC Radio 1 John Peel session recorded on 26 August 1976 and broadcast on 13 September 1976. This recording was included in 1998 on her BBC sessions CD On Air.

Cyril Tawney sang Short Jacket and White Trousers in 1990 on his Neptune Tapes cassette Sailor's Delight. This track was also included in 2003 on his anthology CD Nautical Tawney.

John Roberts sang Short Jacket and White Trousers on his 2007 CD Sea Fever. He noted:

Short Jacket and White Trousers is another song from the repertoire of A.L. Lloyd; I don't know his source.

Rattle on the Stovepipe sang Short Jacket and White Trousers in 2010 on their WildGoose CD No Use in Cryin'. They noted:

Cross-dressing (generally by girls) has always fascinated Grubb Street ballad writers and traditional singers. Many a fo’c’sle and barrack room entertainer must have lived in the hope of discovering just such a young woman in the hammock or bunk next to his. The song was introduced into the folk revival by Bert Lloyd, who unearthed it in Greenleaf and Mansfield’s Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland, and in 1962 recorded it on the album A Sailor's Garland. He claimed to have also heard a ‘rough’ version from an ex-bosun named Ned Close of London. Following Bert’s habit of song ‘tinkering’, Dave [Arthur] partially rewrote this version after a trip to Virginia, and fitted it to a new tune.

Emily Portman sang I Am a Maid That's Deep in Love on the Furrow Collective's 2018 album Fathoms. It is bracketed by the emigration song Our Ship She's Ready. They noted:

A song of a woman disguising herself as a man, affording her the freedom to journey overseas and find her true love. These cross-dressing sailors often had to contend with lustful sea captains and, in this case, Molly turns down a handsome fortune for love. Our source for this song is Birmingham Irish singer Cecilia Costello.

Lyrics

Cecilia Costello sings I Am a Maid That's Deep in Love

For I am a maid that’s deep in love and I dare not once complain,
For I’m in search of my true love and Johnny is his name.
Enquiring for the captain my passage to go free
That I might find the lad I love while crossing the deep blue sea.

Well the ship it went on gaily and the winds it did blow fair
And when I reached Columba’s shore no danger did I fear.
It is once I was a man on sea but a maid I am on shore,
So adieu, adieu, sea captain bold, adieu for evermore.

Oh come back, come back, my pretty Molly, won’t you come and marry me,
I have a handsome fortune and all I’ll give to thee.
Oh it’s once I had my own true love and Johnny was his name
And until I find that lad I love I’ll live and die a maid.

A.L. Lloyd sings Short Jacket and White Trousers

Short jacket and white trousers this young girl she put on
And like a gallant seaman bold went rolling through the town.
She did sign on with our Captain Blair a sailor for to be
And it was to seek her own true love all on the raging sea.

One night as she sat drowsing, she was ready for her bed,
Our captain heaved a sigh and said, “Oh, I wish you was a maid.
Your cherry cheek and ruby lip they have beguiled me
And I've often wished with all my heart you could my sweetheart be.”

“Oh hold your tongue, dear Captain, you know such talk's in vain,
And if our shipmates come to know they would make sport and game.
But when that we do get ashore some pretty girls we'll find
For to ramble along with us bold lads, seeing you're that way inclined.”

It's about a few days after we reached the London shore,
And this gal put on her petticoats which made the captain roar.
“Oh, a sailor I have been on board but a maid I'm going ashore,
And you've missed your chance, dear Captain, so farewell for ever more.”

Shirley Collins sings Short Jacket and White Trousers

Short jacket and white trousers this fair maid she's put on
And like a dashing sailor bold went roaring through the town.
She was signed up by Captain Blair, a sailor for to be,
And all to seek her own true love all on the raging sea.

One night as she lay drowsing, she was ready for her bed,
Our captain heaved a sigh and said, “I wish you was a maid.
Your cherry cheeks and ruby lips they have beguiled me
And I've often wished with all my heart you could my sweetheart be.”

“But hold your tongue, dear Captain, you know such talk's in vain,
For if our shipmates should come to hear they would make sport and game.
But when that we do go ashore some pretty girls we'll find
For to ramble along with us bold lads, seeing as you're that way inclined.”

It was some six weeks later they reached the London shore,
This maid appeared in her petticoats which made the captain roar.
“Oh, a sailor I have been aboard but a maid I'm going ashore,
And you've lost your chance, dear Captain, so farewell for ever more.”

Maddy Prior sings Maid That's Deep in Love

I am a maid that's deep in love but yes I can complain,
I have in this world but one true love and Jimmy is his name.
And if I do not find my love I'll mourn most constantly
And I'll find and follow Jimmy to the lands of liberty.

Then I'll cut off my yellow locks, men's clothing I'll wear on.
I'll sign to a bold sea captain, my passage I'll work free
And I'll find and follow Jimmy to the lands of liberty.

One night all on the raging seas as we were going to bed,
The captain cried, “Farewell my boy, I wish you were a maid.
Your rosy cheeks and ruby lips they are enticing me
And I wish to God with all my heart, a maid you were to me.”

“Then hold your tongue, dear Captain, such talk is all in vain,
And if the sailors find it out, they'd laugh and make much game.
For when we reach Columbia shore some prettier girls you'll find
And you'll laugh and sing and court with them, for courting you are inclined.”

Well it was no three days after our ship it reached the shore.
“Bid adieu, my loving Captain, adieu for ever more.
For once I was a sailor on sea but now I am a maid on shore,
So I bid adieu to you and all your crew, with you I'll sail no more.”

“Come back, come back, my own pretty maid, come back and marry me,
I have three thousand pounds in gold and that I'll give to thee.
So come back, come back, my own pretty maid, come back and marry me!”

John Roberts sings Short Jacket and White Trousers

Short Jacket and white trousers this young girl she put on
And like a gallant seaman bold went rambling through the down.
She did engage with our Captain Blair a sailor for to be,
And it's all for to seek her own true love far across the raging sea.

One night as she sat drowsing, she was ready for her bed.
The captain heaved a sigh and said, “Oh I wish you were a maid,
Your cherry cheeks and ruby lips, they have beguilèd me.
And I've often wished with all my heart my sweetheart you could be.”

“Oh hold your tongue dear captain, such talk is all in vain,
And if our shipmates came to know, they would make sport and game.
But when that we do go ashore some pretty girls we'll find
To ramble along with us brave lads, since you're that way inclined.”

It's about a few days after, we docked in Baltimore
This maid appeared in her petticoats, which made our captain roar.
She said, “A sailor I have been at sea but a maid I'm going ashore,
And you missed your chance dear captain so adieu forever more.”

Emily Portman sings I Am a Maid That's Deep in Love

For I am a maid that’s deep in love and I dare not once complain,
For I’m in search of my true love and Johnny is his name.
Enquiring for the captain my passage to go free
That I might find the lad I love while crossing the deep blue sea.

Well the ship it went out gaily and the wind it did blow fair
And when I reached Columba’s shore no danger did I fear.
For it's once I was a man on sea but a maid I am on shore,
So adieu, adieu, sea captain bold, oh adieu for evermore.

Oh come back, come back, my pretty Molly, come back and marry me,
For I have a handsome fortune and it's all I'll give to thee.
Oh it’s once I had my own true love and Johnny was his name
And until I find that lad I love I’ll live and die a maid.